The Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins were the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference last season, and start the 2009-10 campaign facing one another again. After an offseason that was spent in great anticipation for this very day, the start of the new hockey season, it's finally arrived.
And it has arrived with much fanfare and high expectations. Never before in the team history has so much attention and press been dedicated to pucks in the offseason in Washington. It's been non-stop, starting with last year's disappointing playoff ouster by eventual champion Pittsburgh, through the awards season, free agent period, then the start of training camp, and coming to a head at last weekend's first-ever Capitals Convention.
Good crowds showed for the home preseason games, so much so it reminded of weekend games in the not-so-distant past.
But Washington has arrived as a "hockey town", and it's now time to drop 'em for real and get this show on the road.
These two teams join the Penguins and Philadelphia as the class of the East. Boston has a very balanced line-up, and was second in the league in goals scored. They welcome the return of Marco Sturm, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, but will miss their leading goal-scorer, Phil Kessel, who was traded Sept. 18 to Toronto after a contract dispute.
The Bruins return Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara and Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas as well. They are coached by last year's Jack Adams winner Claude Julien.
"I think we've got to work our way to the top just like we did last year," Julien said. "There's nothing different except the challenge will be bigger, there's more respect toward our team this year."
Washington, of course, starts and ends with Alexander Ovechkin. The two-time Hart Trophy winner (56-54-110 last season) came into camp with 20 pounds of extra muscle, so he's primed for a long season of bumping and grinding to go along with his dynamic scoring.
He'll get help up from his running mates, Nicklas Backstrom (third in assists) and Alexander Semin (1.3 points per game). The team added reinforcements with Mike Knuble (27-20-47, +5) and Brendan Morrison, who was given a one-year, $1.5 million contract to prove he's healthy as a second-line center.
The Caps are loaded with young, but experienced, defensemen. They are led by Mike Green, the NHL's leading defensive scorer. Green finished with 31 goals and 42 assists despite missing 14 games due to injury.
Backstopping the Caps will be Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov. Theodore had an up-and-down season last year, but did win 30+ games, while Varlamov was spectacular in the playoffs before finally wearing down in the Pittsburgh series.
Here are tonight's lines (courtesy of Captials Insider):
Boudreau did not announce a starting goalie as of this post.
WAS: 2008-09: GF: 3rd (3.27); GA-19th (2.93); PP-2nd (50/177, 28.2%); PK-17th (34/184, 81.5%)
BOS: 2008-09: GF: 2nd (3.29); GA-1st (2.32); PP-4th (44/157, 28.0%); PK-12th (29/148, 80.4%)
WAS: Eric Fehr (shoulders), Tomas Fleischmann (blood clot)
BOS: David Krejci (hip)
The team lost RW Chris Bourque to Pittsburgh off of waivers. They recalled Boyd Kane from AHL Hershey to replace him on the roster.
Michael Nylander, who did not play all pre-season, will be a healthy scratch, as will Tyler Sloan and Jeff Schultz.
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