Playoff matchups: Bruins begin title defense against Capitals

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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.