April 5 vs. Boston Bruins at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM, 106.7 FM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Pregame Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage Pregame Show at 6:30 p.m., both on washingtoncaps.com
Boston Bruins (36-30-12)
Washington Capitals (51-15-12)
With four games remaining on the regular season slate, the Capitals have firmly cemented the Southeast Division title, the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the Presidents’ Trophy. For Washington, the final week of the regular season is a chance to tune-up its game as it prepares for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and perhaps to play the role of spoiler to the opposition.
Heading into the season’s final week, the top-seeded Capitals are most likely to face the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The likelihood of Boston finishing eighth is 38% followed by Philadelphia (26%), the New York Rangers (24%), Montreal (10%) and Atlanta (2%). (Thanks to sportsclubstats.com for the figures.)
A lot of things can and will happen between now and the final day of the regular season next Sunday. While Washington fine tunes, the Bruins will try not to get tuned out. Boston will need to put together a strong week to earn one of the three final playoff berths currently being sought after by five teams.
Boston’s week of reckoning starts on Monday when it makes its first visit of the season to Verizon Center. The Bruins will also close the week here on Sunday when they take on the Caps in the season finale for both clubs.
Washington also hosts Atlanta on Friday, but the lights could be out on the Thrashers’ fading postseason hopes by then. Atlanta enters the week with a tragic number of three, meaning any combination of three points not gained by the Thrashers or gained by the eighth-place club will eliminate them. Atlanta needs to win out and get some help.
The Capitals can put a damper on Boston’s hopes before Atlanta hits town, and Washington visits Pittsburgh on Tuesday where it will face the Penguins, who are currently locked in a dead heat with New Jersey for the Atlantic Division crown. Each of Washington’s four games this week means something to someone.
These games have meaning for the Caps as well. If it can run the table on its three remaining home games, Washington can set a new single-season franchise mark for wins. The current mark of 30 has stood firm since 1985-86. The Caps come into the week with a 28-5-5 record on Verizon Center ice.
In the last three seasons, the Caps are 9-1-1 in the month of April. They are 6-0-1 on District ice during that span.
The Caps and Bruins opened the regular season against one another back on Oct. 1 in Boston. Washington won that one by a 4-1 score and took the second meeting – also in Boston – by the same count in early February.
Washington has won two straight after a three-game mini skid (0-1-2). The Capitals are a gaudy 27-4-6 in the season’s second half. If a team could maintain that pace over the course of an entire 82-game regular season slate, it would finish the campaign with 133 points.
Caps goaltender Jose Theodore is among the hottest netminders in the league, a distinction he has held for virtually the entire second half of the 2009-10 campaign. Theodore is 18-0-3 in his last 21 decisions, dating back nearly three months. He has fashioned a 2.65 GAA and a .921 save pct. during that stretch. Theodore is two wins shy of reaching 30 for the fourth time in his NHL career, and he has all but nailed down the club’s No. 1 netminding gig heading into the playoffs.
In its most recent game, the Bruins spotted the Toronto Maple Leafs an early goal before coming back to earn a 2-1 overtime victory thanks to a pair of goals from noted Caps killer Miroslav Satan.
With defending Vezina Trophy goaltender Tim Thomas in the midst of a rough campaign, rookie netminder Tuukka Rask has taken the reins and led the B’s to the verge of a playoff spot. Rask claimed his 20th win of the season on Saturday against the Maple Leafs.
Playing behind the league’s most offensively challenged team, Rask has forged a tremendous 1.71 GAA and a .936 save pct. since the Olympic break. He has a pair of shutouts in that span, too. But because of a pronounced lack of offensive support, Rask’s record is a very ordinary 6-5 since the break.
Notes: Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin each have totaled three goals in the Capitals’ two previous games against Boston this season.