One more game remains before the Washington Capitals know who they will face in the first round of the 2020 NHL Playoffs.
The Washington Capitals have gone 0-1-1 so far and have yet to impress during the round-robin tournament, where their placement in the standings determines who they play in the first round. The Boston Bruins are in a similar position, having gone 0-2-0 so far in the tournament. The winner of this game will finish 3rd in the standings, and will therefore face the New York Islanders in the first round. The loser of this game will finish 4th, and they will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round.
The Washington Capitals have had lots of success against the Bruins over the last few seasons and went 2-1-0 against them this past season.
The Boston Bruins won the President’s Trophy this season for having the most points in the regular season after accumulating 100 points before the stoppage. It is safe to assume they do not want to slip to fourth in the conference after having the number-one position in the league essentially locked up.
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Boston most recently lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 after allowing a goal late in the third period. Prior to that, they took a beating from the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in their first game of the round-robin tournament.
On offense, the Bruins are one of the most dangerous teams in the league as they possess arguably the best line in hockey in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Pastrnak scored 48 goals this season, which was tied with Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for the league-lead, and had 95 points in 70 games played. Marchand 87 points in 70 games, with 59 of them being assists.
However, their offense has been nonexistent during the round-robin tournament, as they have scored just 3 goals in their 2 games. None of those goals coming from the top line, as they are a combined -7 with just 1 assist between the 3 of them coming from Patrice Bergeron.
In net, the Bruins have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak sharing the net. Rask finished with a 2.12 GAA (Goals Against Average) and a .929 SV% (Save Percentage) and had 5 shutouts as he and Halak won the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the least amount of goals in the regular season.
Washington’s last game played was a similar 3-1 beating given out by the Flyers in what was one of the worst games Washington has played in recent memory. Prior to that, they lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning after being down 2-0 earlier in the game.
The Capitals have been without top defenseman, John Carlson, for both of their round-robin games after leaving their exhibition game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes when he took an awkward fall into the boards.
Lars Eller has recently returned to Toronto after going back to Washington for the birth of his son, Alexander. Since protocol requires him to remain isolated for four days, he will not be in the Capitals’ lineup for their game with the Bruins.
Washington’s offense has been as weak as Boston’s has, with Radko Gudas being the leading point-scorer for the Capitals with 2. Their top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson is a combined -5 with 1 point amongst the 3 of them coming from Kuznetsov.
The Capitals’ defense has not shown up yet, and is only made worse by the loss of Norris-Trophy finalist, John Carlson.
After a rough regular season in which he only had a 3.11 GAA and a .897 SV%, Braden Holtby has looked stellar and composed, although his numbers would tell you otherwise. He has been the bright spot for this team so far in their round robin games.
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3 Keys to Victory
1. Special Teams
The Capitals’ power play has been abysmal so far. In their 8 opportunities with the man advantage, the Caps have buried 1 goal. If they want to succeed against the Bruins, who should not be taken lightly despite them having a difficult round-robin tournament, they need to alter their power play in order to make it more effective. That also means that the big dogs for the Caps need to score. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom all need to get going and get on the scoreboard.
On the other hand, their penalty kill has been great. The Capitals have taken 6 penalties (all in the Philadelphia game), and killed off all 6. However, this leads in to key number two…
2. Take Fewer Penalties
The Capitals managed to get out of the Tampa Bay game without having taken a penalty that left them shorthanded. However, in the Philadelphia game, they took 6 minor penalties. When you take penalties that frequently and at the piss-poor moments the Caps chose to take them, it makes it very hard to generate offense and to get the bench’s momentum up. In order to win, they need to avoid the penalty box as best as they can.
I think it goes without saying that defense is crucial to winning games. The Capitals’ defense was terrible in their game against the Flyers, and that is coming from the forwards too. Kuznetsov’s lack of coverage led to 2 Flyer goals, and the defense’s inability to hold the blue lines led to too many odd-man rushes for Philly. They need to have more focus in their own zone and to be stronger when trying to maintain the offense against a fast and skilled Bruins team.
The Capitals and Bruins play August 8th at 12pm Eastern.