Capitals success no fluke

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Capitals success no fluke

There were many that slapped around the Bruins and continue to inflict the dope slaps with impunity after losing to the No. 7 seed Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. Rightfully so given their offensive dysfunction and stunning lack of energy at key moments in the seven-game series.

But now the Washington Capitals have pushed the top-seeded New York Rangers to a seventh and deciding game at Madison Square Garden, and proven they were much better than a typical No. 7 seed. Braden Holtby has a .935 save percentage and a 1.95 goals against average through the 13 games Washington has played during the postseason, and hes fortified one of the positions that always sabotaged the Caps in the end.

AlexOvechkin has bought into Dale Hunters program and played one of his best games of the playoffs last night while helping push Washington into their second straight series with a Game 7. Bottom-line grinder forwards like Jay Beagle, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Keith Aucoin have been playing with energy and effectiveness in both series.

Somehow Hunter was managed to wrangle a group of underachievers and perceived malcontents into a unit all playing together as a cohesive force, and their series against the Rangers proves the first round was no fluke.

Could a healthy Bruins team -- with the proper injection of energy have defeated the Capitals?

Absolutely.

But it was no fluke that Washington scalped the Bruins, and it was foolish for anyone to judge the Capitals by what they had done during a regular season where they slacked enough to get Bruce Boudreau fired. Ovechkin and Washington had proven everything they needed to during past regular seasons filled with division titles and gaudy point totals.

The Caps were focused on making an impact in the playoffs. Now theyve done that while possibly carving out a possibility of keeping their nucleus together when it appeared on the verge of breaking up this summer. The Rangers struggles with handling the Capitals should let people know the Bruins werent alone in experiencing a difficult time handling trouble from Washington.

The Bruins didnt play their best, but their postseason demise was just as much a Washington thing as much as it was a Boston thing.

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

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Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

BOSTON -- The Bruins locked up a piece to a blue line that was godawful last season in announcing they’d signed Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract.

They also retained one of their own young restricted free agents, center Seth Griffith, by reaching agreement on a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL value of $625,000 per season.

Miller, 28, played in a career-high 71 games last season -- his third with the Bruins -- and established career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He also posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team (plus-15) and generally seemed to be playing his best hockey down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miller was also forced into playing 19:04 of ice time per night while oftentimes serving as a top-pair D-man alongside Zdeno Chara. That resulted in a high number of mistakes and turnovers at critical times against the opposition’s best offensive players.

The rugged, hardnosed Miller obviously isn’t going to be judged solely by the numbers. He's also evaluated by the big hits, blocked shots and air of intimidation in the defensive zone. That said, a four-year contract is a bit of a head-scratcher, given that Miller wasn’t expected to command that kind of deal as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.

That four-year deal, which carries a yearly cap hit of $2.5 million, would also seem to hint at the impending exodus of Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg, or both, given the number of limited stay-at-home defensemen on the roster now making decent NHL money.  

The bottom line: Miller’s contract will be a good one if he can settle into a steady, top-four role. But it will be another overpay if he winds up being the bottom-pairing D-man many see him as at the NHL level.

Griffith had 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins last season, and also had an assist in four games for Boston. He'll get another chance this year to compete for one of the winger jobs at the NHL level with plenty of competition.

Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

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Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”

*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.

*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.

*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.

*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.

*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.

*For something completely different: Chewbacca Mom visited with James Corden on late night television, and the results were both funny and kind of heartwarming.