|Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals||04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.
Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.
Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.
Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”
Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.
“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.
“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”
Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.
“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”
|Andy Brickley on D&C: Bruins over Capitals in six games||at 9:03 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to go in-depth and discuss the Bruins’ upcoming first-round playoff series against the Capitals.
With so many different facets of the game that could come into play against a talented Washington team, Brickley said that one of the Bruins’ primary strengths, their third- and fourth-line productivity, will be tested against the Capitals, who boast a similar strength in that area.
“That’s how the Bruins play when they play their best and that is their expectation that that’s the way they’re going to play this year,” Brickley said. “I think that the fact that Washington may have gotten the better or was certainly equal to the Bruins in that area during the season series is why I’m kind of highlighting it.
“The Bruins’ third and fourth lines, because they were so good last year, are going to have to do it again. It’s good that they’re playing a team in the first round that will make them be very aware that they have to get the complete contribution from all 12 forwards.”
When asked to pick out a particular X-factor in the series, Brickley turned his attention to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, someone he said can have a big impact on this series despite missing significant regular-season action.
“He missed three months with a concussion, came back at the end of the year, played four games, seemed to get better each game,” Brickley said. “But keep in mind that playoff hockey — the speed, the physical play, the way you win as you win in the dirty areas ‘ and because everything is ramped up a lot, when you’re coming off a head injury and you miss that kind of time, I’m not so sure what they’re going to get from him because the Bruins are such a heavy team and I think that would be a concern for Washington.”
|Tim Thomas: ‘We just need everybody to be as good as they can be’||04.10.12 at 6:17 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe Award for the most outstanding player of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup title run. He was the man between the pipes as Boston became the first team ever to win three Game 7s en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
The man knows the pressure that comes with playoff hockey.
So, what’s the key to handling it?
For the answer, Thomas looked back to the 25th and final game of the team’s memorable run last spring in Vancouver.
“Before Game 7, when we were talking in the locker room, one of things we were saying as a team was, everybody was tired by that point,” Thomas recalled Tuesday, two days before he opens defense in Game 1 against the Capitals. “It’s a long playoffs. Everyone’s got bumps and bruises and more than bumps and bruises, and they’re tired.
“Instead of putting pressure on ourselves to come out and think we needed in Game 7 the best game of our lives, as a group we made a decision that we don’t need everybody to be better than they’ve ever been in lives before. We just need everybody to be as good as they can be and that will be enough to make us come out on top. So, that’s probably the same type of attitude we need to take this year.”
He thinks this team is talented enough to make a legitimate run at it again.”
|Capitals at Bruins preview||12.18.10 at 10:26 am ET|
A couple of teams in dire need of a win will hit the Garden ice on Saturday night as the Bruins (16-10-4), winless in their last three, take on the Capitals (18-11-4). Despite dropping their last seven games, Washington still leads the Southeast division with 40 points.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Bruins are 7-5-3 in home games this season, a mark that was brought over .500 with a 2-0-1 showing in their most recent home-stand. Saturday marks the first of three home games in a row before they play seven of the following eight on the road.
- The Capitals are one of only three teams with 12 home wins (despite dropping their last five at the Verizon Center), but the road has been a different story. They’re 6-7-1 outside of the nation’s capital, and are looking for their first win as the away team since Dec. 1, when they picked up a 4-1 win in St. Louis. It remains the team’s only win this month.
- Milan Lucic is a goal away from tying his career-high of 17. The 22-year-old power forward hasn’t just led the Bruins in goals this season, he’s been cold-streak-proof. The longest stretch without a point this season for Lucic is two games, something he’s only done once (11/20 vs. LA, 11/22 at TB). Lucic scored his 16th goal of the season Thursday.
- In their seven-game winless streak, the Capitals have scored two goals just three times. They have been shutout twice in that span.
- I promise this is the last time that we’ll mention that Steven Kampfer has had 20-plus minutes of icetime twice despite being only four games into his NHL career, and that Matt Hunwick had two 20-minute nights in his 22 games for the B’s this season.
Playing with Zdeno Chara and seeing the time he’s seen of late on the power play helps, and Kampfer should continue to get big minutes as a result. It’s rather clear the B’s made the right choice in making Kampfer the guy when it came time to call someone up from Providence following the Mark Stuart injury.
STORYLINES GOING IN
- This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams. The Bruins won the first two before dropping a 5-3 decision on Nov. 5. In that game, the B’s climbed back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at three. This came after a goaltending switch and Tuukka Rask‘s entrance into the game in the third period. The loss, in which Rask allowed just one goal, remains perhaps the best single representation of the luck the Finnish goaltender has fallen on this season.
- It’s a good thing the Bruins are getting all of their games with Washington out of the way so early, because Alexander Ovechkin is bound to bust out of his season-long goal-scoring slump (by his standards, anyway) eventually. Ovechkin has just 12 goals this season, which puts him on pace for a career-low 30 goals. His lowest total in a season is the 46 he scored in 2006-07, his sophomore campaign. It is the only season of his five in which he did not register at least 50 goals.
