Washington Capitals No.2 vs. Boston Bruins No.3
Capitals: 36-15-5, 77 points
Bruins: 33-16-7, 73 points
Season series: WSH 4-4-0; BOS 4-2-2
Game 1: Samedi (19 h 15 HE; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS)
The Capitals and Bruins will face off in a playoff series for the first time since 2012.
Every team has been a playoff staple for the past decade, with the Capitals making the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons and 13 of the past 14, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Bruins have made it happen. playoffs in each of the last five seasons and 12 of the last 14, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2013 and 2019.
But this time Zdeno Chara, who led the Bruins through each of those races to the final, is on the other side after signing with the Capitals as an unrestricted free agent on Dec. 30.
“Obviously playing ‘Zee’ I’m sure that’s going to be a scenario,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Chara had been the longest-serving captain in the NHL, playing the role in each of his 14 seasons in Boston. In his 1,023 games with the Bruins, the 44-year-old has scored 481 points (148 goals, 333 assists). He’s scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) this season with Washington.
The Bruins are encouraged by the fact that they have been playing well lately against the Capitals in the MassMutual East Division this season. In 2020-21, the Bruins had lost 17 of 19 regular-season games (2-12-5) against the Capitals, dating from October 11, 2014. This season, they are 4-2-2 against Washington.
“A strong team. Super top six. Great bodies, ”Cassidy said. “Their coach has been there several times. They will therefore be ready to go.… But a team against which we have played well this year. We are looking forward to the game. “
Although the Capitals suffered injuries as the season ends, coach Peter Laviolette enjoys the direction his team is taking in its first season. Washington finished 11-4-1, although it stood up to injury from forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie, defender John Carlson, goalie Ilya Samsonov, and the absence of forward Evgeny Kuznetsov due to COVID-19 protocols.
“The game that we played on the ice, based on everything you see when you watch the game and then the data that comes out after the game – you watch the scoring chances, you watch the zone over time and you watch the special teams – there’s a lot we really love about the last 20-25 games we’ve played, ”said Laviolette.
“They weren’t always wins, but the game, I think, gives you the opportunity to win. So I think we are comfortable and confident with it and I hope the health will go hand in hand. “
Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom led the Capitals with 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists), the first time he has done so since 2016-17. And while he’s not usually the one to finish games, Backstrom is often the one to set them up, his brilliant pass creating so many chances the Capitals have scored in his 1,011 NHL games. Backstrom leads Washington with nine points (one goal, eight assists) against Boston this season.
Video: WSH @ NYR: Backstrom Tokens Drawn In Front Of Shesterkin
Bruins: We don’t know how he does it, but Brad Marchand improves with age. The left-winger, who turned 33 on Tuesday, averaged 1.30 points per game this season, the highest of his NHL career. He’s also averaged a career-high 0.55 NHL goals per game, and he’s playing more in control than ever before.
Video: NYI @ BOS: Marchand buries Krejci’s dish
Capitals: The Capitals might not have waited Vitek Vanecek to get the bulk of their starts this season, but the rookie has held up in the net. Vanecek has started 36 games, going 21-10-4 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. The Capitals also have rookie Ilya Samsonov, who started 18 games, with a 13-4-1 record with a 2.69 GAA and .902 save percentage. The third option for the Capitals is the veteran Craig Anderson (2-1-0, 2.13 GAA, .915 save percentage).
Bruins: Tuukka Rask hasn’t had the smoothest season, but he’s ending it where he wants it: healthy and on a good streak going into the playoffs. Rask is 7-1-0 in his last nine starts, with a 2.00 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Cassidy said on Tuesday he would use the rookie Jeremy Swayman (7-3-0, 1.50 GAA, 0.945), who arrived in the NHL earlier than expected, to support Rask. Cassidy also has a veteran Jaroslav Halak (9-6-4, 2.53 GAA, .905) who missed three weeks in April due to testing positive for COVID-19 and saw Swayman pass it on the depth map.
Figures to know
Capitals: The Capitals have scored nine goals in 30 power play chances against the Bruins this season (30.0%). That’s more than their 24.8 percent for the season, which ranked third in the NHL behind the Edmonton Oilers (27.4) and Carolina Hurricanes (25.6).
Bruins: Marchand scored 14 goals in April, the most by a Bruins member in a single month since Barry Pederson scored 15 in December 1982. In 23 games since the start of April, Marchand has scored 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists).
Capitals: The Capitals added a key piece ahead of the 2021 NHL trade deadline, acquiring Anthony Mantha of the Detroit Red Wings on April 12. Mantha has scored one goal in each of his first five games, including one against Boston. Mantha has never played in the playoffs in his six seasons in the NHL, but he could play a significant role in his first chance.
Video: WSH @ BOS: Mantha shoots on the wrist for PPG
Bruins: Taylor Hall has been a different player in Boston since his April 12 trade with the Buffalo Sabers. He has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 games for the Bruins after scoring 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 37 games for the Sabers. Hall is a player with the talent to win the Hart Trophy, which he did in 2018 with the New Jersey Devils; he’s playing like that guy again.
Video: NYI @ BOS: Hall defeats Sorokin for OT winner
They said it
“As the playoffs approach, you have to make sure you have that good feeling in your body and you are excited about these next games. That’s where this group is at the moment. . ” – Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom
“It’s been 16 games. It was probably one of the most enjoyable hockey games of my career. I really hope there will be more to come. – Bruins forward Taylor Hall
Will win if …
Capitals: They stay healthy. The Capitals recently ran into injury issues, Ovechkin (lower body), Oshie (lower body), Carlson (lower body) and Backstrom (lower body) all ran out of time last week. Add to that the fact that Kuznetsov remains on the COVID-19 protocol list and the Capitals aren’t heading into the playoffs at full speed. But they can go back there quickly.
Bruins: Their defenders are holding up. The Bruins took a bet during the offseason, allowing Chara and Torey krug (St. Louis Blues) to sign elsewhere as unrestricted free agents and decide to go with young people. It’s been tough at times, but the defense (and goaltenders) have limited opponents to 2.39 goals against per game this season, the fourth lowest in the NHL. And trade for a defender Mike Reilly of the Senators on April 11 strengthened the squad, though Boston still relies on Kevan Miller and her knee repaired surgically.
What they look like
Projected programming of the Capitals
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Anthony Mantha
Conor Sheary – Lars Eller – Michael Raffl
Daniel Leap – Philippe Maillet – Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Hathaway Garnet
Dmitry Orlov – Justin Schultz
Brenden Dillon – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Nick Jensen – Zdeno Chara
Injured: TJ Oshie (lower body), John Carlson (lower body)
COVID-19 Protocol: Evgeny Kuznetsov
The Bruins’ planned programming
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David pastrnak
Taylor Room – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle
Jake DeBrusk – Curtis Lazar – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon – Kevan Miller
Striped: Anton Blidh, Trent Frédéric, Ondrej Kase, Karson Kuhlman, Connor Clifton, John Moore, Jarred Tinordi, Jakub Zboril, Jaroslav Halak