It’s not quite Kings-Canucks, but the Washington Capitals are showing a lot of fight against the higher seeded Boston Bruins. Still, the seventh seed trails the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in the series after a 4-3 Boston win, although Washington might just be planting the seeds of frustration for the B’s.
Braden Holtby wasn’t horrible by any means, but the Bruins were able to get to him quite a bit more – relatively speaking – in Game 3. Should Capitals fans be concerned that their young netminder might lose some confidence considering how small the margin of error has been?
Things got pretty “chippy” at times during this contest. Washington’s players have made it a point to say that they can bring the beef a little too, but should Dale Hunter be concerned if things get ugly – which rests right in Boston’s wheelhouse?
Speaking of things getting chippy, how do you feel about the way the game was officiated?
Milan Lucic showed some clear signs of frustration tonight. Can he find his game again? Is he the Bruins player who misses Nathan Horton’s presence the most? Are the Caps in his head?
Stephen Whyno points out that Mike Green scored his first non-empty-netter-related point since returning from a sports hernia surgery on Feb. 18. Who would have thought a gifted offensive blueliner like Green could go more than two months without a point? Also, is this the worst contract year performance in recent memory?
It’s not fair to break down the Washington Capitals-Boston Bruins series to Alex Ovechkin vs. Zdeno Chara … but it sure is kinda fun, isn’t it? By just about any measure, Chara subdued Ovechkin in Game 1 – which was important because Boston barely won by a score of 1-0 in overtime.
Let’s take a look at Ovechkin and Chara’s numbers:
Ovi: one shot on goal, zero missed shots, seven hits and one giveaway in 17:34 of ice time. Chara: two shots on goal, one missed shot, one penalty, four hits and 21:46 of ice time.
Ovechkin’s seven hits show that he was involved in the game – at least from a physical perspective – but I italicized his missed shots because it reveals that he wasn’t even really able to release his shot very often. Even if his accuracy was off, having a few missed shots on goal would give a little bit more reason for optimism; instead, he was limited enough that he only fired one shot – a pretty decent one – that Tim Thomas was able to handle.
A steady flow of Bruins power plays from the end of the first period and beginning of the second might explain both players’ limited ice time, but that’s a promising sign for Chara. Keeping Big Z’s ice time reasonable is a really nice break for Boston, especially if the Caps can make this a long series.
Dale Hunter’s task is to get Ovechkin on the ice more often. It’ll be easier to get him away from Chara once the series shifts to Washington, but either way, 17:34 of ice time just isn’t enough for Ovechkin – especially since he finished the season on a somewhat stealthy hot streak.
Discuss: Chris Kelly wins it for Bruins in overtime
For a second there, it seemed like Marcus Johansson would complete a rope-a-dope for the Washington Capitals, who largely rested on Braden Holtby’s surprisingly strong night. Tim Thomas was ready to make the save, however, and then the Boston Bruins’ counter-punched to overtime victory after Chris Kelly completed a great bit of transition passing with a rare slap shot. Boston won 1-0 to win Game 1 in OT.
Tonight provides another example of how different the Washington Capitals’ system has become. Are they correct to follow the pack in trying to play a more “conservative” style or will a 17-shot night convince them to attack more in future games?
The Boston Bruins won, but it took them 30 shots to beat Braden Holtby once. We’ve seen relatively unknown goalies come in and give good teams problems before. Could Holtby be one of those guys?
Sure, Zdeno Chara did a great job nullifying Alex Ovechkin, who only had one shot on goal but showed a lot of passion in delivering seven hits of his own. Is it a problem that Ovi only had 17:34 of ice time – even with Washington on the PK for long periods of time – though?
Last year, the Bruins overcame a weak power play to win a Stanley Cup, so it’s not like the man advantage is a do-or-die factor. Still, is it worrisome that Boston failed on some pretty meaty opportunities? Or is just another example of Holtby’s great play in a small sample?
