Tonight at the TD Garden, two teams heading in completely opposite directions will face off for the first time since opening night, as the Bruins (23-21-9) host the Washington Capitals (37-12-6).
No team is hotter than the Caps, plain and simple. Washington will be looking for their eleventh straight win this evening, a win that would set the franchise mark for the longest win streak in Capitals history. With the streak, the Caps have been able to extend out to an eight-point lead atop the Eastern Conference over New Jersey. The team is scoring. The team is shutting down their opponents. The team is winning by any means necessary. These Capitals are good… real good.
On the other hand, there are the Bruins. Winless in their last seven games (0-5-2), Boston has sunk to eleventh in the standings, tied with the Islanders. The standings are still tight though, and despite their recent struggles, the B’s are just two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. They lost a key member of the blue line brigade on Saturday, as Mark Stuart was knocked out of action after a second period fight with L.A.’s Wayne Simmonds. Stuart underwent surgery Monday to repair his broken right pinkie, and won’t return until after the Olympic break. Until then, Adam McQuaid will serve as his replacement, as he was recalled up from Providence over the weekend.
As lopsided as this one looks on paper, that’s why they play the games. Hopefully the Bruins faithful can energize this team enough to help them find a way to earn two points in the standings tonight. Let’s delve into a few game notes before tonight’s skate:
In their only other meeting of the season, the Capitals handed the B’s an opening night defeat, 4-1 at the Garden. These two teams won’t meet again until the final week of the season, when Boston visits Washington twice in their final four games.
The Bruins haven’t lost eight straight games since January of 1956, a mark they’ll look to avoid tonight.
Boston will be up against the league’s top power play unit this evening, as the Caps 26.3% mark is good for an NHL-best.
The Caps also boast the highest goals per game average in the league at 3.82, over a half of a goal better than the second-best team. Boston ranks dead last, at 2.34.
When talking about the Capitals, you have to start with one of the league’s brightest stars, Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s 76 points (35G, 41A) are good for second in the league, and he is at the top of the NHL ranks in plus/minus at +35. To compare, the league’s top plus/minus guy last year was Boston’s David Krejci, and he notched a +37 mark. Following Alexander the Great on the Caps’ stat sheet is center Nicklas Backstrom (23G, 40A) and winger Alexander Semin (25G, 30A). Semin has a nine-game points streak going, as he has put up 16 points during the streak.
In a bit of good news for the B’s, they won’t be facing the league’s top point-producing defenseman tonight in Washington’s Mike Green. Green (12G, 40A) will sit out the second of three games tonight, serving a suspension following an elbow he threw last week at Florida’s Michal Frolik.
According to early reports, tonight’s goaltender matchup will feature Boston’s Tim Thomas against Washington’s veteran goalie Jose Theodore (17-7-4, 2.82GAA). Theodore will backed up by Semyon Varlamov (12-1-2, 2.21GAA).
One familiar face will be donning a Washington uniform this evening: Mike Knuble, the 37-year-old former Bruin, who is in his first year with the Caps. Knuble, who has 18 goals already this season, spent time with Boston from 1999 to 2004, then moving to Philadelphia after the lockout for the next four seasons.
Lastly, the Capitals players are being joined by their fathers on their brief two-game road trip this week. The Caps’ dads are enjoying a tour of the Sam Adams brewery this afternoon before tonight’s game, then they’ll travel with the team to New York for Thursday’s game against the Rangers. Something tells me the Bruins would have a better chance against the dads tonight, especially after a brewery trip. The dads may be able to take the B’s to overtime though to earn a point from it at least.