NHL Playoffs 2012: 6 Things We Learned in Game 1 of the Boston/Washington Series

Eric Hobeck@@eric_hobeckContributor IApril 13, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: 6 Things We Learned in Game 1 of the Boston/Washington Series

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    Game 1 was a nail-biting, if not downright boring, affair.

    Chris Kelly gave the defending Stanley Cup champions a 1-0 victory in overtime, but a solid Washington performance proved that the Caps are not done by any stretch of the imagination.

    Rookie goalie Braden Holtby nearly shut out the Bruins and anything can happen in Game 2 on Saturday.

Tim Thomas Is Still a Brick Wall in Net

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    Yep, he's still the same Tim Thomas from last year's playoffs. Stopping all 17 shots he faced, the Michigan native proved that he lost little if any portion if his game from this time a year ago.

    He is ready to lead the Bruins on another potential run deep into May, or even June.

    We'll see if his performance on Saturday holds more of the same.

The Bruins Are Not Exactly the Same Team They Were in 2011

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    Yes, Boston showed plenty of grit throughout the entire game on Thursday night. But their offensive prowess was lacking.

    That grit didn't translate to the scoreboard for over an hour of hockey.

    While the Bruins didn't necessarily play badly, save for a stretch in the third period when Washington had plenty of chances, they didn't have the offensive prowess that was shown throughout much of last spring.

    Although Braden Holtby played exceptionally well and made saves that he had no business making, the Bruins should have hung several more goals on the Capitals.

    The fact that they didn't should be a red flag to Boston coach Claude Julien.

Braden Holtby Is Ready

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    While he didn't exactly pull a Patrick Roy-esque performance, Holtby stopped 29 of 30 shots he faced in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game.

    Stopping shots that a lackadaisical Washington back-checking unit allowed him to face, Holtby showed that he just may not be a problem in goal as many pundits said he would.

    Chris Kelly's goal in overtime was not fluke-y and the Bruins deserve credit for being the first team not to blink. But none of the blame for this loss can be put on the Washington netminder.

Mike Green Is Hurting the Team

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    Over the past several seasons, much of the postseason griping in Washington has been directed at the play of talented but underachieving defenseman Mike Green.

    On Thursday, he proved that he deserves every bit of that criticism.

    Several Capitals' chances were squandered when he fired several shots from the slot well wide of the net. Those kind of moves worked in 2009, but not in 2012.

    Green has copious amounts of talent, but he is nothing more than a burden on the Washington blue line and should not be in DC after this season. His on-ice behavior has seriously lowered the chance for the Caps to win the Stanley Cup in the past few seasons.

    If the Calgary native continues to play on Saturday like he did on Thursday, he would be better off as a healthy scratch.

    In that scenario, why shouldn't Capitals coach Dale Hunter give Dmitri Orlov a shot?

The Caps Can Hang with the Champs

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    True, it wasn't a win for the Capitals on Thursday.

    But for those that "Rock the Red," all hope is not lost. While Washington allowed almost twice as many shots as they took, they took advantage of the chances that they had in front of the net. Several near misses should provide a reason to be optimistic about the potential of this Caps team to beat the defending champions.

    As long as Braden Holtby's confidence is not shaken too much, and Washington's defense shapes up, they should be in good shape to make a great game of it on Saturday, which leads us to the most important thing we learned on Thursday...

A Win on Saturday Is Extremely Important for Both Teams

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    If nothing else, this game showed that it will not be over in five games like some are predicting.

    The entire game was a war of attrition and it took overtime to decide the outcome. This means that with a win on Saturday, each team's prospects of advancing will be drastically improved.

    If the Bruins win, then Washington will have to win four of the next five. That's certainly not impossible, as they have done that before, but it's not very likely.

    If the Capitals win, however, they'll be going back to Washington with the series dead even. That plays right into their favor and if this series becomes a best-of-five, then anything can happen.

    Simply put, the Bruins need a win to give themselves significant breathing room, and the Capitals need a win to give themselves a legitimate chance at winning the series.