Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Washington Capitals have never, ever beaten the Bruins 4 games in a row. They had taken 3 straight from the B's coming into Tuesday night's game, but that streak ended when David Krejci's pass to Marc Savard bounced off a Capital's skate, off the post, and into the net.
If you look at the preview below, you'll see that I predicted a 3-2 OT win for the Bruins. I'm rarely right with predictions, usually picking the winner of games 20% of the time. My NCAA brackets are so bad they became something of a legend in college. But when I'm right, I'm perfectly dead on.
The return of Patrice Bergeron was a huge part of this game. His STUNNING poke check on the power play kept the puck in Washington's zone, and set-up Savard's goal in the 1st, making it a 1-1 game. Bergeron played over 17 minutes, had an assist, and blocked 2 shots. His play on both ends of the ice was sorely missed.
Tim Thomas was awarded the First Star, and rightfully so. He stopped 34 of 36 shots, including a groin stretching pad save in overtime.
Shawn Thornton came out of nowhere with a phenominal game. The 4th line was the Bruins' best line all night, which is a bad sign. However, Yelle and Thornton did very well. His 4th goal of the season was a typical Jose Theodore goal. Thornton held the puck, waiting for Theodore to go down early. Theodore obliged, Thornton's backhanded wrist shot found the top shelf.
I'm going to shout out Cornell alum Byron Bitz. He dropped the gloves and took on Donald Brashear. Brashear clearly won what was more of a dance than a fight, but credit Bitz for his first NHL fight and the opponent he chose. It was Brashear's 200th fight in the League.
Milan Lucic also returned. He was excellent without the puck, not so good with it. He was hitting like we're used to seeing him hit, but he fouled up a few plays, especially in the offensive zone.
The Bruins might take home trophies for rookie of the year, best goalie, best defenseman, but the NHL's MVP is Alexander Ovechkin. give him the Hart Trophy right now. Or should I say, inform him he can keep it for another year. When he was absent from the game, the dynamics of play completely changed.
At the same time, how often does he get away with punching opponents in the face in the middle of play? Not a knock on him, more on star-struck officials. And Chara usually gets away with holds and "light" interference, so I'll not file a complaint with the League Office.
The Bruins host the Devils Thursday night. New Jersey has surged to the top of the Atlantic Division. The Bruins beat them 2-0 on the road in December, but New Jersey is riding a 6 game winning streak.
AP Photo/Elise Amendol
Washington is one of the few teams that has had the Bruins' number this year. A pair of close games between the two, both played in Washington, and both won by the Caps.
Just to let you know, this game is on Versus, so some of you out there might miss it. I suggest tuning into NESN postgame for the highlights, because this is an important game.
When I say it's an important game, I don't mean that the result (win/lose/OT lose) is that vital, just that how the Bruins play is important. Can the Bruins figure out a way to beat this team? Even though the scores of the previous two games were close (3-1 with an empty-netter in December, 2-1 10 days ago), Washington had the better of the play, particularly in the neutral zone.
The Bruins need to get on the power play in this game. Washington's penalty kill rate is an unimpressive 78.9%, and the Bruins have scored in 25% of their power plays. How do you get on the power play? Working the puck in the offensive zone, forcing the Caps to make mistakes like hook, hold, obstruct, interfere, and so on.
Patrice Bergeron will be back in the lineup, but it's unclear how much ice time he'll get. I'd imagine he won't get much, and probably won't play on special teams.
Tim Thomas will be in net. Manny Fernandez has "general soreness," and his spot on the bench will be filled by Tuuka Rask, recently called up from Providence. Thomas looked sharp the last time he faced Washington, but the Bruins couldn't generate any offense for him.
The Bruins average 3.51 goals per game, but have scored 1 per game against Washington. The B's need to be more aggressive and take more risks when bringing the puck up ice. Try to punish the Capitals for overloading the space between the blue lines.
Prediction: Bruins 3, Capitals 2 - Bruins win it in OT