The Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals kick off the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday night at the Capital One Center in Washington DC tonight (7:15 PM ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN).
After concluding their regular season in a 2-1 Capitals win at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, the B’s and Caps will pour over the blood that’s boiled in an eight-game regular-season series into a best-of-seven series in the first round. The fact the Boston Bruins are playing their longtime and former captain Zdeno Chara in the playoffs is already dominating the storylines heading into this series and some in the media have wondered if Chara’s knowledge of the Boston Bruins’ systems and players will give the Caps an edge in this first series between the two clubs since 2012 when the Capitals knocked off Chara and the then-defending Stanley Cup Champions in seven games.
“What they’d be able to watch studying us on film is the same that Zee could tell them anyway. I don’t know if there’s a cheat sheet or anything,” said Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy earlier in the week. “We’ve played them so many times this year. It’s always fun to line up against Zee. Obviously, we have a special bond, but this is the Bruins vs. the Capitals.”
That bond will be put aside and at this point, after literally beating the hell out of each other for eight games in the regular season, there are no secrets between these two budding rivals and now it’s time to just go out and play for the Stanley Cup!
“It’s no secret that Washington’s a team that has high energy, plays physical, has got high-end talent, and is very deep throughout the lineup,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said earlier in the week. “For us, it’s about what we can bring against that. I think we kind of have some of the same attributes where we can play that heavy game, but also, we play a high-energy fast game. It’s gonna be playoff hockey. That’s what we expect and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
The Boston Bruins finished the regular season in third place with a 33-16-7 record and with 73 points while the Capitals finished four points ahead of them in second place with a 36-15-5 record. The Bruins went 4-2-2 against the Caps this season and outscored them 26-25. The Bruins averaged 3.25 goals per game against the Capitals and allowed 3.13 goals per game. All of that goes out the door now though as the real season begins.
“It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs and yes all of that emotion and rivalry will carry over but the rest means nothing now,” Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. “This is a new season.”
-Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will begin that new season between the pipes for the B’s. Rask was 15-5-2 with a 2.28 GAA and a .913 save percentage this season. Rask also had two shutouts. He will be backed up by rookie sensation Jeremy Swayman who went 7-3-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .945 save percentage in his first ten NHL starts. Swayman also had two shutouts.
-Unlike last summer when the Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs had to play for the Cup in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, teams will now be playing in their own arenas and, while not in front of sellout crowds, at least in front of fans again. The format is closer to normal and more normal is what the players are feeling as they begin the quest for Lord Stanley.
“It does feel a lot more normal or like it used to be in years past,” Bergeron said Friday. “The exception might be the attendance but still just [on Monday] going back to 25 percent at home I felt the difference. It was great, was great to have. I thought it was perfect timing before the playoffs. Traveling, two games on the road, two games back at home, and then one, one, one. It’s back to regular playoffs. We’re looking forward to that.”
-The Boston Bruins enter the playoffs on a 12-4-1 stretch since the NHL trade deadline, the best record in the NHL since then.
-After playing just nine shifts for only 6:49 TOI Monday against the New York Islanders, last Monday, Ondrej Kase (upper-body) missed the Bruins’ season finale against the Capitals on Tuesday, Kase has been ruled out for Game 1 and is day-to-day.
–Defenseman John Moore is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery.
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 35-for-160 and had a tenth-best 21.9 % success rate in the regular season.
-The PK finished second overall with an 86 % success rate. They killed off 153 of 178 powerplay attempts against them and also had a league-best nine shorthanded goals this season.
Washington Capitals Notes
-The Capitals enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs with some big question marks and one of them will be how will the injured Alexander Ovechkin perform in his final run at the Cup before he can hit unrestricted free agency this summer?
-The Capitals will turn to rookie Vitek Vanecek between the pipes. Vanecek was 21-10-4 with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage. He had two shutouts.
-In addition to Ovechkin being banged up, winger T.J. Oshie (lower-body) is also playing hurt. The Capitals will be without goalie Ilya Samsonov (COVID Protocol), forward Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID Protocol), and defenseman Michal Kempny (Achilles) who is out for the season.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle
Jake DeBrusk – Curtis Lazar – Chrius Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Miek Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon – Kevan Miller
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Anthony Mantha
Conor Sheary – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson
Daniel Sprong – Michael Raffl – Daniel Carr
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Brenden Dillon – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Nick Schultz
Zdeno Chara – Nick Jensen