The improving, but still offensively impotent, Boston Bruins welcome Alex Ovechkin and the high powered offense of the Washington Capitals to the TD Garden.
This is the second meeting between Boston and Washington this season, with Washington spoiling Boston’s home opener with a 4-1 whipping of the boys in black and gold. The Capitals owned the Bruins last season going 3-0-1 against Boston.
Washington is running wild in the East this season, scoring at will no matter who is paired together. The Capitals are on a 10 game winning streak in which they have scored 48 goals while allowing just 21. Alex Ovechkin scored 26 points in 15 January games while his swing man Nicklas Backstrom has scored 7 points in his last 4 games. In 17 career games against Boston, Ovechkin has 10 goals and 20 points.
The game against the Capitals comes at a bad time for the Bruins. They are coming off of two games where they left it all out on the ice but still came away without a victory. They need a win to boost their confidence but the match-up against the Capitals presents all sorts of problems.
Boston is on a 7 game losing streak that has seen them muster just 11 goals while giving up 24. Boston cannot afford to get into an offensive shootout with any team, but especially the Capitals. Zdeno Chara has been playing lights out defense the past few games and will be tasked to shadow the Russian sniper and keep him off the scoreboard.
Unfortunately for the Bruins Washington is more than just one man with the likes of Backstrom, Semin, Laich and Knuble all contributing on the scoresheet. Look for Patrice Bergeron’s line to be paired up against Washington’s more high profile scorers.
Washington is first in the league with 214 goals for and 11th with 149 goals against. Boston is at the other end of the spectrum having scored a league low 130 goals. Boston may need their netminder to commit grand larceny if they are going to come out with a victory.
The Bruins do have some positives though. Marc Savard has two points in his two games since coming back from injury and his presence on the power play has changed Boston’s dynamic with the man advantage. Boston has been cycling the puck much better and getting better shooting chances.
“We played hard as a team,’’ Savard told NHL.om. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Signs are headed in the right direction. Keep playing like this. We’re going to keep our heads up.”
Boston has been more physical, evidenced by Mark Stuart’s thunderous hit on Anze Kopitar. The defenseman have been more active at the blueline and Chara has even been seen charging the net looking for a back door pass.
“We’re better,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We’re coming around. It’s just that right now, the end result means so much to us. That’s the part that’s disappointing. If we weren’t at this stage right now, we’d be really encouraged at the way our team’s going. We’ve got to keep our heads up, keep working at it, and find a way to make sure this turns into a more positive situation next time.’’
But playing like they have the last two games will not win the game for the Bruins. They have been great defensively, hard hitting, and motivated. But they still have not been finishing. One or two goals most likely is not going to beat these red hot Capitals unless Rask or Thomas, whichever poor soul is picked, plays their best game all season. The Bruins just need to relax. Stop gripping the stick so tight and keep creating those scoring chances.
Boston would need to play near perfect to get a victory. They may not be there yet, but this game will show what the Bruins are made of. Let’s just hope they’re up for the challenge.