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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Capitals, 10-1

Alexander Ovechkin (Image from hockeyhermit.com)

Anticipation is high. Expectations are even higher. And now, the wait is over. The Zambonis are gassed up and we’re ready to get the 2009-2010 NHL season off and running…or in this case, skating. Tonight marks the season opener, as the top two seeds from last season’s Eastern Conference playoffs meet at the TD Garden, with Boston hosting two-time reigning league MVP Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

This season here on Sports of Boston, you’ll find game day articles entitled “Ice Breakers.” Before each Bruins game, come and check out game notes, player updates, and lots of useless tidbits of information that you can re-use during the game when you’re sitting in the stands at the Garden trying to impress your friends, at the bar watching the game while trying to impress that hot bartender you’ve had your eye on, or sitting at home in your recliner while trying to impress your wife and kids, who, let’s face it, are rarely impressed with you these days anyway.

So here now, a few juicy nuggets of knowledge, leading up to tonight’s tilt with the Caps…

  • Washington is led by, of course, MVP Alexander Ovechkin, who finished second in the NHL last year with 110 points. Ovechkin has a very strong supporting cast as well, featuring young centerman Nicklas Backstrom (66 assists last season), Alexander Semin (34 goals & 45 assists last season), and Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green, who last year was the first defenseman in 15 seasons to score 30 or more goals.
  • In goal for the Caps, the team will feature young rookie netminder Semyon Varlamov, who broke through at the end of last season in relief of veteran Jose Theodore, and played the bulk of the minutes in the postseason. Teamed with Theodore (32-17-5, 2.87GAA last year), Varlamov (4-0-1, 2.37GAA last year) hopes to solidify the goaltending position, a spot that seems to be one of Washington’s only potential causes for concern.
  • Last season was a banner year for the Caps, even without hoisting a banner with a Cup win. Washington tied their franchise-best mark of 50 wins, while setting a new franchise high for points in a season, with 108.
  • Washington’s high-powered power play is what the Bruins will need to contain most tonight. Staying out of the penalty box will be key, as the Caps boasted the 2nd best power play efficiency last season, at a whopping 25.2%.
  • Some familiar faces to local hockey fans play some key roles for this year’s Capitals squad. Ex-Bruins Milan Jurcina and Michael Nylander return to the roster, while veteran winger Mike Knuble joins the Caps this year after four seasons spent in Philadelphia. Adding some more local flavor to the Caps’ blue line will be veteran defensemen Tom Poti, born in Worcester, and Brian Pothier, from New Bedford.
  • Lastly, in more familiar names news, Chris Bourque, the son of Bruin great Ray Bourque, was released by the Capitals this past week as a salary cap casualty. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had Bourque penciled into the opening day roster, but because attempts at trading veteran Michael Nylander went unsuccessful, Bourque was let go in order for the team to fit under the league’s $56.8 million cap limit. The 23-year-old Bourque, who appeared in just eight games last year with the big club, spent most of his time featured on the top line of the AHL’s Hershey Bears, putting up a very respectable 21-goal, 52-assist stat line in 69 games. Wednesday, Bourque was claimed by the reigning Cup champion Penguins, and it is possible that the young winger will be in the lineup when the Pens open up their season hosting the Rangers Friday night.

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