Capitals-Bruins: Washington Looks to Make History Tonight against Boston

Allen PopelsCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2009

So much for easing back into the NHL schedule after the All-Star break. 

The Caps open up the second half of the season tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden area in the second match-up between the top two seeds of the Eastern Conference in the last 10 days.

Washington has a chance to accomplish something no other Capitals team has done in the team's 34-year history—defeat the Boston Bruins for the fourth consecutive time. 

The streak dates back to March 16, 2008 at the Verizon Center, when the Caps received shootout goals from Alex Semin and Viktor Kozlov for a 2-1 win.

This season, Washington has won both of the match-ups so far, each again at the Verizon Center.  A 3-1 win on December 10—thanks to a 33-save performance from goaltender Brent Johnson—and a 2-1 win on January 17, thanks to 23 saves from Jose Theodore (pictured) and a "buzz bomb" (as described by Caps play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati) goal in the final period from Semin that Bruins all-star goaltender Tim Thomas described as "Guy LaFleurish."

Theodore, now firmly entrenched as the N.1 netminder, is finally starting to live up to the expectations branded upon him this past summer after signing a two-year, $9 million contract.  He's 5-3 with a 2.11 Goals-Against Average and a .921 save percentage during the month of January.

A key to the Caps recent surge has been their play at even strength.  They currently have not given up a five-on-five goal in in over three games, a stretch totaling 198:34.  That streak will be severely tested tonight against a Bruins team that has the top four plus-minus players in the league. 

Marc Savard (+28), Blake Wheeler (+27), Dennis Wideman (+26), and David Krejci (+25) have combined to help Boston to the best goals-for to goals-against differential in the league (+62).  To put that in comparison, as good as the Caps have been this season they have only scored 15 more goals (153) then they have given up (138).

With a record of 17-3-2, the Bruins have been especially impressive at home this season.  However over their last six home games, they are only 3-2-1 with losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild, plus a shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues back on January 19th, their last home game before the All-Star break.

Washington will look to capitalize on the Bruins recent struggles at home as they look to win in Boston for the first time since a 2-1 overtime victory back on April 10, 2006.  A win in regulation would also pull them within eight points of the Bruins for the top spot in the East and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. 

It should be an interesting start to the playoff push tonight in Boston.

Down on the Farm

The South Carolina Stingrays host the Gwinnett Gladiators tonight at the North Charleston Coliseum.  The season series is practically dead even, as the 'Rays are 3-3-0-1 against their South Division rivals. 

Six of the seven match-ups this season have been decided by one goal, and the teams have each scored 17 goals in the series.  The Gladiators have won the last three meetings giving the Stingrays extra incentive to end the streak tonight at home.