As expected, the drama and one-on-one match-ups on and off the ice has heated up following game three. The game saw an increased level of physicality from both the Caps and Bruins. Extra slashes, cross checks, and gloves to faces and heads of opponents were the norm following whistles. The on-ice chirping carried over to the off day. The players and coaches ramped up their gamesmanship. Finally, Nicklas Backstrom’s one game suspension resulting from the match penalty given for his cross check on Rich Peverley at the end of game three, was upheld. Down 2-1 in the series after the 4-3 loss in game three, the Capitals need to find a way to match the Bruins intensity without getting into penalty trouble much like they did in gametwo.
- Believe it or not, there was actually a hockey game played in game three. The difference in the game was Boston’s play at even strength in both 5-man and 4-man situations. They scored all 4 of their goals in those situations. The Caps were able to pot one on the power play and outshot the Bruins, 5-on-5. The Caps need to convert more scoring opportunities at even strength and try to build on the power play success in game three.
- The Bruins ramped up their physical play in response to the Caps out hitting them in game two. With 58 hits credited to the Bruins, compared to Washington’s 36, the Bs had only one skater not record a hit in game three. The Capitals had 5 skaters not credited with a hit in game three. The Caps must match the Bruins physically and legally, to help even the series.
- Both Braden Holtby and Tim Thomas let in some goals that were pretty weak. In Holtby’s case, he was let down by his teammates playing in front of him. Specifically, the defense pair of Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz was awful. Look for a shake up in the Caps blue line corps to give Braden Holtby some more help.
- Alex Ovechkin was able to find some room to score in one of the 4-on-4 situations during game three. He was also used in different line combinations as Dale Hunter continued to try to get the right match-up for the Great 8. With the last change as the home team in game four, look for Hunter’s line matching creativity to continue.
- With Backstrom suspended for game four, Dale Hunter will have to shuffle his lines a bit. He has scratched Jeff Halpern, the Caps’ best face off man in the regular season (58.4%), in the first three games of the series. Considering how tight the first three game were, puck possession is key. To improve puck possession, winning face offs is very important.
Game four is a critical game for the Caps. They need to even the series before heading back to Boston for game five. Line combinations and player match-ups will be very interesting to watch as Dale Hunter and Bruins coach Claude Julien deploy their players. Just as important will be how the players conduct themselves on the ice. The Bruins have their game plan. Will the Caps try to match their physicality after the whistles or will they play hard but smart as they did in game two?