Down the stretch they come, as the Bruins (36-30-12) enter the final week of the regular season, with four huge games that will tell us whether our hometown hockey club is playoff bound or bound to clean out their lockers for a lengthy off-season. A tall task lies ahead of them this evening, as they travel to the nation’s capital to take on the league’s top team, the Capitals (51-15-12).
With so much on the line tonight for Boston, there’s just no time to waste… so let’s dive right into tonight’s pre-game news and notes…
- By virtue of San Jose’s loss to Colorado last night, the Caps clinched their first Presidents Trophy in franchise history, as their 114 points thus far cannot be reached by any other team.
- While the Caps are etched into playoff stone atop the Eastern Conference, the B’s are still clinging to their spot in the top eight. With 84 points, they sit tied with Philadelphia for seventh place, two points behind Montreal in the sixth spot, and two points ahead of the New York Rangers, who sit in ninth at 82 points. Boston does have a game in hand over Montreal and Philadelphia, but not New York. Atlanta also lurks, still very much alive in the playoff hunt, three points back of both Boston and Philly.
- Boston has alternated wins and losses over their last seven games, but have won their last four road games. They haven’t faired very well against the Caps this season however, losing a pair of 4-1 games at TD Garden this season. Washington has won six of the last seven meetings over the Bruins.
- Those two 4-1 losses for Boston were missing one key man for the B’s, goalie Tuukka Rask, as Tim Thomas got the start in both games against the Caps this season. Tonight, the Caps will face Rask, the league’s leader in save pct. (.931) and GAA (1.96). The last Bruins goalie to finish the season with a GAA below 2.00 was over a decade ago, when Byron Dafoe notched a 1.99GAA in ’98-’99. For Rask’s recent efforts last week (2-1-0, 0.55GAA, .977 save pct.), he was named the league’s Third Star of the Week.
- Rask will face the NHL’s top scoring team in Washington, as they average a whopping 3.79 goals per game. Conversely, the Bruins continue to rank dead last league-wide, with a miniscule 2.36 goals per game mark.
- Also working against the B’s, the mounting injuries, particularly on the blue line. Andrew Ference continues to battle groin issues, while Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg have both been added to the ranks of the walking wounded in the past few days. Stuart had surgery on his finger over the weekend, which will cost him at least two weeks, while Seidenberg was sliced by an opponent’s skate early in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win in Toronto. The cut required stitches across his left wrist, leaving the newly acquired defenseman a game-time decision for tonight’s game. Seidenberg did join the team for the morning skate, but had to leave early with discomfort in the wrist.
- On top of that, enforcer Shawn Thornton will miss his third straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. To fill the blue line void, Adam McQuaid has been called up from Providence, and will likely make his first NHL appearance since February 13th, if Seidenberg cannot go tonight.
- Refocusing on the goalie crease, Tuukka Rask will likely be opposed by red hot veteran goalie Jose Theodore (28-7-7, 2.85GAA), who hasn’t lost in regulation since January 12th, going an impressive 18-0-3 since then. Besides Theodore, youngster Semyon Varlamov (14-4-5, 2.52GAA) mans the pipes at times for the Caps.
- Scoring for the Caps is of course led by Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin (46G, 56A), who is just one goal behind rival Sidney Crosby for the league lead, at 47. Ovechkin has four goals in his last three games against the Bruins. Behind Alexander the Great on the stat sheet is his center Nicklas Backstrom (30G, 62A), followed by winger Alexander Semin (38G, 39A), who has six goals in his last seven games, and has at least one point in his last six games against Boston (2G, 6A).
- Lastly, tonight’s game will feature bench bosses Claude Julien and Bruce Boudreau, who happen to be the last two winners of the league’s Jack Adams Trophy, which honors the league’s coach of the year. Did either coach bring home the REAL trophy that everyone wants? No… but I digress…
Tags: Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg, Jose Theodore, Mark Stuart, Nicklas Backstrom, Shawn Thornton, Tuukka Rask, Washington Capitals