Game Day Preview: Capitals at Bruins
The Bruins’ disappointing effort from the Winter Classic is still widely discussed in Boston. How they respond to that is the bigger question entering tonight’s matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals.
Head coach Claude Julien and company are trying to figure out their line combinations and defensive pairings after seeing his team’s poor effort on New Year’s Day. At the same time, they are severely missing David Krejci (week to week with an upper body injury) and Brad Marchand (who is serving the second of his three-game suspension). With the Bruins fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference logjam, their depth is being tested, and they’ll need to dig deep and find ways to win.
On the other side, the Capitals, pegged by many pundits to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final, are by far and away the class of their conference. From Alex Ovechkin to Evgeny Kuznetsov to John Carlson (lower body, day-to-day) and Braden Holtby, Barry Trotz’s roster is deep from top to bottom. Obviously, this will be a big test for a Black and Gold team that is still trying to find an identity.
Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 20-13-4 (44 points), Capitals 28-7-3 (59 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Loui Eriksson-Patrice Bergeron-Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Landon Ferraro
Frank Vatrano-Joonas Kemppainen-Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo-Max Talbot-Tyler Randell
Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg-Colin Miller
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Capitals projected lines
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich-Zach Sill-Michael Latta
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Dmitri Orlov-Nate Schmidt
Aaron Ness-Taylor Chorney
Matchup to watch: Bruins vs. Braden Holtby
The good news for the Bruins in their first meeting against the Caps back in early November? They found a way to beat Holtby, but just once. Jimmy Hayes’ goal at 12:47 of the first period broke Holtby’s shutout streak of 199 minutes and 30 seconds against the Black and Gold. The last Bruin to score before Hayes was Patrice Bergeron back in March 2014.
The bad news for the Bruins? Well, Holtby is the early favorite to win the Vezina Trophy and is playing his best hockey of his career. The 26-year-old leads the league in wins with 24 while his 1.92 goals against average is good for second and his .932 save percentage ranks him third among goaltenders.
The last time Holtby lost in regulation was back on November 10th against the Detroit Red Wings. Since then, he is 16-0-2 in his last 19 starts and has allowed 36 goals in that span. His only disappointing effort in that span came on December 18th when he was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots midway through the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The shorthanded Bruins will have a tall task in trying to solve Holtby, who is 8-2-0 with a 1.52 goals against average, .954 save percentage and three career shutouts against the Black and Gold. To complete the task, they’ll need a much better effort from top to bottom than they showed against the Habs, just for starters.
Storyline to watch: How the Bruins respond to Winter Classic disappointment
Sometimes, a team’s character is built on how they respond to adversity. The Black and Gold are no strangers to that, and they face it again as they try to get back on track following their flat performance on the NHL’s biggest regular season stage.
The B’s enter tonight’s game having lost four of their last five. Julien used the last two practices as a reminder that they need to do better after playing their worst game at the worst time of the season. Now, they have to find a way to respond.