Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 6:48 PM
NHL.comCAPITALS (42-32-8) at BRUINS (49-29-4)
TV: CBC, NBCSN, RDS2, CSN-MA (HD), NESN (HD)
Last 10: Washington 6-2-2; Boston 7-2-1
Washiington won three of the four meetings this season, including both visits to TD Garden.
Big Story: The Bruins begin their defense of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship, while the Capitals begin their quest to make everyone forget about a disappointing regular season.
The Caps were not expected to need 81 games to secure a playoff berth, nor were they expected to end up as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, but here they are. Washington has been plagued by poor playoff performances after magnificent regular seasons for the past few years, so maybe it is time for them to flip the script.
For the third time in four years, the Capitals will call on a rookie goaltender. Semyon Varlamov started Game 2 in 2009, and Michal Neuvirth started Game 1 in the opening round last season. This time around the Capitals will turn to Braden Holtby, who has 11 NHL games on his resume.
Despite his lack of NHL playoff experience, Holtby doesn't lack for confidence.
"I'm not really trying to focus on the playoffs, I'm focusing on making saves," Holtby told the Washington Post. "The saves don't get any harder in the playoffs. I've watched them since I was a kid. They're the same type shots, same everything. Obviously it's more intense but it doesn't change your ability at all."
Boston has had an inconsistent season after winning the title last June. The Bruins lost seven of 10 in October before ripping off a 23-3-1 stretch and ascending to no-doubt favorite status by January. The rest of the season was uneven, and while a 23-19-3 finish was enough to hold off the Ottawa Senators and win the Northeast Division, six losses in eight games in early March left more doubt than was expected.
Goaltender Tim Thomas
has not been a Vezina-caliber goalie in the final couple of months, and injuries derailed the club a bit until reinforcements arrived at the trade deadline. A 9-3-1 finish to the season could mean the Bruins are close to returning to their dominant November-December form. That would mean trouble for the rest of the conference.
"This is a fun time," center David Krejci
told the team's website. "We all know that we've had a success in past, but this kind of a new season, a new year, so you got to start from the beginning.
"We got to start with a good game tomorrow and go from there."
Alex Ovechkin had the lowest point total and second-worst goal total of his career, but he did score 10 times in the final 13 games of the regular season. … Brian Rolston
had three goals and 15 points in 21 games for the Bruins after arriving in a trade from the Islanders. Patrice Bergeron
had six points in his final four games of the regular season.
Holtby is expected to start Game 1 for the Capitals because Tomas Vokoun (groin) and Neuvirth (lower body) are not expected to be available. Neuvirth might be able to go later in this round; Vokoun's return is less certain. … The Bruins announced Wednesday that right wing Nathan Horton
will not be available this postseason because of a concussion. Defenseman Adam McQuaid
and backup goaltender Tuukka Rask
are also both likely out for Game 1, though defenseman Johnny Boychuk
is expected to play despite a knee injury.
Boston's "second line" became the team's top line over the course of the season. Bergeron, Brad Marchand
and Tyler Seguin
were third most-productive trio in the League at even strength this season, according to the Line Production tool at dobberhockey.com. They combined for 87 points while on the ice together, which trailed only Pittsburgh's trio of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz (96 points) and Detroit's trio of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler (103 points).
Surprisingly, Ovechkin is not part of Washington's most productive trio -- Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Alexander Semin were on the ice together for 27 points at even strength.
Neither of these teams was very consistent this season, but both were playing a little bit better down the stretch. Which team will be able to carry the momentum forward? The Bruins have started to look more like champs in the past month or so and are definitely the consensus favorite in this series.
"I think our approach each and every game; I think we took it seriously, we worked hard, we worked within our system within our strength, and that's how we are successful and that's how we need to play heading into the playoffs," Bergeron said.