WASHINGTON DC — The opportunity is there for the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins Thursday night.
Without Nicklas Backstrom — suspended for Thursday’s game after his cross-check to Rich Peverley at the end of Game 3 — the Black and Gold will look to use their depth to expose the void from the Swedish forward and take a 3-1 series lead before the series shifts back to the TD Garden Saturday afternoon.
Given the physicality between the two teams, the Bruins know they will be in for a fight against a pesky Washington squad looking to regain momentum, despite the loss of Backstrom.
“I think The more you play the same team over the intensity creeps up and the physicality creeps up at the same time,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “It’s just part of the playoff mentality in playoff hockey, and I think we’re expecting that tonight and [also] expecting a great game.”
Both Braden Holtby and Tim Thomas put on a show in the first two games as the teams combined for four goals in over nine periods of hockey in that span. In Game 3, the Bruins got the upper hand in a 4-3 victory thanks to a good net front-presence.
While the Bruins expect the best out of Holtby and the rest of the Caps, they also know that getting bodies in front of the net and looking for deflections could pay dividends against the 22-year old netminder.
“In Game 3 it was a little better,” Bergeron said about the presence in front of Holtby. “We need a little more of that [tonight] to not only create some chances for us but also some goals.”
With or without Backstrom, the Bruins game plan, that also includes getting more bodies in front of Holtby to create opportunities for those greasy goals, remains unchanged.
“They are a very good team without him and I think our gameplan doesn’t change because it wasn’t based around Backstrom, but based around the Washington Capitals,” coach Claude Julien said. “We’re going to continue making adjustments because of how we want to make adjustments and not because of certain players.”
More importantly, the Big Bad Bruins will hope to use the same identity that’s made them successful over the past several years.
“We know what we are,” said forward Chris Kelly. “We are a big, strong hockey team that plays hard and I think we play in all different types of games throughout the year. I think playoff hockey is the most exciting hockey and both teams do what they do to win and they want to win.”