2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: What the Boston Bruins Need to Do to Win Round 1
The Bruins won in 1990 to go on to the finals and when they met again in 1998, it was the Capitals that took the series and went on to the finals.
Unfortunately for both, they didn't succeed to take the Stanley Cup in their respective tries, with the Bruins taking on the seemingly invincible Edmonton Oilers and the Caps took on Stevey Y and the Red Wings.
The Bruins took the second seed of the Eastern Conference and the Caps sneaked into the seventh seed after winning their last game and the Ottawa Senators lost their last game to take on the first place New York Rangers.
The Season Series
The Capitals have the edge in the regular season series, having won three of the four games they have faced each other.
Of the games, two were one-goal games that could have gone either way. The other two games were a 5-3 win for the Caps and 4-1 win for the Bruins.
Let's see the aspects of both teams from the red line to the goalie line.
In the regular season, the Boston Bruins have six players with 20 or more goals. Young gun Tyler Seguin leads the team with 29 (a career high).
Another young Bruin, also known as "The Little Ball of Hate," Brad Marchand, is one goal behind with 28 and is also a career high.
The rest that rounds up the 20-plus goals are Milan Lucic (26), David Krejci (23, career high), Partice Bergeron (22) and Chris Kelly (20, career high).
The Capitals have three 20-plus scorers in Alex Ovechkin (38), Alexander Semin (21) and Jason Chimera (20).
Advantage: Boston. They have twice as many goal scorers and that is twice the amount of players to watch. Not to mention a now healthy Rich Peverley who was out for about five to six weeks and still managed 11 goals and 31 assists. The more balanced scoring, the harder it is for the opposing defense.
Defense is not just the responsibility of the blue liners, but to be an effective team, the red liners need to step up and help out as well.
A solid defense has been proven to be a large part of a successful Stanley Cup run in the recent past.
The Bruins have not only a good, balanced offense, but their defense is also something to be reckoned with.
Not only do the blue liners have to keep their goalies covered, but they also have among the best two way players in the league. Of the plus/minus stats for the season, the Bruins have the top five spots and all of them are plus-31 or better. Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin are among the best two-way forwards in the game and "Big Z" Zdeno Chara is the top defense man in the league with a healthy plus-33. Out of the top 30, there are seven Bruins holding a spot.
Conversely, the Capitals have their top plus/minus in 82nd place in Forward Joel Ward with plus-12 and their top defenseman is Karl Alzner also with plus-12.
The Bruins have seven players in all with a minus rating. Shawn Thornton holds the worst with a minus-7
The Caps have 13 players with a minus rating. Three players are minus-15 and three other players with minus-8. Ovchekin is one of the players that hold a minus-8.
Of the season, the Bruins are a plus-61 (plus-43 at home and plus-18 away) while the Capitals are even (plus-12 at home and minus-12 away).
Advantage: Boston. Their ability to collapse on the net and their forwards' ability to play both ends of the ice allows them to force their opponents to pinch. When opponents pinch they take the risk of odd-man rushes of which the Bruins have had plenty of.
The Bruins have Tim Thomas who, while getting up in age at 37, just won the Stanley Cup, the Con Smythe and the Vezina just last season. While his numbers were not as good as they were last year, they are still respectable.
Backup Tuukka Rask is listed as day-to-day with a groin strain and may be back in the lineup but they are going to take their time with him as this is an injury that can be re-aggravated if brought back too soon.
AHL Starter Anton Khudobin is up to the task as he played in the Ottawa game last Thursday, playing a respectable 44-shot game and allowed only one goal.
The Caps have both starter Tomas Vokoun and backup Michal Neuvirth out with injuries and they are both listed as day-to-day. Vokoun is out with a groin injury and Neuvirth had injured his left leg when a player fell on it during a game.
All in a week from each other in the last two weeks of the season...
AHL starter Braden Holtby was called up from the Hershey Bears to man the posts. Holtby, a very capable goalie, was 4-2-1 this year in his seven starts but has had no NHL postseason experience.
Rookie tenders such as Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Cam Ward have been called up and went deep in the play-offs, but that is a far a few in between event. While the young 22-year-old has been known to thrive under pressure, it doesn't get bigger than the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He could be an X-factor in this series.
Advantage: Boston. Experience and the "been-there-done-that" aspect between these two starters can very well make the difference. While Holtby thrives under pressure, so does Thomas and he is well known to be on his game when the pressure is on.
Khudobin is equally inexperienced with no NHL postseason experience but the likelihood of the backup being needed is slim generally in the playoffs unless an injury occurs.
What the Bruins need to do
Attack the net
The Bruins need to get behind the Washington D and cycle the puck down low. They need to test Holtby and test him often.
Get Mean & Physical
The Bruins' physical game has been an asset to them for quite sometime and has to get mean on the ice. Milan Lucic is known to be a player to be a nice guy off the ice, but once the game is on, he is a different person altogether.
Same goes with Shawn Thornton who has been a huge contributor off the ice with charity. Once he gets on the ice, he is a physical force to be reckoned with and anyone that opposes him knows it.
Chara plays a physical game. With his reach advantage and good skills with the stick, he as the ability to shut down he opponent's top scorer and completely disrupt their offensive plans.
The Bruins will need to help Thomas out with some puck support. Most of their success was allowing shots from the outside and limit their ability to access the space up the middle and close to the net. Thomas plays an aggressive game and will come out far from the net. IF they can allow Thomas to play his game, they will be hard to beat.
How do you see this series ending?
The Bruins need to play on the edge and be careful not to go over it. You can bet the officiating will be watching and watching closely at both teams. Playing a man down against a team like Washington is not just dangerous, but inviting an upset. They will need to limit the extra curricular activities and walk away after the whistle when they should.
Vezina Calibre Goaltending
If Thomas can come out like Thomas of last year, this series can very well be the Bruins to take.
With all of this on paper, I can see the Bruins handing the Capitals an early exit out of the playoffs. Stranger things have happened. If the Bruins can take this series and take it early, this could give them the rest they needed to get their heads into it healthy and rested.
Should they get into the next round, it will most likely not get any easier.
This is Cory Ducey saying "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean."
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