Game Day Preview: Bruins at Capitals
The Boston Bruins knew that they had a tough weekend ahead. But, on Saturday they rose to the occasion on the first leg of their two city tour beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Boston lucked out as Sidney Crosby injured himself during warm-ups and Evgeni Malkin suffered an injury a little over a minute into the game, but give the Black and Gold credit including their goaltender Tuukka Rask who had 30 saves and recorded his third shutout of the season. Milan Lucic scored his 15th goal of the year while Zdeno Chara scored from 185 feet away on an empty-net to send the Penguins crowd home early.
On Boston.com: Bruins taking advantage of breaks
The B’s will now face off against the Washington Capitals in a fight for the top Wild Card spot Sunday night at the Verizon Center. With Boston winners of five straight, they have caught a struggling Caps team overtaking them for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Claude Julien’s team owns a 15-12-5 record on the road while the Capitals sport a 19-11-5 record in their own backyard.
Washington smoked the B’s 4-0 earlier this season, but to be fair, it was the third game of the season for the Black and Gold.
Here is your complete Bruins-Capitals Preview:
Gametime: 7:30 PM
Records: Bruins 36-22-10 (82 points)/Capitals 36-23-10 (82 points)
TV/Radio: NBCSN, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Location: Verizon Center
Bruins’ projected lines:
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith
Milan Lucic-Ryan Spooner-David Pastrnak
Chris Kelly-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Max Talbot
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg-Matt Bartkowski
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Capitals’ projected lines:
Alexander Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson
Curtis Glencross-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera-Eric Fehr-Joel Ward
Andre Burakovsky-Brooks Laich-Tom Wilson
Nate Schmidt-John Carlson
Karl Alzer-Matt Niskanen
Tim Gleason-Mike Green
Who to watch for Bruins: Reilly Smith
After inking his new two-year deal with the B’s, Smith has curled up into a ball. This is nothing new for the 23-year old as he’s known to be a very streaky scorer.
Over his last six games, Smith has just one assist and seven shots on net. It’s hard to believe when Marchand and Bergeron are playing at such a high level right now. The former Miami (Ohio) forward is struggling quite a bit. He is turning the puck over consistently most notably in the offensive zone.
Saturday afternoon, Smith was much of a non factor totaling just a tick under 15 minutes of ice time while accumulating just one shot on net.
With David Krejci closer to returning, it’s hard to imagine Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak or even Daniel Paille taking a seat and it’s certainly not out of the question why Smith should automatically have his spot on the right-wing.
Who to watch for Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin
It’s no surprise who the Black and Gold will be zeroing in on Sunday night. He just so happens to be the leading goal scorer in the league.
Alexander Ovechkin has six goals in his last five games to go along with three assists. Maybe the most surprising one of his statistics is his plus-11 this season. Just a year ago, the left-winger owned an embarrassing minus-35 rating while scoring 51 goals. It seems as if “Ovi” has bought into playing some defense this season. The first overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft also leads the NHL in: power-play goals (21), game-winning goals (10) and shots (335). He ranks second in points with 71 in 68 games.
If the B’s want to keep the good times rolling in Washington and build a two-point lead on the Capitals, this is their top priority.
Game Day Edge: Continue momentum
It is as if nobody can stop the Black and Gold at this point of the 2014-2015 season. They are cruising through their competition and climbing the standings in the Eastern Conference. Their quality play must continue in Washington if they want to separate themselves from the Capitals.
Tuukka Rask has been one of the main reasons for their win streak. Over his last three starts, Rask has stopped 100 of 103 shots in games against the Penguins, Lightning and Senators.
Rask deserves all the accolades, but the team in front of him is also playing at a very high level as of late, and it couldn’t come at a better time as the playoffs are less than a month away.