Over the past four seasons, Game 7s have become a rather common springtime occurrence for the Washington Capitals. They’ve appeared in four of the pressure-cooker contests since the 2008 postseason, but the outcomes largely haven’t gone as Washington would like.
In 2008, the Capitals lost in overtime at home in Verizon Center in the first round against the Flyers. Each of their two series in 2009 went the distance; the first round brought a home win over the New York Rangers, while the second round ended with a home loss to the Penguins. Then in 2010, Montreal knocked them out at home in the first round.
Six players on Washington’s roster were on the team for each of those Game 7s: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz.
While Karl Alzner isn’t among the group, he said the Capitals know how to respond when the stakes are high, and that now that the series is even again the pressure shifts back to the Bruins, who were heavily favored before the first round began.
“We know when our backs are against the wall we know how to face that now and how to come back and score goals and just play good hockey,” Alzner said. “It will be nice to go into that rink with a little less pressure, I guess. Just go in there with kind of a ‘Screw you guys’ attitude [to] everybody in the building. It’s just go out there and play some hockey. I think that’s going to be good for us.”
One difference for the Capitals from the aforementioned Game 7s is that for this winner-take-all battle on Wednesday at TD Garden, they will be the road team. The Capitals have already won twice in Boston during the series, though, so while a tough task it’s not an impossible feat by any means.
Washington is also familiar with scraping together important wins. The team had to pull out wins and points over the final month of the season to ensure it would even reach the playoffs. At the time, Coach Dale Hunter called many of the contests “playoff games.” Now that they’re really here, it’s time to see if the Capitals can capture a true must-win game.
Hunter said he believes that the experience of needing to win late in the regular season has helped Washington prepare for this moment.
“I think it does,” Hunter said. “The players, we’ve been grinding it out every night down the stretch, and what you want to call it. Game 7 is a grinding kind of game. We’re used to playing it. Every game here has been tough game. There have been six games — both sides are, I imagine, a little bit banged up. But little bruises, they’ll forget about them come Game 7.”
More on the Capitals:
— Persistence pays off for Tyler Seguin
— Bruins edge Caps in overtime to force Game 7
— Caps-Bruins playoff shot chart
— Hamilton: Caps, Bruins have Game 7 histories
— Feinstein: Bruins know how lucky they got
— Flyers oust Penguins in Game 6