With the Bruins set to play the Capitals in Game 7 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday night, NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined the Dennis & Callahan show to preview the game.
All of the first six games of the series were decided by one goal, with three of the games going into overtime. Brickley said he expects the trend to continue in Game 7, especially because he has seen no quit in this Capitals team.
"Maybe there’s an open-netter that makes it a two-goal game at the end, but I expect very much what we saw through the first six games," Brickley said. "It’s the same feeling I had going into the Montreal game last year, the same sense I had going into the Tampa game last year.
"I had a different feeling going into the Vancouver game, I had a feeling the Bruins were going to win by at least two, maybe three because of what I saw from the Vancouver Canucks. I’m not seeing that from Washington where there’s any kind of quit in them."
In order to win, the Bruins will have to do several things right that have made them so successful in the past. But for Brickley, nothing is more important for the Bruins in this game than simply having the will to win.
"You can look at the X’s and O’s and all of the matchups that you’re trying to get and, as far as the Bruins are concerned, the elevated play of their top six, but it’s all about the control of your emotions," Brickley said. "Fear and guilt are great motivators, and the fear of losing, the fear of going home, you have to be able to channel that fear into something positive. That’s where the experience I think starts to come in.
"The Bruins were around for Game 7 losses three years ago, two years ago, and then the three Game 7 wins a year ago. The guys that experienced both sides of that, I think they have a better handle on how to handle the emotional side of that."
One possible mental obstacle for the Bruins could be the fact that they're favorites to win this series. The Stanley Cup playoffs have been largely defined by upsets thus far, but while Brickley said the Bruins haven't been good in this position in the past, they're now a different team.
"Sure, the fact that you’re expected to win -- and I think that’s the expectation throughout the whole NHL hockey community is that the Bruins will and should win tonight -- it can be a dangerous thing," Brickley said. "The one thing that I didn’t like about this core group, and I’m going back a year-and-a-half now, is that they’re not good front-runners. When they were expected to win, they didn’t handle it well, but I think their experience a year ago, because they’re champions and what they went through at times this year, should help them."
With the Bruins' season on the line Wednesday night, Brickley said it's critical that the team find the right balance between a sense of focus and relaxation.
"This is a group that’s been through it -- they’ve been together, they’ve been through three Game 7s last year," Brickley said. "It stems from the coaching staff, that relaxed, confident, don’t take yourself out of a game-day routine, this is all business, we expect to win, we’re going to win.
"It all starts at the top and works its way into the leadership group and it works its way into the locker room. You go through your game-day routine, you don’t deviate and you just get totally prepared for what’s going to happen tonight."
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On what edge he would give to Washington in Game 7: "The fact that they have the underdog mentality, there’s less pressure on them, the fact that they’ve won twice in Boston in this series and the expectation that this game will be no different than the first six, meaning low-scoring, one-goal game and both teams play the way they play. Washington obviously believes they have every opportunity to win a game. They feel like this series could very well be over given they lost in overtime on home ice in Game 6."
On officiating in the series, particularly relating to a flop from Brad Marchand and a hook call on Benoit Pouliot: "First of all, Marchand, sure, he embellishes at times. It doesn’t make him unique in this league, doesn’t make him unique in this series. That being said, I think the Bruins are a more man-up team than any team in the NHL, so I’m not going to give that a whole lot of analysis. As far as the officiating, I haven’t liked it. I don’t think it’s consistent, I don’t think it’s high quality, I think it’s been a disadvantage for both teams. I thought it was a bad penalty call on Pouliot, there wasn’t a whole lot of force on that slash. I think if you look at it, by the law of the rules, it’s a slash, but come on. You have to have a feel for the game and that’s my biggest argument with the officiating today. Not everything is black and white, so your officials have to have an understanding of the game of what’s really a penalty and what constitutes a penalty given the time, the score, the importance."
On how the injury to Patrice Bergeron limits the team: "It hurts them a little bit, but the balance and the depth that they have at the center position, you can put [Rich] Peverley in that slot. You’ve got [Chris] Kelly. Watch Claude [Julien] anytime there’s a defensive-zone faceoff -- there’s at least two centermen on the ice and then he’ll make the change once they get the puck out to the neutral zone. They put a huge value on that. He said he’s ready to go, I have complete confidence in him, but the Bruins do have options because of their depth and versatility."
On how big of a factor discipline and special teams will be: "Absolutely [it will], and the fact that the Bruins have scored a power-play goal in the last two games at least takes some of the negative focus off the Bruins' power play. You can still get on them for what they’re doing in the offensive zone, but the fact that they got the power-play goal in Game 5, the power-play goal in Game 6 that helps them win, I think that’s a big bonus for the players to play the man advantage to get them in the right frame of mind."
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