Playoff Pregame #5: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins

#7 Washington Capitals at #2 Boston Bruins
Series Tied 2-2
Location: TD Garden
Time:
3:00 PM
TV: Local and National Coverage: NBC
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 3:  Apr 16, 2012, BOS@WSH, 3-4 L
Game 5:  Apr 19, 2012, BOS@WSH, 2-1 W
Game 6:  Apr 22, 2012, BOS@WSH, 3:00 pm
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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Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals head up to Boston for a pivotal Game 5 this afternoon.  They will be as close to full strength as they’re going to get, too, as Nicklas Backstrom and Michal Neuvirth will be suiting up.  The return of Neuvirth means Dany Sabourin will join Cody Eakin as recent reassignments to AHL Hershey.  The return of Backstrom means the Caps will have to sit another healthy forward, and it looks like Joel Ward picked the short straw.  In any event, the Capitals will be even tougher to beat today than they were last night.

The Boston Bruins are still searching for their offense.  The Capitals have been blocking shots like maniacs and show no signs of slowing down.  After a blip in net-front coverage in Game 3, the Capitals are returning to clearing out pucks and rebounds from in front of their rookie goalie.  The Bruins’ defense doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as it did in Game 1, either, as the Caps are out-hustling the Bruins and keeping up with the physicality throughout the series.  The Bruins do get the last line change at home so they will be able to get the match-ups they want today, at least.

Injury Report: Capitals’ G Tomas Vokoun (groin) is out.  
-For the Bruins, RW Nathan Horton (concussion), G Tuukka Rask (groin), and D Adam McQuaid (head) are out. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Backis is Back:  Without Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals had to shuffle the lines a bit for Game 4.  They are shuffling the deck with him back in Game 5, and it looks like he’ll be skating with Alex Ovechkin.  Ovechkin has been limited to 1 goal in the 4 games so far and might get a boost from having his old playmaker back on his line, especially since the Bruins have the last change.  At the very least, it should give Ovechkin more focus on scoring goals and less worry about hitting people, since the Caps need goals.  Look for that line to be a thorn in the Bruins’ side all evening. 

Doubting Thomas:  There’s no such thing as a hot goalie, only clear sightlines and fast reflexes.  As good as Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is, he is still 38 years old and mortal.  Thomas has been making all the saves he is supposed to and even a few he isn’t, but the Capitals have been finding enough daylight to get pucks past him when it matters.  If the Caps can keep the pressure on him, particularly if they keep traffic in front of the net and jostle him a bit, they should be able to jangle his nerves and wear him down.

That’s Rich:  After potting four goals in four games at Verizon Center this season, Bruins forward Rich Peverley is achieving the status normally reserved for likes of future hall of famer Mark Recchi, future hall of famer Martin St. Louis, and John Sim:  Cap Killer.  Peverley has found holes in the Capitals’ otherwise unflappable rookie goalie, Braden Holtby.  He has a sneaky release and deft hands which make him dangerous at all times.  The former Atlanta Thrasher earned his Stanley Cup ring last spring by playing good all-around hockey, and he’s the key to the Bruins turning the series in their favor.  The Caps need to keep him silent for the remainder of the series if they want to win. 

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