After 82 regular season games the Bruins are exactly where they expected to be when the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off, at the TD Garden hosting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions kick off their postseason version of their title defense tonight when they take on Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Everyone knows the stories behind both teams from Tim Thomas’ playoff run a year ago, all the way to the Capitals 3-1 record against the Bruins this season, but once again once the puck drops none of that matters.
One of the big stories coming out of the series will be the Zdeno Chara/Alex Ovechkin battle. Bruins head coach Claude Julien wouldn’t shoot down the idea of sending out the 6’9 monster every time No. 8 hits the ice, but Julien also made sure he let it be known that the Capitals are more than Ovechkin.
“I think it’s pretty hard to deny that he’s not going to play against our best players, but at the same time, I really feel that there’s a lot more than Ovechkin on that team and let’s not get caught up in looking at one player” said Julien.
“Backstrom is back, Semin can score, and they’ve got some decent players. Brooks Laich has been a good player for them as well and their back end is very good at moving the puck up the ice and bringing that attack up. So there’s a lot of strength on that hockey club and I feel that that team is playing really well right now, so we’re going to be playing against a team that has a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.”
The Bruins know what they will get from their top two lines, but the difference between moving onto round two, and early morning tee times next week could be the Bruins third line.
“I think for the last few weeks you had been writing about that line being good – they’ve scored some goals for us and they’ve been a good line. They need to be that same line going into the playoffs. With Chris, he’s a good two-way centerman” said Claude.
“They can become really reliable at both ends of the ice but at the same time they’ve got enough skill on that line and with Rolly [Brian Rolston] who can shoot the puck, [Benoit] Pouliot who’s got the good skill level and who’s been playing better lately, they’ve got to continue to give us some offense like they have been. Last year, as you mentioned, we had a good trio there, but I think we’ve got the opportunity to recreate it again this year but with a couple of different players.”
The trio of Rolston, Kelly and Pouliot has combined for 19 points in the Bruins last 10 games.
Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask are out for tonight’s tilt. Johnny Boychuk is a game time decision.
On the other side of the ice we have the Washington Capitals who certainly have their issues, maybe none bigger than their goalie situation, Due to injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth the Capitals will turn to the 22-year-old Braden Holtby as their number one goalie tonight.
“We have no choice — if the other guys aren‘t ready to go, he‘s playing”, said General Manager George McPhee. “He can handle it. We‘ve had other goalies do it that were the same age, or younger.”
Holtby—who has just 21 National Hockey League games under his belt, none in the playoffs—is just focusing on stopping the puck, and doing his best to treat this one just like the others.
“I‘m not really trying to focus on the playoffs, I‘m focusing on making saves”, Holtby said. “The saves don‘t get any harder in the playoffs. I‘ve watched them since I was a kid. They‘re the same type shots, same everything. Obviously it‘s more intense but it doesn‘t change your ability at all.”
Puck drops in Boston shortly after 7:30.
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