- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dale Hunter gushed about it: a Game 7 for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Boston Bruins with a trip to the second round on the line.

“You’ve got to prepare, go have fun with it, enjoy it … nothing better than to be in a Game 7,” he said.

Perhaps it would have been better for the Caps to clinch in Game 6 at home, but now they have no choice but to go back to TD Garden against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are accustomed to this scenario.

This core of Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin has experience in Game 7s dating to 2008, but the Bruins won in three such situations on their Cup run last spring.

“I think both teams have been in the Game 7 before, so I don’t think it’s going to change anything,” Backstrom said. “It’s going to be tough like a lot of games.”

In the experience department, the edge clearly goes to the Bruins, who were the only team to win three Game 7s en route to the Cup.

“You expect your team to show again the experience that they’ve gained in the past,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “When you go through those kinds of situations, you can handle those a lot better. … There’s no guarantees in anything. But you got to like the experience that you have going into Game 7.”

During this era of Caps playoff appearances, Ovechkin and Co. have participated in four Game 7s, going 1-3.

Three of the four were decided by one goal, just like every game of this first-round series. The other was a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 that essentially was decided in the first 10 minutes.

Even losing those games has value.

“Any experience you get in the playoffs, it just adds to you,” Hunter said. “You know what to expect. Game 7s are exciting games because it’s do-or-die for both teams. They’re awesome to play in.”

Boston’s core, which includes Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara, has played in plenty. The Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 after coughing up a 3-0 lead in the series and in Game 7. But they needed seven to beat the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks last season.

“It’s something we’ve been through before,” Bergeron said. “We just need to stay composed and believe that we can do it and just play to win and keep on our heels and keep doing the right thing.”

Caps defenseman John Carlson, whose only Game 7 in the NHL came in the 2010 loss to the Canadiens, said that every player has been in this situation before at some level.

“A Game 7 is a Game 7 no matter how you look at it. I don’t think you need to play in 100 to be the best in a Game 7,” he said. “I think that right now we’re worried about ourselves and the way we’re going to play. Whatever game it is, we’re playing to win.”

Of course, the Bruins are too, and they get the home-ice advantage. But as Ovechkin noted, each Game 7 for the Caps since 2008 was played at Verizon Center.

Going on the road could help, but the captain doesn’t think it’s substantially less pressure.

“It’s pressure all the time when it’s the seventh game,” Ovechkin said. “I think pressure for us … is probably the same. Because if you lose, you go home.”

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