March 10 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden Time: 1:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage at 11:00 a.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 11:00 a.m. on washingtoncaps.com.
Washington Capitals (33-28-6)
Boston Bruins (40-23-3)
Washington makes its first visit of the season to Boston where it will take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in a Saturday matinee match. The game starts a rugged stretch in which Washington must play six of its next seven games on the road. That stretch starts with back-to-back matinee matches, on Saturday against the B’s and then back home on Sunday afternoon when the Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Caps just finished off a season-long five-game homestand, doing so with a great deal of drama. The Caps underachieved, going 2-2-1 in the five games. Washington scored a total of nine goals in the five games, and six of those came after fewer than four minutes remained in the third period.
The Capitals were blanked in their two losses, and needed late rallies to erase late third-period deficits and scrape up each of the five points they did manage to accrue on the homestand.
Most recently, the Caps earned a 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in the homestand finale. Marcus Johansson scored with 3:58 left in the third to draw the Caps even at 2-2, and Caps captain Alex Ovechkin netted his second overtime game-winner of the homestand – and the 12th of his NHL career – to get two badly needed points for the Capitals.
“I think we were hoping to have more of a four-win record,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner of the just-completed homestand, “and we definitely thought it was possible. We had some good games, but we made a lot of mental mistakes.
“We were watching the [video] clips and they were laughable. That’s not a good sign. When you’re seeing those clips and you can’t believe guys are doing that and those mistakes are happening, that’s not really good. Last game, there were still some bad ones there, but we got a lot of momentum from that [win]. Hopefully we can take that into a couple road games and a couple tough road games, too.”
Making his first start in 15 days, Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun earned his first win since Feb. 17 with a 24-save night in the nets. Both of the goals Vokoun allowed came on the power play.
Washington woke up on Friday morning in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings and once again in control of its postseason destiny with 15 games to go. The Caps now face a difficult stretch of scheduling in which they play six games in a span of just 10 nights, with five of those contests coming on the road. The Caps are 11-18-3 on the road this season, and they must play nine of their final 15 games away from the friendly confines of Verizon Center.
“Our road game hasn’t been the strong suit of our team as of late,” says Caps forward Troy Brouwer. “We’re going to have to find ways to get points on the road here.”
Washington won its last road game, a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Feb. 25. The Caps scored twice early in that game and built on and also protected their lead the rest of the way. That’s a formula they’ll look to replicate during this stretch on the road, rather than the late and furious comebacks they relied on during the homestand.
“That’s not the way we want to go into most games,” says Brouwer. “We want to try to get a lead and protect that lead rather than having to play desperate and having to come from behind at the end of games. It’s good to know that we have that ability to come back, but it’s not a position that we want to put ourselves in night after night.”
Boston is the last Eastern Conference city the Caps have yet to visit this season. Washington will return for its second trip to Beantown in just under three weeks, on March 29.
Saturday marks the Capitals’ first visit to Boston since Dec. 18, 2010 when they lost a 3-2 decision to the Bruins that ran Washington’s losing streak to eight straight games (0-6-2) at the time.
The Bruins come into Saturday’s game with their first pair of consecutive wins in nearly two months. Boston took a 5-4 road win at Toronto on Tuesday and returned home to earn a 3-1 win over Buffalo on Thursday.
Prior to those victories, the Bruins’ previous pair of consecutive triumphs was a set of home ice wins over Winnipeg and Montreal, respectively on Jan. 10-12. In between those pairs of successive wins, the Bruins were a very ordinary 10-12-2.
Like the Capitals, the Bruins are starting up a busy weekend. Boston will visit Pittsburgh on Sunday to take on the Penguins in a nationally televised matinee match.
Boston and the Capitals have split their first two meetings this season, with Washington winning on Jan. 24 and the Bruins taking the Feb. 5 meeting.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was injured in a game against the Islanders last weekend and will be sidelined for a few weeks as a result. Tim Thomas has appeared in goal in each of the last seven games for Boston, starting six of those contests. The Bruins recently signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco to help spell Thomas until Rask returns.
With Boston playing three games in four days this weekend, it is possible Turco could see his Bruins debut at some point. Before signing with Boston earlier in the week, Turco had played briefly in the Austrian league with Salzburg EC. He has yet to play in the NHL this season.
Turco’s most recent NHL action came with Chicago last season when he was 11-11-3 with a 3.02 GAA and an .897 save pct. The 36-year-old Turco has 273 career NHL victories.
Boston does not have any players among the NHL’s top 30 scorers. The Bruins leading scorer is sophomore Tyler Seguin, who leads the team with 24 goals, 55 points and a plus-35 defensive rating.
The Bruins have eight players who have reached the double-digit level in goals scored this season and three others who currently have nine goals. Defending the B’s requires a team effort.
“Normally we have one shutdown line that goes up against their top players,” notes Brouwer. “I feel that we’ve done a pretty good job as of late in that department. But Boston’s got three 20-goal scorers right now and quite a few guys up around the 50-point mark. They pose a little bit more depth in their offense, and it’s not just going to be the responsibility of the shutdown line. The other lines are going to have to be real good at making sure we don’t give up too many opportunities.”
Notes: Caps defenseman Mike Green was suspended for three games by the NHL for his hit on Lightning forward Brett Connolly in Thursday’s game. Green will be eligible to return to the Washington lineup on Friday when the Caps visit Winnipeg. The Caps will use either Roman Hamrlik or John Erskine in Green’s absence. Hamrilk has been a healthy scratch in each of the Capitals’ last eight games. Erskine has been a healthy scratch in 12 straight games and 17 of the last 18.