Preview: Bruins vs. Capitals

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Preview: Bruins vs. Capitals

BOSTON -- There's plenty of motivation for both the Bruins and Capitals when they face off Thursday night at TD Garden.
The Caps should be full of vim and vigor Thursday night, given that they're on deaths door in the playoff race. The Bruins, meanwhile, need one more win to clinch a postseason berth.
Given the pride inside the Washington dressing room, one would expect a fight from players like Alex Semin and Alexander Ovechkin . . . considering what could loom for the Capitals if they dont find their way into the playoffs. Though there has been signs of life lately, there are also seems to be some resignation that they built themselves too big a hole to escape.
As for the Bruins, they're overflowing with confidence and finally starting to look like themselves again and they dont appear ready to loosen that kung-fu grip. Coach Claude Julien likes the challenge of playing a dangerous team in Washington.
They'll play Thursday without Dennis Seidenberg, who will miss the game with an infection stemming from a cut in his leg suffering against the Kings last weekend. That cant be underestimated given the big part the German defenseman plays in moving the puck and controlling things in the defensive end.
The desperation makes it tough, said Julien. I like those kinds of challenges. Those are the challenges you need to finish the season with and bring the best out of your hockey club. Were going to have to be at our best if we expect to win tonight.
At the end of 60 minutes it will probably be about which team was much more desperate for the two points and thats as it should be. PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Joe Corvo was scratched for six straight games and watched the Bruins win five of those six while watching the defense stabilize in their own end. With Dennis Seidenberg out of the lineup, Corvo gets the chance hes been waiting for while biding his time watching games from the press box. Its been pretty clear Corvo hasnt enjoyed sitting on the bench with the playoffs looming, and this is best chance to turn things around for himself. DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: There is so much for us to play for right now. Were battling for home-ice advantage and being No. 2 in our conference. As a team, our game is coming along in the last five or six games but we cant sit back. We cant take any games lightly and its time to build some good momentum with six games left. Were getting there . . . close to playing the way we want to play. David Krejci, feeling plenty of urgency with six games left in the season.KEY MATCHUP: Tomas Vokoun is 2-1 with a 3.02 goals against average and a .904 save percentage against the Bruins and should get the start against Boston on Thursday night. Itll be up to Bostons top-six forwards to finally get themselves completely untracked and start throwing rubber at the Washington net. Given the hard times Washington has been through recently a couple of quick goals could do much to discourage the desperate Capitals, who are out of the playoff picture if they find themselves on the losing end. STAT TO WATCH: 8 the plusminus of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in three meetings against the Capitals along with five points apiece.INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strain) and Nathan Horton (concussion) are both out without a return close in sight, but Rask may try to get on the ice next week. Seidenberg (infected leg cut) is out against the Capitals and considered day-to-day at this point. Caps first-line center Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) has been cleared, but won't play Thursday after skating for 90 minutes at Washingtons morning skate.GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas finally got a rest after appearing in 16 straight games, and the 37-year-old should be at the top of his game after appearing to hit a groove over the last two weeks. Thomas is 4-1 with a .942 in his last five games, and appears to have found the second wind that eluded him when he played in the 16 straight appearances for the Bruins. The Capitals have been trying to find a winning combo between the pipes, and have jostled between Vokoun and Michael Nuevirth through much of the season. Vokoun should get the start against the Bruins after winning two of the first three outings against the Bruins this season.

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.