At 7:30 pm ET Wednesday night, the puck will drop in Boston's TD Garden as the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals meet in the final game of their Round 1 series. Through six games, the Caps and Bruins have played arguably the most competitive series of the 2012 playoffs thus far.
When you look at the numbers, the Caps and Bruins have been just about evenly matched in these first six games.
Every game has been decided by one goal. The Caps have been the only team in this series to lead by two goals at any point during a game. Even then, the Bruins managed to cut that advantage down within three minutes.
The Caps have put up quite a fight against the defending Stanley Cup champions. But now Washington enters dangerous territory. They’ll be playing in Bruins territory in more ways than one. Obviously, the game will be held in Boston’s TD Garden. The fact that it is Game 7 makes it dangerous, too. It was just last year that the Bruins won three out of four series in seven games.
One of Washington’s fortes has been shot-blocking. In six games, the Caps have blocked 121 shots. In Game 6, though, the Caps only blocked 12. To defeat the Bruins in Game 7, Dale Hunter and crew need to get back to consistent shot-blocking.
In that same vein, the Caps need to play better defense. Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby has been rather amazing thus far, but solid defenders in front of net are necessary to make sure pucks don’t get by him.
More offensive defensemen like Mike Green and Dennis Wideman are very valuable for scoring. On the other hand, more stay-at-home defensemen are valuable when it comes to holding back Boston’s lethal offense. Rugged defenseman John Erskine has made his fair share of defensive contributions; now it’s just a matter of other defensemen stepping up to do the same.
At the same time, Caps forwards need to play a more two-way game. Forechecking is obviously important in creating turnovers. However, the Bruins are good at moving the puck up the ice and a strong backcheck is also vital.
Finally, the Caps need to demonstrate more depth. The Bruins have been scoring from all lines. On the other hand, the Caps scoring has come mostly from their top line. That’s not to say that Washington’s other lines haven’t been offensively productive. After all, this has been a low-scoring series.
The Caps have what it takes to beat the Bruins. They’ve already shown that. As this first round of playoff games has shown, anything can happen. The home-ice advantage doesn’t seem to have as much influence, and, more than anything, upsets seem to be in style this year.
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