April 14 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden
Time: 3:00 pm TV: NBC Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage at noon, John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at noon on washingtoncaps.com.
Washington Capitals (42-32-8), 92 points
Boston Bruins (49-29-4), 102 points
Game 2, Eastern Conference quarterfinal series (Boston leads, 1-0)
Less than 48 hours after the series opened in a spirited, hard-hitting affair at TD Garden in Boston, the Capitals and the Bruins go back at it in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Saturday afternoon.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby did not look like a 22-year-old rookie in the Washington nets on Thursday night in his Stanley Cup playoff debut. A “veteran” of 21 regular season NHL contests over the last two seasons, Holtby found most of the action at his end of the ice in Thursday’s season opener, and the Caps found their young goaltender up to the task.
Holtby stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, and on most nights that would earn him and his mates a victory and two points. At this time of year, there are no “points;” only victories and defeats. The Caps weren’t able to test decorated Boston goaltender Tim Thomas very much in Thursday’s Game 1, and the result was a 1-0 overtime loss and an early 1-0 deficit in the series.
Chris Kelly’s goal at 1:18 of the overtime session was the lone tally of the contest.
“I thought we played a very good game,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “We looked at some video today; there are some things we’d like to clean up. We want to stay out of the penalty box a little bit more. But I think we only gave up four or five scoring chances five-on-five. I still think we can play better, but obviously we’ll have to do that tomorrow night.”
During the regular season, Boston was a team that routinely kept its foot on the collective throats of foes when it had a two-goal advantage. The Bruins were an imposing 38-0-0 in games in which they owned a two-goal lead at any point in the contest during the 2011-12 campaign.
In the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s series opener, the Bruins buzzed the net in front of Holtby and poured shots in his direction. They attempted 50 shots to just 20 for Washington in the game’s first two periods, and they spent eight of those minutes on the man-advantage.
The Caps came up large in front of Holtby during those Boston power plays, blocking eight shots in the eight minutes in which the Bruins were on the power play.
Holtby and the Caps’ penalty-killing corps combined to keep Boston from building that 2-0 death-grip lead, but the Washington offense wasn’t able to hold up its end.
After attempting just 20 shots – and getting only seven of them on net – in the first two periods, the Caps got on track in the third. They attempted 21 shots the rest of the way, putting 10 of those in Thomas’ direction. But getting 17 shots on net isn’t enough to win a playoff game against a guy who has a Vezina Trophy and a Conn Smythe Trophy from less than a year ago.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was limited to just one shot on net for the night, and his ice time total of 17:34 was the lowest of his 38-game NHL playoff career.
“There are things we can do,” says Laich. “We know that [Ovechkin] is going to be keyed on, especially [by Bruins defenseman Zdeno] Chara a lot. He is going to try to come across the ice a lot and pinch Alex off. We can try and talk to him, we can try and run picks for him; get our bodies in the way. But when we get the puck, we have to skate. I think if we move the puck quick before they’re allowed to adjust their defense – whether it’s from the wing to the middle to the other wing or diagonal all the way – there are some things we are going to try and work on tomorrow to open it up for him.”
Washington put that same total of 17 shots on the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist last Saturday in its most recent outing, the 2011-12 regular season finale. But the first two on Lundqvist went in, forcing the Rangers to fight from behind all game. The Caps had no such success on Thomas.
Washington defensemen fired a total of 16 shots on net in Game 1, but only two of those found their way to the net, the other 14 were either blocked or missed altogether.
“They did a great job of getting in lanes,” says Caps blueliner John Carlson of the Bruins. “I think our guys did a great job of that, too. They seemed like they were knocking them down. Fortunately for us, it seemed like it was the second line of defense to knock them down. You never want that first forward to block a shot, because usually it results in an odd-man rush [against]. We’ve just got to get them to the net. Hopefully, it rattles around in there at some point and we bang one in.
“I think we’ve just got to get the puck below the circle. We’ve been doing well at that all season long and I think it’s showing in our offense. We can keep doing that and wear down their [defense] because we’ve got some great forwards, some horses up there. If we stick to that, we’re going to wear them down, I think.”
Washington can still wrest the home-ice advantage from the Bruins on Saturday with a Game 2 victory in Boston.
Bruins center David Krejci had a pane of glass fall on him while the B’s were celebrating their Game 1 overtime win on the ice. He did not take part in Friday’s practice, but Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn’t believe Krejci will miss Saturday’s Game 2.
“He’s fine,” says the Boston bench boss of Krejci. “Glass fell on him yesterday as everybody saw. He was a little bit stiff around the neck area this morning. He was scheduled to skate and I talked to the trainer and together we came to terms that it was better if he stayed off [and] feels even better tomorrow. It was not that hard of a skate today so we kept him off. He was scheduled to go on and he’s scheduled to play tomorrow.”
The Bruins were 18-0 in games in which Kelly scored during the regular season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kelly is the only one of 246 players with double-digit goal totals during the 2011-12 regular season who scored every one of his goals in games his team won.
Also according to Elias, Thursday’s game marked just the eighth time in NHL playoff history that a team posted a 1-0 overtime victory in a series-opening contest. Boston has won two of those eight games; the Bruins authored a series-opening 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in double overtime in a best-of-five set back in 1935.