Last night the Boston Bruins clinched the 3rd seed in the MassMutual East Division, making their first-round opponent the Washington Capitals. The Bruins will get one last look at the Capitals as they close out the regular season down in Washington tonight. This will be the first time the Bruins have faced off against former Boston captain, Zdeno Chara, in the playoffs. At the time of posting, Boston leads the season series 4-1-2. It’s fair to say that the Bruins refuse to go down without a fight.
Regular Season Recap
The Bruins will have faced the Capitals 8 times by the time the postseason series starts on Saturday. To say the two teams have gotten to know each other would be an understatement. The worst loss for Boston came on April 11th, one of the first games back at TD Garden with fans in attendance. The Bruins lost to the Capitals by a whopping 8-1. A week later, their most recent meeting, on April 18th the two teams faced off again. The Bruins had the upper hand winning by a 6-3 margin. With some of the best players in the league on the ice, games between Boston and Washington tend to get rather chippy.
Through 7 of 8 games, the teams average more than 7 penalties per game. There were 11 times there was at least 1 heavy altercation, happening in only 5 of their 7 played games. Of which, 5 were fighting, 4 were for roughing, 1 was for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the final 1 was for boarding.
In their regular-season series finale, the Bruins will be playing conservative, sitting 15 players from their typical game-day roster. I would be shocked if the Capitals didn’t follow suit. With everything locked in the East Division for the first series, it is more beneficial to not risk injury and/or rest for an extra day before the postseason begins.
Tom Wilson Concerns
Capitals forward, Tom Wilson, is a concern amongst fans, and rightfully so. He’s caused a lot of issues as of late, par for the course with Wilson. We all know that Wilson has been suspended 5 times in his NHL career, most recently for a hit to the head on Brandon Carlo. Carlo needed help off the ice and was ruled out with a concussion almost immediately. Wilson somehow managed to not even be penalized on the blatantly dirty hit. After a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, Wilson ended up being suspended for 7 games.
Tom Wilson hits Brandon Carlo up high.
Carlo needs help getting off the ice. pic.twitter.com/RgACye1H7l
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 6, 2021
Then comes Sean Kuraly, another controversial incident surrounding Tom Wilson and the Boston Bruins. While not as egregious and dangerous as Wilson’s hit on Carlo, Wilson did make contact with Kuraly’s head. Wilson refused to answer questions surrounding the hit in his post-game presser. I understand that he didn’t mean any harm in that instance and that Kuraly was falling. However, with his reputation and history, he isn’t a player that people will give the benefit of the doubt. Not to mention that Kuraly was already tied up with 2 Capitals, Wilson going in for the hit was unnecessary before Kuraly started to fall. Thankfully, Kuraly didn’t miss much more than a concussion check.
A Look Ahead
Due to the pandemic and the NHL’s attempt to keep COVID-19 from spreading like wildfire, this year’s playoffs offer a different dynamic. Every series comes between teams who have already faced off against each other 8 times this season. Neither Boston nor Washington has had a scoring issue this season. A real shock is the Bruins’ goals against; with the revolving door of players on defense, the Bruins are second in the league allowing only 134 goals. In terms of goal differential, the Bruins are 8th in the league with a +33 while the Caps sit 12th with +27.
While being a man down isn’t ideal, the Bruins did wind up scoring 2 shorthanded goals on the Caps this season. However, The Capitals have a dangerously good power play with one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time in Alex Ovechkin. Giving up 9 power-play goals to Washington, Boston needs to eliminate taking ill-advised penalties in order to keep it 5-on-5.
Keep an Eye Out
Since the trade deadline, the Bruins have been on fire, particularly Taylor Hall, acquired from Buffalo. Since then, the Bruins have gone to finish the season with a record of 12-3-1.
Boston’s Mayor of Weymouth, Charlie Coyle, won’t be available in the season finale due to an upper-body injury. Likely sitting him out for the final game for extra maintenance as head coach Bruce Cassidy did mention that he would be available for the playoffs. Another notable injury for Boston is forward Ondrej Kase. Kase had missed 52 games after sustaining a concussion in the second game of the season. After a collision in the second period during yesterday’s game, the Bruins announced that he would not return for the third period due to an upper-body injury. Today, Cassidy announced that Kase did not feel fully comfortable with his conditioning. He did not travel with the team to Washington and is out for today’s season finale.
Barring any costly injuries and too many penalties, I think the Bruins can sneak out a series win in 6 games.
As the only scheduled playoff game so far, Game 1 starts Saturday night at 7:15 pm, only on NBC.
-Jess Donahue (@jldx392)
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