BOSTON — Guy Boucher has known Marty St. Louis as a player for only eight months, but that is long enough for the Lightning coach to understand how and why his star wing flourishes in the biggest games.
"With players like him, the biggest thing is they don't see things as a threat," Boucher said. "They see it as a challenge all the time."
No surprise, then, that when discussing tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final with the Bruins at TD Garden — a game to decide which team goes to the Stanley Cup final against the Canucks — St. Louis did not speak of nerves or jitters but of passion.
"I get fired up for these games," he said. "These are games as a kid you talk about on the driveway. These are the games that get your fire going."
And these are the games in which St. Louis produces.
His winning goal in Wednesday's 5-4 Game 6 victory was his team-record eighth in the playoffs, passing the mark held by Brad Richards. He also is the franchise leader in playoff goals (33), assists (35), points (68), power-play goals (10) and short-handed goals (3).
Two of his winners clinched series, and he had the winning goal in double overtime of Game 6 (an elimination game) of the 2004 Stanley Cup final against the Flames.
With the Lightning facing elimination Wednesday, St. Louis finished with two goals and three points.
"In big games, he's always there to show the way," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "I'm not surprised."
"I don't know if it's different preparation," St. Louis said. "Your mind-set may be a little more on high alert, I guess, because of the magnitude of it. Not to say you're not on high alert before, but when you're in a do-or-die situation, you leave it out there and more."
Simon Gagne said he always knew St. Louis was a terrific player. But it wasn't until he became a teammate this season after 11 seasons with the Flyers that he realized how good he is in the locker room when something needs to be said — such as before Wednesday's Game 6.
"He's going to have some good speeches, and he had a good one before the game that helped the guys to play a little bit more relaxed and get a little bit pumped up for the game," Gagne said.
What did St. Louis say?
"A couple of words of wisdom," center Steven Stamkos said. "He got guys fired up. He's, obviously, been through every type of experience and every single type of championship you could win. He knows what to do and how to react in those situations."
"Well, I'm older," St. Louis, who turns 36 on June 18, said. "I think I feel I have that responsibility of leadership a lot more. I think as you get older in this league, leadership becomes a responsibility."
But that kind of leadership only is possible with production on the ice.
St. Louis, after his sixth 30-goal regular season and second-place finish in the league with 99 points, is tied for first in the playoffs with 10 goals and first with 11 power-play points. He leads the team and is second in the league with 20 points.
"The way his leadership qualities are, especially in the playoffs, he's been our go-to guy," Stamkos said. "I can't wait to see what happens in Game 7."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.