Playoff Pregame #2: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins

#7 Washington Capitals at #2 Boston Bruins
Location: TD Garden
3:00 PM
TV: Local and National Coverage: NBC (HD)
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Series Schedule:
Game 1:  Apr 12, 2012 WSH@BOS, 0-1 L (OT)
Game 3:  Apr 16, 2012, BOS@WSH 7:30PM
Game 4:  Apr 19, 2012, BOS@WSH 7:30PM
Game 5*: Apr 21, 2012, WSH@BOS 3:00PM
Game 6*: Apr 22, 2012, BOS@WSH, TBD
Game 7*: Apr 25, 2012, WSH@BOS, TBD
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

Payback:  this time it’s for real!  Read on!

Krejci Glass
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The Washington Capitals played a hard, competitive game against the Bruins in Game 1, taking no shortcuts and making no deviations from Coach Dale Hunter’s system. They played the most complete 60 minutes of hockey we’ve seen from the Capitals in a long time, but 60 wasn’t enough.  Through 60 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Capitals weathered every storm, killed every penalty, and made few mistakes as they played a crisp, hard-working game.  They matched the Bruins line-for-line, shift-for-shift, and had a couple chances to score that were turned away by Tim Thomas.  Obviously, the main focus for the Capitals after a shutout is the need for generating more offense and awakening a dormant powerplay, but they have much reason for optimism after shutting down the high-scoring, Big Bad Bruins for over 60 minutes on Thursday.  Hunter may opt to dress the more offensively minded Dmitry Orlov over the slow-footed Jeff Schultz (-1) who was beaten cleanly by a Bruins forward on a rush before the game-winning goal.  Hunter would also do well to either shuffle the lines a bit or just get Mathieu Perreault more ice time, as he and Joel Ward combined for 6 points against the Bruins this season and gave the Caps several even-strength scoring chances in limited minutes on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins must also find their offense, a task that could prove even more difficult if #1 center David Krejci is limited at all by the freak injury he suffered during the post-game celebration.  With the fall of a single pane of glass, the Bruins’ offense just might not get going at all.  The Capitals penalty killers stoned the Bruins extra-man unit all games, jumping in front of shots as if protecting the President.  Even though the Bruins out-shot the Capitals by a considerable margin, many of their best chances were foiled by defenders.  In this hard-hitting series, the team with the shortest off-season, most serious injuries, and oldest goaltender might be the first to blink when it matters.  Even though the Bruins got a lucky deflection in Game 1, it’s a 7 game series, and you have to score to win. 

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.  C David Krejci (neck) is day-to-day. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Holtby Moly:  When the Boston Bruins look back at the tape of Game 1, they will see a goaltender was pretty good to begin with and that got better as the game progressed.  The still-chocolate clad 22-year old stopped all 29 shots he saw in regulation time, including making a few dazzling saves on the Bruins best players.  His play was highly reminiscent to the beginnings of another great young playoff goalie just 3 years ago.  That season, 20-year old, 3rd-string netminder Semyon Varlamov’s first playoff game came against the New York Rangers after just 6 games and 4 wins in the regular season.  That game resulted in an identical 1-0 loss, with the goal being of the impossible-to-save variety, and in that game the Caps gave the Rangers 5 powerplays and went 0/3 on their own chances.   Varlamov followed up that showing by posting 2 shutouts in his next 3 games and winning 6 of his next 7.  To be sure, these aren’t the 2009 Caps, and Holtby isn’t Varlamov.  But Holtby is another physical, aggressive goaltender who is highly confident, and he is more than capable of stonewalling good teams.  With the way the Capitals are playing defensively, when Holtby corrects what he called his “flaws” from Game 1 he will be even tougher for the #2 offensive team in the regular season to beat. 

Side by Seidenberg:  In the most hyped up confrontation since Alien vs. Predator, much talk has been directed at the match-up of Alex Ovechkin versus Zdeno Chara.  In reality, the match-up of Ovechkin and Dennis Seidenberg proves to be the more interesting rivalry.  Seidenberg, who George McPhee passed on at the 2010 Trade Deadline in favor of Joe Corvo, has been a physical presence to start the series, including laying a bone-jarring hit on Ovechkin that sent both players sprawling.  The highly conditioned German is used to playing in big games against the best competition without much fanfare, so he is the perfect foil for his flashier defense partner.  Even though Chara, the man McPhee tried to sign in the summer of 2007, has the Norris Trophy and the physique, his temper can get the better of him.  Over the course of the series, Seidenberg’s play will play a much larger role in determining the Bruins’ success defending Ovechkin.

Penalty Trouble: Even though the Washington Capitals sported a perfect penalty kill in Game 1, they can ill afford to take penalties against the Bruins in this series, certainly not the careless kind they were tagged for.  The Boston Bruins are highly adept at creating chaos after the whistle and getting under the skin of their opponents.  The Capitals were not immune to this on Thursday, as Jay Beagle took a selfish high-sticking double-minor as he mixed it up with David Krejci after a face-off.  Even Braden Holtby got nabbed for a roughing call when he tried to keep a Bruin out of his crease.  While the penalties didn’t cost the Capitals defensively, it zapped all of their offensive momentum.  The Capitals need to spend as much time as possible in the Bruins’ end if they are going to solve Tim Thomas.  Penalty killing taxes certain players more than others, especially if they are blocking shots.  On Thursday, the penalties also meant the Capitals best players were on the bench for 6 straight minutes, letting their legs get cold and keeping them from challenging the Bruins defenders.