Bruins - Capitals preview: Facing last year's playoff foe

Bruins - Capitals preview: Facing last year's playoff foe
March 5, 2013, 6:30 pm
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WASHINGTON DC -- It’s a similar-looking Washington Capitals team that the Bruins will face on Tuesday night in the first of three meetings between the two Eastern Conference goes, but the B’s and the Caps are in much different spots than when they last met in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington is on their third coach in a 15 month span and struggled mightily out of the gate as they languish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference just ahead of the Florida Panthers. Braden Holtby is finally finding his form and Alex Ovechkin has shown up in fits and starts for an Oates-crafted system that should have been perfect for him.

One thing is certain about the Capitals/Bruins showdown: the B’s are once again one of the class teams in the East this season and they remember keenly which team it was that ended their season last year.

“Every building you walk into you kind of think about the last time that you were there,” said David Krejci, who finished with only a goal and three points in the seven game series loss to the Caps last season. “The last time we played here we won. But still this team sent us home for the summer. That’s what came to me when I first got here [this morning].”

The Bruins are more concerned about getting right back to their winning ways after dropping a game with an uncharacteristic falter in the third period Sunday night against the Habs, but there might be a little extra fire in their eyes when the puck drops at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Chris Kelly scored his first goal of the season last week and hit a couple of posts in Sunday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens, but his line still isn’t functioning the way it should. It was thought Daniel Paille could step in and give Kelly and Rich Peverley a boost of energy, but it was back to largely non-factor status for all three forwards in a playoff-style game against the Habs last weekend. Bruins coach Claude Julien was seen speaking to Chris Kelly on their way out to the team bus following Tuesday’s morning skate at the Verizon Center, and it was clear he was trying to emotionally pump up his two-way center.  

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “It’s probably the fact that they have a new coach and he’s brought some new ideas to the team. We all know that it takes a while with the way the schedule has been. It hasn’t been easy for coaches to implement things playing every other day, but it was only a matter of time. I think [Washington is] a much better team than they were at the beginning of the year.” –Claude Julien, speaking about a Washington that finally seems to have found their groove in the month of March.

KEY MATCHUP: It always seems to come down to Zdeno Chara vs. Alex Ovechkin, and it will probably be that same movie playing out again on Tuesday night. Chara has done a good job against the Russian superstar in the last couple of seasons while holding Ovechkin to one goal and a minus-4 rating in seven games. But then again Ovechkin isn’t quite the same player that he was during his 50 goal scoring apex either. Chara will need to make sure he doesn’t lock down too much simply on Ovechkin as he did at times during the playoffs, and allow other guys on the ice with him free entrance to the front of the net.

STAT TO WATCH: 6-0-0 – The Bruins record against lowly Southeast Division foes this season heading into Tuesday’s tilt with the Capitals.  

INJURIES: Washington defenseman Mike Green (groin) is day-to-day. Forwards Brooks Laich (groin) and Marcus Johansson (upper body) and defensemen Dmitry Orlov (upper body) and Jack Hillen (upper body) are on injured reserve and won’t be available against the Bruins. Boston is relatively healthy aside from Marc Savard, who is expected to miss the entire season with post-concussion syndrome that might end his NHL career.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Braden Holtby started the year slowly, but has caught fire lately and has three shutouts on the season for the Capitals in 14 games played. The 3.01 goals against average and .907 save percentage aren’t world beating numbers, but Holtby has been playoff-like as of late. Rask was the first Bruins goalie off the ice at morning skate, and will get the start for Boston while looking to build another point streak after his 7-0-1 run was thwarted by the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night. Rask gave up a couple of uncharacteristically shaky goals with his defense breaking down in front of him against Montreal.