Series at a glance: Boston-Washington playoff preview
Thursday April 12 in Boston @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Saturday April 14 in Boston @ 3 p.m. (NBC, CBC)
Monday April 16 in Washington @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Thursday April 19 in Washington @ 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
*Saturday April 21 in Boston @ 3 p.m. (NBC, CBC)
*Sunday April 22 in Washington @ TBD (TBD)
*Wednesday April 25 in Boston @ TBD (TBD)
Three storylines to follow
1. Help for Ovechkin. For all the talk about Alex Ovechkin’s struggling in the clutch, he’s been red-hot lately. In fact, he almost surged to 40 goals (finished with 38) and came through when Washington needed him most. With Zdeno Chara in tow, the Bruins likely have at least a chance of slowing Ovi down, so can the rest of the Capitals — including possibly-not-100 percent-guys like Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom — step up when needed?
2. Goaltending disparity. Tim Thomas, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has shown he can win a series almost single-handedly. Meanwhile, the Capitals are rolling with an inexperienced (and banged-up) No. 2 in Michal Neuvirth and/or a well-loved but green No. 3 in Braden Holtby. On paper, that’s a pretty big advantage for Boston.
3. Road woes. When you look at Washington’s numbers, its woeful road record of 16-21-4 jumps out more than anything else. Can they fight through some trying times in front of Boston’s fans or fold when things get tough?
Boston: 49-29-4, 102 points (1st in Atlantic; 2nd in Eastern Conference) | Washington: 42-32-8, 92 points (2nd in Southeast; 7th in Eastern Conference)
Boston: Tyler Seguin (29G-38A-67PTS) | Washington: Alex Ovechkin (38G-27A-65PTS)
Boston: Tim Thomas (35-19-1, 2.36 GAA) | Washington: Michal Neuvirth (13-13-15, 2.82 GAA) or Braden Holtby (4-2-1, 2.50 GAA)
Washington won series 3-1
Jan. 24: At Washington 5, Boston 3
Feb. 5: Boston 4, at Washington 1
March 10: Washington 4, at Boston 3
March 29: Washington 3, at Boston 2, SO
Last 10 games
Boston: 7-2-1 | Washington: 6-2-2
Series tied 1-1
1990: Boston 4-0 (Wales Conference finals)
1998: Washington 4-2 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals)
Boston: Def. Montreal 4-3 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals); def. Philadelphia 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals), def. Tampa Bay 4-3 (Eastern Conference finals); def. Vancouver 4-3 (Stanley Cup finals) | Washington: Def. NY Rangers 4-1 (Eastern Conference quarterfinals); lost to Tampa Bay 4-0 (Eastern Conference semifinals)
For years, the Washington Capitals have carried the label of heavy favorites. However you frame those stories, it’s never ended well for Alex Ovechkin & Co., but 2012 represents an interesting flip of the script. This time around, they’ll be the seventh seed upstarts against the second-ranked defending champion Boston Bruins.
There was a point during this season when Boston appeared to be a behemoth on a level rarely seen in the salary cap era. Injuries and inconsistency (and if you ask some, a botched photo-op at the White House) seemed to at least slow down the bandwagon, though.
Still, the Bruins have a two-time Vezina winner in net (Tim Thomas), a probable Hall of Famer on the blue line (Zdeno Chara) and some underrated tools on offense. That might be enough against a haggard Washington squad with stars who don’t seem to be 100 percent in Mike Green and maybe Nicklas Backstrom plus some serious goaltending questions with Tomas Vokoun and possibly Michal Neuvirth on the mend.
Ovechkin has somewhat-quietly been heating up, though, so it sets up the Capitals as an interesting underdog option. Washington also outplayed Boston in its meetings this season, taking three out of four wins. On the other hand, the Caps take a playoffs-worst 16-21-4 road record into Beantown.
So who strikes you as the likely winner: the big, bad Bruins or the confounding Caps? Let us know in the comments.