Over his last 15 games, the 25-year-old has scored just twice. Ovechkin has one goal against the Bruins in three games thus far, an empty netter in the Nov. 5 contest.
Although he hasn’t scored nearly as much as one would expect from the 6-foot-2 winger, Ovechkin is on pace for a career-high 60 assists. He had 59 a season ago.
- The Capitals’ leading goal-scorer this season, Alexander Semin, will not play vs. the B’s after not traveling with the team to Boston, according to the Washington Post. Semin is out with a lower-body injury.
Semin has 18 goals this season despite not notching one in his last seven games.
|Bruins avoid sweep to Caps in regular-season finale||04.11.10 at 2:50 pm ET|
Summary — Both the Capitals and Bruins had wrapped up their playoffs seeds by the time the pucked drop for the regular-season finale on Sunday, so Washington was playing for a season sweep of Boston. The Capitals were not able to complete the brooming of the Bruins, as Boston took a 4-3 shootout win. David Krejci and Miroslav Satan scored two the Bruins two goals in the shootout while Tim Thomas stoned the Capitals in the extra-extra frame to seal the victory. Thomas got the start for Boston and made 34 saves in the win while Semyon Varlamov stopped 35 of shots in the loss for the Washington.
The score was tied at two in the third when the Capitals took the lead at 9:59 when former Bruin Mike Knuble had a tip-in off of a Mike Green shot to temporarily give Washington the lead. Boston came back within the five-minute remaining mark when Krejci fed Marco Sturm for a one-timing, game-tying strike at 15:42 to eventually send the game to overtime and then the shootout.
The Capitals got on the board quick when Alexander Semin beat Thomas with a snap shot at from the wall side of the left circle that had eyes to the back of the net at 2:23 in the first period.
Boston came back. Michael Ryder, who had scored one goal since Feb. 13, netted two in the first period to pace the Bruins attack. The first was a nifty feed from behind the net on a backhand pass by Milan Lucic that Ryder wristed back across Varlamov to tie the game at one. The forward would strike again at 14:55 for his 18th of the year to make it 2-1 when he struck on a wrist shot high far-side across Varlamov on the power play. It was the Bruins first goal on the man-advantage in their last 23 opportunities.
The lead would not last long, as Eric Belanger tied it 19-seconds later on a wrist shot passed Thomas at 15:14 to make it 2-2. That’s the way the score would stay until halfway through the third period.
Michael Ryder — The much maligned Bruins forward got out of his scoring funk with two first period goals to give him 18 for the season.
David Krejci– Set up Sturm for the game-tying goal late in the third and scored the game-winner in the shootout.
Mike Knuble — The former Bruin forward got the game-winner with his 29th of the season on a tip-in off the stick of Mike Green in the third.
Turning Point — The teams had been spinning wheels until well into the third after the first period flurry of lamp lighting. It looked like the Capitals would walk with the clean two points when Knuble had the deflection goal off the stick of Mike Green as Brooks Laich was tackled in front of Thomas for an effective screen. But Krejci did his work where he does it best, on the half wall by the circle, and fed Sturm in the slot right where he was able to wind up and send a screamer passed Varlamov to tie the game.
Key Play — Krejci and Satan teamed together to put the Capitals away in the shootout. Krejci scored first in the second round and did to stick fakes right in front of the crease before going wide right to put the puck through the corner around Varlamov’s skate. Thomas stoned Matt Bradley in Washington’s second round setting up Satan to end it with a score in the third. The Slovak did a rush, hesitate, rush move to get Varlamov way out of position sweep it passed him for the victory.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Capitals||at 12:44 pm ET|
They are playing for pride in this one.
Neither the Bruins or the Capitals can improve their playoff positioning in the regular season finale on Sunday. Washington wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference long ago while the Bruins are stuck in the sixth slot with 89 points after the Canadiens lost in overtime to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
But the game will still be played and Boston is looking to not get swept by Washington this season, having dropped the first three games in the series with a combined score of 11-4.
It did not look promising early for the Bruins as Alexander Semin beat Tim Thomas at 2:23 with a snap shot that the reigning Vezina Trophy winner could not corral to give the Caps the early 1-0 lead.
Boston came back at 5:29 when Milan Lucic fought hard for the puck for the behind Washington goaltender Semyon Varlamov and backhanded a pretty pass in front to the stick of Michael Ryder who went back across Varlamov for his 17th goal of the year. Zach Hamill, Boston’s first round pick (No. 8 overall), who is making his NHL debut, got the secondary assist on the goal for his first NHL point.
Ryder, who had not scored since March 16 against Carolina, broke another bad Bruins streak when he snapped their scoreless power play funk at 0 for 22 at 14:55 after Alexander Ovechkin went to the box for high sticking at 14:27.
The Bruins could not hold the lead for long though as the Capitals came back with a goal 19-seconds later when Eric Belanger beat Thomas with a wrist shot at 15:14 to tie the game at two.
That is where it stands heading into the second. Washington leads the Bruins in shots by the slimmest of margins, 9-8.
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