WASHINGTON DC – After floundering their way through a series of games against the trash of the Eastern Conference with games against the Sabres, Panthers, Flyers and Lightning – with only a showdown against the Penguins as a true test of their mettle – the Bruins will end their regular season journey with a pair of games against playoff opponents. The Verizon Center and the Washington Capitals are first up on Saturday, and they’ve been led by a resurgent Alex Ovechkin with 32 goals on the season, and a stalwart Braden Holtby between the pipes.
Claude Julien is viewing this weekend as the perfect opportunity for his team to tune their game up prior to the playoffs, and perhaps even make a statement or two to opponents they might see down the line in the postseason.
“I don’t believe in just dressing to play the game. We need to play well. You never know, you may see these guys down the road,” said Claude Julien. “You might as well just play hard tonight.”
First and foremost for the Bruins, however, is making sure that Milan Lucic continues to trend toward nasty and intimidating for the playoffs, that everybody stays healthy this close to the playoffs and that the Bruins continue to play their big, bad style of hockey after shrinking away from their identity for much of the shortened regular season.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Zero points and a minus-2 rating for Rich Peverley in the last seven games, and the speedy winger has managed one shot on net or fewer in four of those seven games. That continues just a brutal campaign for the versatile forward, and it’s even more alarming given that he’s been skating with the playmaking David Krejci for the last couple of games. He was one of Boston’s best forwards once the playoffs arrived, however, and one has to hope that history repeats itself.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “I don’t believe in just dressing to play the game. We need to play well. You never know, you may see these guys down the road. You might as well just play hard tonight.” –Claude Julien, on playing a playoff caliber opponent in Washington after taking on the likes of the Panthers, Flyers and Lightning as of late.
KEY MATCHUP: It should be a treat to watch Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg lock onto Alex Ovechkin’s line as the Washington Capitals forward has upped his game this season among mounting criticism. He has 32 goals on the season for his eighth straight year with 30 goals, and that’s just even that much more impressive given that the Bruins don’t even have one 20 goal scorer in this shortened season. Tonight will be a good gauge as to how badly the B’s captain needs a breather in this final weekend of the regular season.
STAT TO WATCH: 7-3 – the Bruins record in the second game in a “three games in four nights” scenario this season.
INJURIES: Forward Nathan Horton (upper body) is out for the Bruins and will miss his fourth consecutive game, though he’s begun skating again while not a 100 percent lock to start the playoffs for Boston. Washington is without defenseman Tom Poti (upper body) and forwards Joel Ward (knee) and Brooks Laich (groin) as they wrap up their regular season as Southeast Division champs.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask has shutouts in each of the last two games that he’s started, and is sporting a .950 save percentage during the month of April while upping his game for the postseason. Braden Holtby has been outstanding down the stretch for Washington, and has a 2.61 goals against average and a .919 save percentage on the seasons. He looks primed and ready to enjoy the same kind of playoff run as he did last season as an unproven rookie thrown into the fire.