Getting shots and traffic on Braden Holtby? Check. Finding a way to beat Holtby? Check. Playing a heavy and physical game against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Check.
The Boston Bruins checked off several topics on their to-do list against the defending Stanley Cup champs, but they still can’t find a way to beat Holtby and company during their frustrating 4-2 loss Thursday night.
“I thought we certainly gave ourselves a chance to win the game. It didn’t happen, again, against this team, so we have to get over that hurdle,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after seeing his team outshoot Washington, 41-21. “A lot of nights it would’ve been good enough for points — if not two points — but not tonight.”
Here is what we learned from Washington’s 14th straight win over Boston.
The Caps had quick answers to Ryan Donato and David Krejci’s tallies
The Bruins effort against the Caps resembled similarities from their season-long five-game win streak coming into Thursday. They were strong on pucks, aggressive in the attacking end and developed enough layers in the defending end in front of Jaroslav Halak.
Ryan Donato and David Krejci each provided timely goals to tie things up with their respective second and third-period tallies.
The Caps quickly answered to both. Ovechkin found enough space in the slot and notched his 31st of the season — and his first of two on the night — just 39 seconds after Donato’s sixth of the year. Nicklas Backstrom tallied his 11th of the year on a go-ahead marker — 1:09 following Krejci’s eighth of the year — that Halak would love to have back.
“I gotta make the save on the third goal,” the former Capital said on the Backstrom goal. “That’s the bottom line. I got to be a better goalie and they got a win, so I’ve got to be better.”
Indeed, Halak needs to be better. The journeyman has cooled off since his hot start to the season as Tuukka Rask marches on to his best stretch of the 2018-19 campaign.
Brad Marchand and Lars Eller renewed acquaintances
The seven-goal opening night blowout in D.C. was well out of reach when Lars Eller taunted the Bruins following his third-period tally. Brad Marchand took exception to Eller’s celebration and the two dropped the gloves to settle their differences.
Well, Eller came for retribution on Marchand, but Boston’s edgy winger didn’t budge when the two forwards met at center ice during the second period. Marchand maintained his composure and sent Eller to the box, thus giving the Bruins another power play attempt.
Marchand, never shy of providing a good soundbite, had some choice words toward Washington’s third line center.
“I haven’t looked at the stat sheet but I don’t really feel the need to check to prove anything. He plays you know, maybe 10, 12 minutes a night and I’m playing 20,” Marchand said about the encounter. “So in a 1-0 game, to go on the power play, it doesn’t make a lot of sense — so that’s the way it is.”
Eller actually averages a tad more than 12 minutes of ice time per night. He skated a tad below his season average of 16:55 per night Thursday night — 15:16 to be exact. But it’s hard to argue the talent disparity — even with his temptation of toeing the line — between Marchand and Eller as the vet alluded to in his latest soundbite.
The Bruins still can’t fully solve the Holtby puzzle
The legendary Ken Dryden and former Capital and Canadiens netminder Jose Theodore may have company on the Bruins killer list.
Holtby owning the Bruins has become cliche at this point. The 29-year-old improved to 16-2-0 lifetime in the regular season against Boston. That doesn’t include his four playoff wins against the Black and Gold from the 2012 first-round playoff series.
The Holtby cliche continued Thursday in his 39-save outing. The Bruins didn’t make things easy on Holtby, but the veteran made timely and spectacular saves that appear routine whenever these two teams meet.
“Yeah, I mean, they make it hard on me with traffic and those type of things, you know, speed,
the physical game,” Holtby said. “In an 82-game schedule, sometimes it’s tough to get a game like that, and sometimes it’s a little on the softer side of hockey. That’s just sometimes the way it is, I find. But whenever we play Boston, whether it’s the history, they’re always hard-fought games.”
It wasn’t a hard fought battle the first time these two teams met in DC. They’ll be back there on Super Bowl Sunday as the Bruins hope to finally snap their long skid against Holtby and company dating back to March 29, 2014.
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