Game 20: Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals
Tuesday, March 5th, 7pm, Verizon Center, Washington
TV: NESN, CSN-DC Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
The Bruins were back to business today after their defeat at the hands of the Canadiens last night, with an optional skate this morning at Ristuccia Arena before heading to Washington D.C. to face the Capitals tomorrow night. While the mood was generally positive despite losing two points from their bitter rivals, many Bruin players acknowledged some disappointment for not stepping up in their captain’s absence after he took care of business against Alexei Emelin. Their next opponents will provide a nice rebound opportunity and a chance for some revenge for last season’s playoffs however, as the Caps have struggled all season and currently reside tied for last place in the Eastern Conference.
Capitals Notes: Former Bruin Adam Oates’ time behind the Washington bench so far has been largely forgettable, with the Caps sporting an 8-11-1 record and second lowest point total in the league with 17. They have finally begun to turn the tide over their last ten games, earning six wins, but still are working through some systematic issues trying to get everyone on the same page defensively. Star Alex Ovechkin has started to rebound from a terrible start with six points in his last four games, including a hat trick against the Devils on February 23rd, but generally has underachieved. Former Canadien and Bruin nemesis Mike Ribeiro leads the Caps with 24 points, and Nick Backstrom has been his enigmatic self with 16 points but just two goals. Surprisingly, Troy Brouwer has a team best nine goals.
Defensively the Caps should have a familiar cast, namely the one that shut the Bruins down in the playoffs last year, with Mike Green, John Carlson, John Erskine and Karl Alzner the recognizable names. Braden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth have manned the Washington net, with Holtby likely get the start against the B’s after a shutout over the Jets on Saturday. He enters the game with a 7-7 record with a .907 save percentage and a 3.01 goals against average.
Special teams-wise, the Caps have a dangerous power play operating at 26.1% clip, good enough for fourth best in the East. The Washington penalty kill is at the opposite end of the spectrum however, with just a 76.8% kill rate, good news for a Bruin power play that has continued to struggle.
Bruins Notes: Despite the loss to the Canadiens, the Bruins are still sporting a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games, and Patrice Bergeron was today named the NHL’s second star of the month. Bergeron had three points in last night’s game, upping his season total to a team best 18. Linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin have 17 and 15 point totals respectively, and their line has been the Bruins’ best so far this year. More is needed from the likes of the David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, as well as veterans Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, who have all had their moments but have been generally inconsistent.
On the blue line Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton finally seem to have settled in and have been playing better, especially Hamilton who recently went through a rough patch and had his ice time cut drastically. Meanwhile, Johnny Boycuk, Adam McQuaid and Andrew Ference have all struggled with inconsistency as well, with the latter two struggling badly with turnovers.
Tuukka Rask has been largely spectacular in goal so far this season, and though he wasn’t sharp against the Canadiens, expect him to get a chance to turn it around in Washington.
Other Game Notes
- Fight Card: The Capitals actually have a decent amount of toughness in their lineup, and the Bruins seem to have gotten back on the physical bandwagon the past two games. Matt Hendricks leads the Caps with four fights, and John Erskine is a tough combatant when he decides to go. Pugilist Aaron Volpatti was picked up off waivers from the Canucks, though he was tuned up pretty badly in his first bout in a Caps uni against Anthony Peluso of the Jets (who injured his hand punching Volpatti’s face so much). Milan Lucic and Karl Alzner could also have some unfinished business from last year’s playoffs, though the chances of a scrap between the two are probably minuscule.
- This is the first time the teams have met since Joel Ward scored on Tim Thomas to beat the Bruins in game 7 of the first round of the playoffs last year.
- The Bruins have struggled in the past (including the playoffs last year) to get energized when they’ve faced teams like the Capitals that don’t have a lot of history with the B’s and that don’t play an overly physical game, so the Black and Gold would be well served to use last year’s defeat as some motivation for this one.