After a hard-fought regular season the Capitals made it to the real season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This year feels different if you are a Caps player or fan. They enter the dance as an underdog. In years past it was always a “Cup or Bust” mentality. The Capitals, despite finishing the year with 92 points, had to claw and scrap to get into the post season. They secured their spot in the last week of the season. Not your normal Capitals season.
In the first round the Capitals face a very difficult Boston Bruins squad. The defending Cup champs pose a severe threat as they boast the best goal differential in the NHL with a +67. They score goals in bunches and have the ability to play a tight defensive game.
- Both teams aren’t in the top ten in power play efficiency (BOSTON RANKED 15TH, WASHINGTON RANKED 18TH).
- Boston loves to shoot the puck, that’s a simple fact. Boston took an average 32.4 shots a game. That was good enough for 3rd in the entire league. Despite the fire power on the Caps roster, they only averaged 28.0 shots a game. In the playoffs sometimes one shot changes a series. Wouldn’t you want 4 more shots per game?
- Boston is a big bruising team. Playing that style costs you when you are down a man. The Bruins rank 3rd in total penalty minutes. Washington spent 6 fewer minutes in the box when it came to minor penalties. Boston spent most of their time picking up majors, leading the league with 65 major penalties. True in every playoff series, special teams will be critical to success.
Game One Goalie Match-Up
|Washington Capitals||Boston Bruins|
- Having a Conn Smythe winner in net boosts your chances. Tim Thomas in an off-year still had 35 wins and a save percentage of .920. This goes along with being part of a goalie tandem to allow only 202 goals, all year.
- The Capitals have a wild card in net with Braden Holtby. He only played 7 games all year but don’t let that low number fool you. Those games down the stretch were playoff games essentially for the Capitals. If you took away one or even two of those wins, things change drastically for the Caps. As in early vacations and tee times starting April 11th.
How the Caps can win the series
- Get to the net. Everyone has said this all season. It will never be more true than against Tim Thomas who stops everything he can see.
- If you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em. The Bruins expect to out muscle their opponents. Especially, late in games. If the Caps can get pucks deep and set up their forecheck, they’ll find success against the slower Bruins defense. Also, playing physical and denying Bruins forwards space in the neutral zone will be key.
- Ovi is going to show up. He has already proven in past playoffs that he will. The rest of the Capitals must follow their leader. It’s time for Backstrom, Semin, Green, and Laich to help Alex Ovechkin lead the Washington Capitals to the next level.
- Earning 6.7 milion dollars a year to play hockey is a lifelong dream of many young children and teenagers across the globe. To actually make it is another thing all together. Alex Semin is in a critical year of his hockey career. He will most likely become a free agent after this season. These playoffs are crucial to him maintaining his value in the NHL. Having his team fizzle out last year and only having 6 points in the process doesn’t really cut it. Scoring goals doesn’t come easy in the playoffs. Your most talented players must step up and compete. Semin has to step up, this year.
- Joel Ward signed with the Washington Capitals after a stellar 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs performance. He was integral to the Nashville Predators first playoff series win. The Caps valued you him at $12M over 4 years. In the regular season, Ward was a bust. After starting well on a line with Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich, Ward’s performance fizzled. In fact, he was nonexistent at times. He was scratched for long periods of time by rookie coach, Dale Hunter. It will be very interesting to see how Joel Ward is or is not used in these playoffs and how that affects his standing with the Caps in the off-season. If Joel Ward does crack the game one lineup, his role is to take a beating in front of Tim Thomas. The Bruins are a big and physical team. Ward could be a good weapon for the Caps against the big bad Bs.
** IF NECESSARY
|3/29/2012||3-2 SO Caps|
Bruins (1-2-1) Caps (3-1-0)
Top Three Scorers
1st: Tyler Seguin – Goals:29, Assists: 38, Points: 67
2nd: Patrice Bergeron – Goals: 22, Assists: 42, Points: 64
3rd: David Krejci – Goals:23, Assists: 39, Points: 62
1st: Alex Ovechkin – Goals: 38, Assists: 27, Points: 65
2nd: Alex Semin – Goals: 21, Assists: 33, Points: 54
3rd: Marcus Johansson – Goals: 14, Assists: 32, Points: 46
Shots Per Game: 3rd
Shots Against Per Game: 13th
Penalty Kill: 11th
Power Play: 15th
Shots Per Game: 23rd
Shots Against Per Game: 16th
Penalty Kill: 21st
Power Play: 18th
Editor’s Note: Some content contributed by Eric Rigsby.