Entering the final day of the National Hockey League’s regular season this past Saturday the Bruins knew they had nothing to play for as they had the second seed in the East all locked up. With that in mind the B’s, fans and media alike paid close attention to three games.
The Bruins first round opponent was still up in the air as the Bruins knocked off the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout, but just hours later things were a lot clearer.
After victories by the Capitals over the Rangers and Panthers over the Hurricanes combined with a Senators loss to the Devils the Capitals leaped into the seventh seed earning themselves a first round date with the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
As much as Bruins fans hoped it would be the Senators lining up against the Bruins when the puck drops in Boston Thursday night, the Sens just couldn’t make it happen as they failed to capture just one point in their final three games—including a loss to the Bruins—.
So as the Bruins and Capitals prepare for what surely will be an entertaining series, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of facing the Washington Capitals.
Well, it’s the Capitals: Over the past four seasons who has really underachieved more than the Washington Capitals? The Caps have won the Southeast division in each of the past four seasons and haven’t made it past the second round in any of those four seasons. Two of those previous four division titles have led to first round exits. Is this the year that Ovechkin and the Capitals finally make it out of the second round?
Alexander The Great: After a slow start to the 2011-12 season, Alexander Ovechkin really turned the jets on as the calendar flipped to 2012. In 31 games played between January and March Ovechkin nearly averaged a point per game with 18 goals 8 assists and 26 points. Despite a un-Ovechkin-like season, “The Great Number 8” still finished the season with 38 goals, and still has the talent to change the game with one wicked wrister.
The Playoff Ovechkin: Despite 50 points in 27 career playoff games, much of the Capitals playoff struggles have been placed on the shoulders of their Captain. You can often find Ovechkin “milking” it out on the ice especially when it comes getting back on defense. His lack of “heart” often caused him to bump heads with former head coach Bruce Boudreau. With a new head honcho behind the Capitals bench maybe Ovechkin’s attitude and leadership values will change as the postseason begins.
The improved Dennis Wideman: Dennis Wideman, the guy Bruins fans loved to hate. Wideman was ran out of town during the 2009-10 season where it seemed like everything that could go wrong for him did, but here’s something Bruins fans forget, or even seem to ignore, Wideman was the best Bruin in the 09-10 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Wideman led the Bruins with 11 assists and 12 points, and quite frankly played some stellar defense. Fast forward to present times and Wideman is thriving in Washington. Wideman led the Capitals with 32 assists and finished third on the team in points with 46. No. 6 also added three points in four games against the Bruins this season. There’s no doubt that Wideman will be a key factor for the Caps in this series.
Capitals goalie situation: The Bruins may have caught a bit of a break as the Caps goalie situation is a scary one indeed. Injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth have paved the way for Braden Holtby to get the start for the Capitals in net for at least the first few games. The Caps got some positive news this morning as Neuvirth skated prior to the team’s practice. The 22-year-old Holtby has never appeared in a NHL playoff game, but does enter the postseason with an impressive 14-4-3 record, 2.02 goals against average, and .929 save percentage.
Backstrom’s back: After missing three months of hockey thanks to a concussion courtesy of Rene Bourque, Nicklas Backstrom returned for the Capital’s final four contests registering a goal and an assist. Backstrom a staple on the power play could be another key factor in this series. If Ovechkin and Backstrom can find that rhythm they have shown in the past, things will be much more difficult for the Bruins.
Anthony’s prediction: There’s no doubt this is going to be a difficult series for the Bruins. Ovechkin has his troops playing good hockey at the right time. If the Capitals goalie situation was better then it presently is, I’d maybe side with Washington, but I don’t see any combination of Holtby and a less than 100 percent Neuvirth being able to take four of seven from the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Bruins in 6