ARLINGTON, Va. — There’s no secret that both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom deserve a lot of attention from opposing defenses when the Washington Capitals take the ice. But this year, without Backstrom for 40 games due to a concussion, Ovechkin has seen his numbers drop as a result.
In Game 4, the Caps will once again be without Backstrom, who is serving a one-game suspension for his cross-check on Rich Peverley. With that, the Boston Bruins are presented with a golden opportunity to go up three games to one in their best of seven first round series Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
But, like usual, the Bruins are focusing on the task in hand rather than get too caught up in the distraction.
“I think for us — what we’ve learned from the past — is that we have to focus on ourselves and our game more than anything else,” said forward Milan Lucic. “We know they’re going to be best and we know they are going to come at us hard. But for us we have to do whatever we can to give ourselves a chance to win.”
While the Caps are trying to move on, they have also expressed their displeasure of Backstrom’s one-game ban and wrote a public statement about it.
“We disagree with the NHL’s decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom,” the statement read. “This has been a competitive and physical series, and we do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed. Our singular focus is on Game 4, and we look forwards to the energy that our great fans provide.”
Not only did the Caps write a public statement, but coach Dale Hunter spoke out and thought that the Bruins were going for Backstrom’s head in Game 3. That led coach Claude Julien to offer a rebuttal.
“I don’t know of any coach who would tell his player to go after somebody’s head,” Julien said. “What he said speaks for itself and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Despite Backstrom’s suspension both teams expect to up their physical element in a pivotal Game 4. Obviously the Bruins will take a 3-1 series lead home to Boston with a victory, while a Caps win would even the series at two games a piece.
That alone should up the ante, with or without Backstrom.
“That’s normal. It’s [the] playoffs” said Peverley about the physicality of the series. “You expect things like that, so it’s not different at all.
“It doesn’t really change much. He’s a tremendous talent and a great player in the league,” Peverley added about Backstrom. “But they’ve played a lot of the year without him and they’ve done well. So, we’re kind of looking at it as they’re still a great team and we can’t play them any differently.”
The mindset is still business as usual for the Black and Gold. And its safe to say that no matter who gets suspended or what happens down the road, they will use that same approach during the 2012 postseason.