Bruins-Capitals preview: It's payback time for Boston

Bruins-Capitals preview: It's payback time for Boston
March 16, 2013, 11:45 am
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Alex Ovechkin has been scrutinized mightily over the past two seasons for under-performing.

(AP Images)

The Bruins will be looking for revenge this weekend when they take on a couple of their third period tormentors in Washington and Pittsburgh. The Capitals handed Boston the second of back-to-back third period meltdowns last month when they climbed back from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Bruins at the Verizon Center, and earlier this week the Penguins fired off three third period goals to once again bamboozle the Black and Gold.

The Bruins pride themselves on being the strongest team in the NHL when it comes to third period dominance, and they’ll get a crack at both teams in back-to-back games. The first order of business will be the Caps at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, and then the Bruins get right back on the horse against the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center with a St. Patrick’s Day matinee game in front of a national audience on NBC.

Clearly the Bruins have burr under their saddle about the third period weakness that both hockey clubs exposed against Boston.

“There’s definitely been a lot of focus on us putting together a complete and full 60 minute effort,” said Milan Lucic. “Last year we never blew a lead going into the third period and this year we’ve done it three times. So there are definitely some cracks in our game right now that we’re trying to fix.

“There’s always a big learning process going through the season and trying to solidify your game. You always want to get it there so you can achieve your goals. That’s where we’re trying to get to with 23 games left in the season. It sounds like a lot, but there’s only six weeks left in the season. It’s up to us to find [our game] and make sure we peak at the right time.”

That solidification process begins on Saturday afternoon against the Capitals with the Bruins once again looking to get their first win vs. Washington since that team ousted them in Game 7 of the playoffs’ first round at the Garden last season.
 
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Milan Lucic is goalless in eight games during the month of March, and is a minus-3 for the month while looking slow and indecisive on the ice. These are always the hallmarks of a Lucic slump, and he admitted after Friday’s practice that he needs to step up his game. That process began by firing off three shots on net in Thursday’s win over the Florida Panthers, and nearly scoring a goal on a Nathan Horton centering pass that went off his skate just wide to the left of the open net. Lucic will be looking to be both a physical and offensive presence against Washington to truly bust out of his funk.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “We know there isn’t much time left until the playoffs come. If we play 40 or 45 minutes hard and then take a few minutes off then it’s going to burn us. We have to prepare ourselves for the playoffs now. We can’t just flip a switch when playoff time finally comes.” –David Krejci, on the B’s focus while not being satisfied with the way they’ve played this season.  
 
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 Saturday afternoon. 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-3 rating in his eight games vs. Boston. The Russian superstar did have an important assist in his 23 plus minutes of ice in Washington's win on home ice. 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: 57.4 – Boston’s face-off percentage win statistic this season, which leads the league by a wide margin over the second place San Jose Sharks. It’s a big factor in their ability to kill penalties.   
 
INJURIES: Washington will probably play Saturday without offensive defensemen Mike Green (groin), John Erskine (upper body), Tomas Kundratek (lower body) and Jack Hillen (upper body). Gritty forward Brooks Laich (groin) is also still out. Boston will be without forward Chris Kelly (broken leg), but were optimistic that rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid (upper body) might be able to play after missing Thursday’s game against Florida. He’s day-to-day until he returns to the lineup, but then again aren’t we all?
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Michael Nuevirth is 2-4-1 with a 2.86 goals against average and a .900 save percentage this season, and will get the start against the Bruins in the Saturday afternoon matinee. With the Bruins once again playing back-to-back games the expectation is that they’ll put Anton Khudobin in against the Capitals after he suffered the tough luck loss against the Penguins in Boston’s third period collapse on Tuesday night. But Claude Julien might also finally put Rask in both ends of the back-to-back for the first time this season, so stay tuned on that one. Rask is 10-1-2 in his last 13 games played, and was the losing netminder in Boston’s collapse to the Caps in DC last month.