Eventually, Alex Ovechkin, and Alex Semin are going to explode when it matters most in the post-season. The Capitals hope this is the year, as Semin completes his one-year deal that will make him a free agent at seasons end. Ovechkin is locked up for more than a few years to come and is a huge part of the Capitals success when they are experiencing it.
The Great 8 is the engine that makes the Caps run. It is just that simple. Don’t believe it, then consider these stats.
Down the stretch, the Caps two Alexes more than pulled their weight. Ovie has 11 goals in his past 13 games; and Semin 10 points in nine. If the two Alexes are clicking it will open up Washington’s ability to play four lines deep, and unlike last year, they have the talent to do so. It is a high probability that Bruins big man and one of the NHL’s top defenseman Zdeno Chara will be assigned to shut down the Ovechkin line. If that happens Washington’s depth must surface, and some of it has not produced for a large part of the season. One who did put up career numbers was Jason Chimera.
Using his lightning quick first stride and toughness, Chimera enjoyed a career season, scoring 20-goals, and just missing 40 points. Nicklas Backstrom has returned and was fantastic when healthy. He scored his first goal since Dec 30 last Saturday and literally looks to be getting better shift-by-shift. The Swede missed 40 games battling concussion symptoms following a hit from Rene Bourque on Jan 3.
If the Caps are going to beat Tim Thomas then they must get traffic in front of him and that means that Joel Ward, who made his money doing that in the playoffs for the Nashville Predators must prove worthy of the big contract he received from Washington last July. Ward posted career lows in goals with (12), assists (6) and points (18). However, Ward has a chance to be to the Caps what Michael Ryder was to the Bruins last post season. Ward has some impressive post-season numbers. In 18 playoff games, the former Predator has nine goals and eight assists. Most of those goals came from misdirection’s or tip in’s directly in front of opposing goalies.
If you are not hearing names like Johansson, Perreault, Laich, and Knubble, then the Caps will not be advancing.
The Bruins can beat you any number of ways. They have some speed, plenty of skill and a ton of depth. They will also beat you with consistency, balance and are more than capable of winning a physical affair, like the kind of contest most commonly seen in the playoffs. Boston can play old time hockey and won a Stanley Cup essentially playing that way, and make no apologies for doing so.
Without Nathan Horton for a large part of the season, the Bruins had plenty of players who had career years. But we are not talking about 50-goal scorers. We are talking about six people that managed to score 20 or more goals this season.
Power forward Milan Lucic did not match the 30 goals he scored last season, but he only missed by four. Brad Marchand (28), Tyler Seguin (29), Chris Kelly (20) and David Krejci (23) all set new career highs for goals in a season.
The Bruins have four fully functional lines that boast players like Patrice Bergeron, who with 22 goals and 64 points, should be right up there as a finalists for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward when the Las Vegas awards show comes in June. Bergeron, Seguin and Kelly were among the League’s top performers in plus/minus all season, each finishing with ratings of more than plus 30. Kelly, Benoit Pouliot and deadline acquisition Brian Rolston emerged as solid sources of secondary scoring. Fourth lines are used to generate energy and create scoring chances quickly. They are also used to jump-start a team that may be asleep at the wheel. Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton compose a fourth line in Bean Town that could fire up a Palm Beach Florida retirement home in the middle of the night.
Boston does the little things almost all of the time as they led the NHL is face off winning percentage and finished third in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals for and against ratio (1.32). They do not make many mistakes finishing ninth in the NHL in giveaways.
With that said, the Bruins were still amazingly inconsistent at times, but so were the Capitals this season, and even though Washington may have the better talent in terms of individuals, but they also tend to play as individuals this time of the year. Boston does not and last year proved how close they could play as a team by winning three game sevens.
Advantage: This is a toss-up, but any slight edge the Bruins had is negated by the health of their defense, which isn’t good. I’d say a very dinged up Boston Blue line gives this category to Washington and If Joel Ward produces with any consistency, and Ovechkin continues to score, the Bruins could very easily be the fourth Cup champ to bow out in the first