The Boston Bruins (20-10-6, 46 points) are riding high after a strong finish to Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers with rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman making an impressive 40 saves in his NHL debut. The Capitals (25-10-4) enter today’s game with a record of 25-10-4 and 54 standings points, which is tied with the New York Islanders for the top spot in the MassMutual East Division and is tied for the fifth-most points in the NHL.
The Bruins and Capitals have split each of the first four intense, heavy and physical games they’ve played against each other this season. The last was a memorable one with Tom Wilson clobbering Brandon Carlo with a dirty head shot that sparked a pair of fights with the Capitals power forward and resulted in a seven-game suspension for Wilson and Carlo being sent to the hospital with a nasty concussion.
One thing is for sure with the Bruins: They are done messing around as they’ve posted a 5-3-2 record in their last 10 games with a smidge over a month left in the NHL regular season.
Bruce Cassidy said the mentality for the Black and Gold has become a challenge to their best players to up their compete level, and for everybody to play smart, winning hockey while making better decisions at both ends.
“The guys that have NHL talent need to provide NHL effort with that talent in the checking game and managing pucks,” said Cassidy. “And the guys that don’t have quite that level of NHL talent really need to work on their execution and make good reads and decisions. We’re asking for a little more of both from each category that the player falls into.
“I thought we got it [in the third period]. We certainly got it from [Jeremy] Lauzon on the shorthanded goal as he made a heck of a play. We shortened the bench a little for the guys that were willing to check and manage pucks and play the right way to help our goaltender. And it worked out for us.”
The Bruins will ride 22-year-old rookie Jeremy Swayman with a second straight start after his impressive 40-save NHL debut against the Flyers on Tuesday night. Washington youngster Ilya Samsonov (9-2-1, 2.87 goals against average, .896 save percentage) gets the starting nod in net for the Capitals on Thursday night.
“It was obviously a great debut for him,” said Cassidy. “Let’s get a few games under his belt and we’ll see where it goes. It’s a tough position as we’ve seen with the guy we played the other night in Carter Hart. He came in highly touted and he’s had his ups and downs. [Swayman] is going in tonight. He’s earned another start. Let’s see what he’s got.”
–Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week with his upper-body injury and isn’t expected to return to game action for the Boston Bruins anytime soon. Carlo had just returned on March 30, from a month-long absence due to a concussion suffered after a Tom Wilson headshot. The good news is that Carlo’s current upper body injury isn’t related to the concussion, which could have been very problematic. Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase remains on IR with an upper-body injury. While Kase has been skating, his return date is not known.
–Patrice Bergeron joined the exclusive 900-point club with the Boston Bruins when he scored a pair of goals in Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Only Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito have scored more points than Bergeron in a Boston Bruins uniform.
— Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (missed the previous 20 games with a knee issue) and fourth line forward Chris Wagner (a healthy scratch for the last few weeks) both returned to the B’s lineup on Tuesday night. Not-so-coincidentally both rugged veterans played a role in the gritty victory for the Bruins over a Flyers team chasing them in the standings. Miller didn’t skate on Thursday morning in DC, but he’s expected to be in the lineup against the Capitals.
–Trent Frederic is sick (not COVID-related) and is questionable for tonight’s game against the Capitals. He’ll be missed if he can’t give it a go.
—The Capitals have been getting the job done against the Bruins PP this season having killed 11 of the 12 B’s power plays they’ve faced this season. Clearly, old friend Zdeno Chara has played a big role in a Capitals power play that’s been excellent all year. The Capitals haven’t allowed a power play goal in their last five games, stopping all 12 power-play opportunities that they’ve faced. The Capitals 82.9 power play percentage this season ranks seventh in the NHL. That marks the highest point percentage the Capitals have had in a season since 2016-17 (83.8 penalty kill percentage).
–The Capitals placed forward Richard Panik on waivers on Wednesday after scratching him in three of the last five games. Panik has three goals and six assists in 36 games and will be headed for the taxi squad once he clears waivers at noontime. He is in the second of a four-year contract with the Capitals paying him $2.75 million per season.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand- Patrice Bergeron- Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie- David Krejci- David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk- Charlie Coyle- Karson Kuhlman
Trent Frederic- Sean Kuraly- Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller
Jakub Zboril – Steven Kampfer
Jeremy Lauzon – Connor Clifton
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – TJ Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – Daniel Carr
Conor Sheary – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Brenden Dillon – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Justin Schultz
Zdeno Chara – Nick Jensen