Stanley Cup Playoffs: Boston Bruins to Host Washington Capitals in 1st Round

Cory DuceyAnalyst IIIApril 8, 2012

OTTAWA, CANADA - APRIL 5: Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators gets checked by Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on April 5, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images


The Boston Bruins finally have a face of who they will take on in the playoffs and it is the Washington Capitals.

The Caps took their final game of the season and squeaked into seventh place as the Ottawa Senators lost their game to drop to the eighth and final spot to take on the New York Rangers.

In the season series, the Caps took the Bruins in three of the four games, but the last two were just one-goal games.

This is the postseason where anything can happen.

In the recent past, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last season.

The Caps have been the bridesmaid and never the bride as they have not had great success in their last five postseasons.

Can this be their year?  Not so fast.

The injury bug has bitten the Caps in the worst possible position; the goalies.  Tomas Vokoun is out with a groin injury and backup Michal Neuvirth had his left leg tweaked pretty bad just a week later.  That leaves Braden Holtby who had a 4-2-1 record this season and this would be his first playoff appearance.  Given the injuries and the proximity of the playoffs, it will be a safe bet that Dany Sabourin may also be called up to back up Holtby.

Holtby played well against the Rangers, stopping 35 of 36 shots on net.  Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist was uncharacteristic in his play, allowing four goals on 17 shots.

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins is hit by Cody Eakin #50 of the Washington Capitals on March 29, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Can Holtby take on the pressure of the playoffs?

While the offensive talent is there, they have allowed more goals than they have made this season.  This has also been the trend in recent playoffs for the Caps and they will need to buck that trend when they face the Bruins.

The Bruins have gotten hot at the right time earning 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games.  Most of this roster have played in the last postseason together and look to go deep again.

They have the second-best record in the league for goals for and are fifth for goals against with a league-leading plus-61 in goal differential.

Their starting goalie, Tim Thomas, is in top form and was rested thanks to the help of Marty Turco and Anton Khudobin.

Turco is not eligible to play in the playoffs due to his signing post trade deadline.  Khudobin was the starter for the P-Bruins in the AHL and posted some solid numbers.  His lone start this season was against the Senators and he posted good numbers stopping 44 of 45 shots and had a little luck with a heeled shot by Erik Karlsson that could have tied the game.  Outside of that, he had a solid effort.

That being said, he still has no NHL playoff experience.

After saying all that, we can throw a lot of this out the window.

It's the playoffs.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins battles for the puck against Matt Hendricks #26 of the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on January 24, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Where anything can happen and you can be one injury away from blowing the entire deal, or one power play away from hitting the links to join the others that will be denied the opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley's Mug.

This is going to be a hard call.

You have the Bruins where defence is the name of the game and they have the offensive chops to get it done.

Then you have the Capitals, an offensive team that has cleaned up their defensive game...somewhat.

You have a Bruin starter that is getting up in his age but still is playing well with a young backup who has never seen the postseason in the NHL, versus the Caps with their No. 1 and No. 2 goalies out for now and a young goalie that have not seen the playoffs in the NHL with a journeyman in Sabourin who only tasted the postseason with two games for a total of 14 minutes back with the Vancouver Canucks in the 06-07 season.

The Bruins have had a long road to get back to the playoffs having experienced a very short summer due to their celebrations.

That being said, the team seems to be getting hot at the right time.

The Caps are hungry and they will not make this an easy fight.

While I don't expect too much in the way of physical dominance on the Capitals side, it will be, at times, physical.

The Bruins have to play it smart.  Their physical play has gotten them into trouble.  You only have to go back to the Pittsburgh game on Tuesday to see what will happen when you go a man short (two men short at one point) against an offensively talented team.

I will not be one of those idiots that will sit and analyze the games that they have played and what they can or cannot do.

No one has that crystal ball and anyone that has any hockey knowledge at all will know that the playoffs is a different beast.

While we have no idea what will happen, we do know it should be entertaining.

This is Cory Ducey saying "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean."