Like the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals have been a mainstay at the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the last decade. It should come as no surprise that both of these powerhouse teams will get byes into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs later this summer.
For the Bruins, that bye comes at a price. Even though they won the President’s Trophy as the top team in the NHL during the regular season, they’ll have to fight to be the one seed in these playoffs. One of their opponents in the round-robin stage for seeding will be the aforementioned Capitals.
For the Bruins, that matchup has historically been a nightmare.
The Capitals finally climbed the mountain in 2018, eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and then winning the Stanley Cup over the Vegas Golden Knights. Washington was arguably a better team last season, but got upset in Game 7 by the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round of the 2019 playoffs.
The Capitals underwent changes in the off-season with an eye towards returning to glory in 2020. They added toughness on defense when they acquired Radko Gudas from the Philadelphia Flyers for veteran Matt Niskanen. They also flipped underachieving forward Andre Burakovsky to Colorado for picks.
Free agency saw forward Brett Connolly sign in Florida, but he was replaced by Richard Panik, who signed from Arizona. Garnet Hathaway was signed from Calgary, while Brendan Leipsic came over from Los Angeles. Of course, Leipsic is no longer with the organization after an incident in May.
Even though the Capitals looked worse on paper, they put together another strong season. They finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points, going 41-20-8 in 69 games. By points percentage, they finished third in the east behind the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
At the deadline, the Capitals went out and acquired Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens.
John Carlson had the season of his life, and very likely will take home the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. Carlson led the Capitals in scoring with 75 points (15 g, 60 a). Alex Ovechkin finished second on the team and was tops among forwards with 67 points (48 g, 19 a). He also, no surprise, led the Capitals in goals.
Nicklas Backstrom (54 points, 12 g, 42 a), Jakub Vrana (52 points, 25 g, 27 a) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (52 points, 19 g, 33 a) round out the Capitals top-five scorers.
The Bruins and Capitals met three times during the 2019-20 season. The series took place over the span of roughly five weeks, starting in Boston on November 16th. On that night, the Bruins held a 2-1 lead heading into the final moments, but couldn’t put the game away. TJ Oshie scored with 59 seconds remaining in regulation time, forcing overtime at TD Garden.
In the shootout, Charlie Coyle opened the scoring in the first round, but Backstrom evened things at one in round three. Vrana scored to start off round five, while Chris Wagner was unsuccessful on his attempt to tie the game, giving the Capitals a 3-2 comeback victory.
The second meeting wasn’t much better for the Bruins. They suffered another 3-2 loss on December 11th in Washington. This time, the defeat came in regulation. David Pastrnak opened the scoring 9:36 into the game, but Oshie lit the lamp twice. Carlson then scored the eventual game-winner 4:42 into the third period.
Twelve days later, the Bruins let out years of frustration against a Capitals team that has owned them. The Bruins scored four goals in the opening period, eventually jumping out to a 5-0 lead. With TD Garden in a frenzy, the Bruins skated to a dominating 7-3 victory to finish the season series 1-1-1 against the Capitals.
The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals have met three times in the playoffs before. Their first ever meeting came in the 1990 Conference Final, where the powerhouse Bruins swept a Cinderella Capitals team. The Boston Bruins would fall to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.
Eight years later, the Bruins and Capitals opened the 1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs against each other. The Capitals got their revenge, winning that series in six games. The Capitals would advance to the Stanley Cup Final that year, but were swept by the dynasty Detroit Red Wings.
The most recent series came in 2012, when the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins’ quest to repeat was shockingly ended in the opening round. Joel Ward stunned the TD Garden crowd when he scored in overtime of Game 7 to propel the Capitals to a second round date against the New York Rangers.
Overall, the Bruins are 9-8 against the Capitals in the playoffs. They are 1-2 overall in series against this Washington team.