Thanks to a heads up play by veteran winger Craig Smith for the double-OT game-winner against the Washington Capitals in Game 3, the Boston Bruins will hit the ice for Game 4 (6:30 PM ET, NESN, NBCSN, TVAS, SN360, SNE, SNO) against the Washington Capitals tonight at TD Garden in Boston with a chance to go up 3-to-1 in the best-of-seven series.
It will be interesting to see how things start out in Friday night’s pivotal game with the B’s holding a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, and the Washington Capitals no doubt stinging from a bitter loss after a brain fart in double-overtime. Both young goalie Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz botched the goalie-defenseman transfer and that turned into an easy wraparound score for Smith in double overtime.
It sure appears that the Boston Bruins are beginning to win “the battle of will” in the series based on Wednesday’s gritty effort, but they need to press that advantage on Friday night on home ice if it’s really matter in the grand scheme of things.
“It’s a second-effort league and that’s how you score,” said Bruce Cassidy. “In overtime we did a lot better job of that. They play a lot of man-to-man down low so take advantage of it if you have the skill set or the strength to do it, or if they’re fatigued. A lot of that comes into play over the course of a series as you’re trying to wear them down over the course of a game and a playoff series. That’s what we’re trying to do just like they’re trying to do to us with their big bodies.”
The Boston Bruins will once again turn to Rask in Game 3 after the 2020 Vezina Trophy finalist made 35 saves to help his team get to double-overtime in Game 3 and is 2-1 with a 2.27 GAA and a .926 save percentage so far.
Washington Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov was a big part of the Game 3 double-overtime breakdown that led to Smith’s game-winning goal, but he was brilliant otherwise in stopping 40-of-43 shots in his first game back from the COVID-19 Protocol list. The 40 saves for Samsonov was the most for a Capitals goalie making his playoff debut in franchise history.
CAPS TODAY: Ilya Samsonov recorded 40 saves in his postseason debut on Wednesday, the most saves by a goaltender in their playoff debut in franchise history. More info on Samsonov and Caps Clips at https://t.co/HecIC0ECg1 pic.twitter.com/igaQW7fAtT
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) May 21, 2021
-The Boston Bruins are once following the lead of their veteran core group that’s begun scoring goals and impacting the series in the last couple of games, with both of those efforts no-so-coincidentally turning into wins for the Black and Gold.
Newcomers have credited the sense of calm and even-keeled professionalism that permeates the Bruins dressing room, even during times of stress in the postseason.
“That’s something about our team,” said Marchand. “We don’t panic throughout games. We have so much character in our room and you can sense it all the way through the bench, and during the timeouts, and in the room. A sense of calm when things aren’t going our way. That’s why we have ‘Tuuks’ (Tuukka Rask) back there to kind of bail us out in certain situations like that. It gives us a minute to find our game. At this time of year, it’s about competing and that’s what we did (Monday night). We found our game, especially against a tough team.”
–Defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (right hand) will miss another game after blocking a shot in Game 1 and still is no able to practice with the team. John Moore is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery.
–The Bruins’ powerplay is 2-for-11 in the series and was 1-for-5 in Game3 for an 18.2 percent success rate. That is down a few percentage points from the regular season and has necessitated some adjustments with David Krejci and Charlie McAvoy now on the top PP unit, and Nick Ritchie and Matt Grzelcyk no longer on the top squad.
“If we do get set which they’re not allowing us for very long, with Krejci on his strong side he’s just got so many options,” said Cassidy, who referenced the Winnipeg Jets PP with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine right-handed formation as an influence on the design behind it. “All one-timers are in play. He can drop off to [Brad Marchand] forehand-to-forehand, and then to [Patrice] Bergeron in the bumper or backdoor to [David Pastrnak]. He’s got the seam to Pasta or the play to Bergeron in the bumper, or a shot threat going up to Charlie [McAvoy] at the point.
“We just decided to load up and make it simple. Those guys have been together a long time and they were good last year in the playoffs against Tampa. We may have had Torey [Krug] at the point spot last year rather than Gryz, but it’s still those four guys that drive things down low.”
-After finishing second overall with an 86 % success rate, killing off 153 of 178 powerplay attempts against them, and also posting a league-best nine shorthanded goals this season, the Bruins’ penalty kill is off to a solid start in the playoffs. The Bruins PK held the Caps to one goal on five power play attempts in Game 3 and has killed off eight of the ten Washington power plays in the series. That’s not bad facing one of the NHL’s best power plays during the regular season.
Washington Capitals Notes
–Capitals were outshot by a 19-8 margin in the two overtimes and it sure looked like the Bruins were carrying the play, holding the puck and generally dominating against a Washington group that looked like they were physically out of gas after a physical 60-minute playoff game. The Capitals were focused on fixing their breakout, which was increasingly under siege from the Boston Bruins attack as the game wore on.
“We were struggling on the breakouts and we weren’t really timing it well with everyone,” says Caps center Nick Backstrom. “So we struggled just to get into the zone. That’s something we’ve got to be better at, because when you don’t get it set up, it’s hard to create chances.
“Yeah, we got one there in the second period, but I think in the playoffs you’ve got to really take advantage of that and make sure that if you’re not scoring, you are at least getting some momentum out of it.”
-The Capitals enter Game 4 with lingering health question marks as Lars Eller (lower body) missed Game 3 after exiting Game 2 with an injury. He did take part in the team skate on Friday morning. He was doing an excellent job of checking the Perfection Line while on the ice and it seems that things have loosened up for them with him missing from the Capitals lineup. TJ Oshie is banged up and hasn’t been participating in the morning skates, but he managed to play through his physical issues in Game 3. Goalie Vitek Vanecek (lower body) is still not practicing with the Capitals and has been ruled out.
-The Capitals powerplay is 2-for-10 with a 20% success rate against the Boston Bruins in the series, which is down a few points from the regular season.
-The Capitals penalty kill has killed off nine of the Bruins’ 11 powerplays in the series, giving them a 81.8 percent success rate in the series.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Jake DeBrusk
Sean Kuraly – Curtis Lazar – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Connor Clifton – Kevan Miller
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Anthony Mantha
Conor Sheary – Lars Eller – Michael Raffl
Daniel Sprong – TJ Oshie – Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Dmitri Orlov – John Carlson
Brendan Dillon – Nick Schultz
Zdeno Chara – Nick Jensen