Playoff Pregame #3: Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins

#7 Washington Capitals vs. #2 Boston Bruins
Series Tied 1-1
Location: Verizon Center
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
Series Schedule:
Game 1:  Apr 12, 2012 WSH@BOS, 0-1 L (OT)
Game 2:  Apr 14, 2012, WSH@BOS 2-1 W (2 OT)
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)
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Holtby Moly
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals’ victory on Saturday gained them a momentum swing in this series, taking back home-ice advantage and setting themselves up for a long playoff run.  Nicklas Backstrom’s double overtime goal was just what the Caps needed to keep their confidence and resolve against a daunting foe.  Now that the Capitals are playing inside the friendly confines of Verizon Center, many of the territorial advantages the Bruins had in the first two games will disappear.  Now the Capitals get the last change and Dale Hunter can stop shadow-boxing with Claude Julien, the Capitals’ faceoff win percentage should improve, and the Caps will surely get a big boost from the red-clad crowd.  Since executing the system properly is no longer an issue, the Caps can focus on grinding out the next two games and sleeping in their own beds.

The Big Bad Boston Bruins ended last game looking like someone got between them and their cubs.  The Bruins were guilty of not hustling enough, which cost them the game.  They got out-hit, they lost the faceoff battle, and couldn’t score on the powerplay.  They are being stoned by a rookie goalie and the Capitals show no signs of slowing down.  After a magical run deep into the playoffs last spring, these Bruins suddenly look fragile.  The Bs certainly have the talent to come back from the brink, but they will have to start paying the price in the dirty areas in a way they haven’t done for the first two games.  The Capitals certainly know how difficult that switch is to turn on and off, and the Bruins could be looking at an early summer if they don’t step up. 

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. 

Three Things To Watch For:

The Head Beagle:  Once a forgotten spare part, Jay Beagle has become an integral part of the Capitals’ game plan.  He doesn’t have a lot of flash and dash, but he does have great conditioning, work ethic, and forearm strength.  Beagle used his conditioning to keep up with Boston’s top lines for nearly 20 minutes on Saturday, and his work ethic helped him fire off 6 shots plus he registered a blocked shot and a takeaway.  He used his arm strength to win 11 of 17 draws, stymieing the Bruins centers in critical moments of the game.  He nearly ended the game in overtime himself, but was robbed by Tim Thomas.  Keep an eye on his match-up with the Bruins top lines, he may well get the better of the scoring chances while he’s on the ice. 

Silencing Big Benoit:  It appeared the clock had struck midnight on the Capitals when Benoit Pouliot scored midway through the third period in Game 2.  Pouliot, who had set up Chris Kelly’s overtime game-winner in Game 1, had out-hustled the Caps defense to a loose puck and banged it home to even the score.  It certainly looked like pumpkin time when, with a flick of his stick, Pouliot matched the entire series output for the Capitals.  The sturdy Quebecois certainly has no qualms about beating the Capitals, as his Canadiens took down the Caps in 2010, but he wasn’t supposed to be the star.  The Bruins’ main advantage over the Capitals in this series is their scoring depth, and Pouliot is a prime example of that.  Even after the double-overtime win in Game 2, the Caps Cinderella story could end if they don’t keep him out of the high-traffic areas where he can cause problems. 

The Mad Hatter:  Now that Nicklas Backstrom is back in the lineup, Mathieu Perreault’s ice time has been dropping like a rock.  Perreault played just 9:42 in Game 1 and 14:56 in Game 2.  While he has been on the ice, he has been held shotless, but not for lack of trying.  Perreault, who recorded his first career hat trick against the Bruins in January, could be the answer for the Bruins scoring depth.  He’ll have to be on the ice more for that to happen.