Playoff Pregame #1: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins

#7 Washington Capitals (42-32-8) at #2 Boston Bruins (49-29-4)
Location: TD Garden
7:30 PM
TV: Local Coverage: Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (HD) (Game on!), National Coverage: NBC Sports Network (HD)
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Previous Games:
Jan 24, 2012 BOS@WSH, 5-3 W
Feb  5, 2012 BOS@WSH, 1-4 L
Mar 10, 2012 WSH@BOS, 4-3 W
Mar 29, 2012 WSH@BOS, 3-2 SOW

Next Game:
Apr 14, 2012, WSH@BOS 3:00PM
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals: D Joe Corvo (18 GP, 2010)
Former Bruins:  RW Mike Knuble (307 GP, 2000-04), D Dennis Wideman (256 GP, 2007-10)
Our Bloguin Partner: Days of Y’Orr

This is why we watch!  Read on!

Lord Stanley

The Washington Capitals are finally the underdog to start the playoffs after spending the last four years as division champions.  The Capitals won two games to enter the season on a hot streak, and they are facing a team they won three of four games against this season.  They got back their #1 center just in time for the playoffs.  If only they hadn’t lost starting goalies Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth injuries, they might even be favored in this series.  As it stands, the Capitals are down to their #3 and #4 goaltenders, Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin.  The presumptive playoff starter, the 22-year old Holtby is 4-2-1 this season and will play in his 1st career playoff game tonight.  Backing him up, 31-year old Dany Sabourin has played a total of 14 minutes in the NHL playoffs.  Fortunately, the rest of the team in front of them has quite a bit of playoff experience and enjoy playing in front of the fiery Holtby. 

The Northeast Division Champion Boston Bruins get their first chance to defend their Stanley Cup championship tonight.  The bottom line is the Bruins dominate this match-up on paper.  Even without Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals found a way to win the season series, and that’s why you play the games.  The Bruins have a formidable and deep line-up specifically designed for the rigors of a long playoff run.  They will not be an easy team to beat.  Fortunately for the Caps, they just need to split the games in Boston to take their home ice advantage away, and all the pressure is on the Bs.  We’ll see how they respond. 

Injury Report: Capitals’ G Tomas Vokoun (groin), G Michal Neuvirth (leg), D John Erskine (knee), and C Jeff Halpern (leg) are out.
-For the Bruins, RW Nathan Horton (concussion), G Tuukka Rask (groin), and D Adam McQuaid (head) are out.  D Johnny Boychuk (knee) is day-to-day.

Three Things To Watch For:

Ovechkin vs. Chara: Much like Godzilla vs. Mothra, this is an obvious match-up to keep our eyes on. The two biggest and baddest hitters on the ice should go at it all series long like bulls in a china shop. Ovechkin is the hard-charging scorer while Chara is the mountainous defender. The cameras will be on them all night, and for good reason. If Ovechkin can break the big Slovak’s gridlock, he can blow open this series be getting quality chances from in close that no goalie can stop.

Bergeron vs. Backstrom: The Boston Bruins were able to dominate the Capitals in the faceoff circle in the season series, but the Capitals were without their #1 center, Nicklas Backstrom. Patrice Bergeron finished the season as the #2 faceoff man in the league, and Backstrom could well be the only man capable of turning the tide in the puck possession battle.  Backstrom is also the only Capital skater with the brains and skill to match the Bruins’ #1 center, as Bergeron is a slippery, crafty puckhandler who is exceptional in all three zones.

Holtby vs. Thomas:  Thomas and friends make life very frustrating for opposing forwards, but even hot goalies have weaknesses. The Capitals were able to pile up goals on Henrik Lundqvist in their last regular season game by getting screens, rebounds, and deflections. Tim Thomas is only mortal and is prone to letting in shots he can’t see, and if Braden Holtby can match him save for save, the Capitals can carry the day. Holtby’s puck moving skills will be a boon against the vicious cycle of the Boston Bruins, since the faster the Caps can clear it out, the less chance the Bruins have to score.  Thomas is a very confident goaltender, and he has the trophy case to match, but he’s nearing the end of his career.  The Capitals goaltender, meanwhile, is just starting to get good, and he is just as confident as Thomas.  If the Caps can wear down Thomas, Holtby’s youth can shine through.