After two days of playing out the series in media scrums and press conferences, the Caps and Bruins finally got a chance to play hockey. Instead of a very emotional game like game three, the fourth game of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series saw the return of the tight checking, no mistakes hockey from the first two games. This was clear in the 2-1 result in favor of the Caps. With Nicklas Backstrom suspended for the game, Dale Hunter’s adjusted lineup included Mike Knuble and John Erskine replaced the mistake prone Jeff Schultz. The subtle changes in the roster, another Alex Semin power play goal, and lights out goaltending by Braden Holtby were just enough for the Washington Capitals to even the series, 2-2.
- The Boston Bruins dominated 5-on-5 play. They recorded 44 shots while the Caps only placed 15 shots on net at even strength. The Caps have held an advantage in special teams. They converted on the power play with a Semin snipe, while getting 6 shots in 3 power play chances. The Bruins only recorded one shot in their only power play chance in the third period as the Caps were holding the lead. Again, if the Caps can find a way to match the Bruins at even strength, they should grab the lead in the series.
- While the Bruins clearly tried to rekindle some of the after-the-whistle play in the beginning of the game, the Capitals matched that with hard physical play in between the whistles. Bruins’ forward Shawn Thornton went right to big John Erskine in the first few minutes of the game and tried to start an altercation. The Caps played a hard, disciplined game. Mike Knuble’s holding infraction was the only penalty committed by the Caps. Washington also out hit the Bruins, 44 to 34. The hit counts are probably indicative of the amount of time Boston possessed the puck. Nevertheless, it also means that Washington took away space from Boston. Another key to take the lead in this series in game five.
- Starting the game with a first shot, Marcus Johansson goal from a beautiful feed from Brooks Laich was perfect. Fast starts and early leads in the playoffs grab the momentum in each game. At TD Garden in game five, the Caps should try to score early in the game to take the crowd out of it and play with the lead.
- It was interesting to see Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin sit out most of the third period as Dale Hunter sent his best defensive forwards to hold the lead. Heading up to Boston and not having the luxury of the last change, might hamper Hunter’s ability to match personnel with Claude Julien in game five.
- The Caps allowed 45 shots to reach Braden Holtby. He stopped 44 of them. Questions, answered. Braden Holtby was fine after game three.
Game five presents an opportunity for the Capitals to finally control the series and put the Bruins on the brink of elimination. They should enter the contest with confidence. Having split in Washington and Boston, there is no such thing as home ice advantage in this series. However, the Caps could easily return to DC on Sunday having to play a desperation game to stay alive in the series and force a game seven. So, it would be best if the Capitals show a little desperation in game five and return with a lead in the series.