Here we are fellow fans at the cusp of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins and Capitals will face off in their final round-robin game. Finally, there are also some real stakes with the winner taking the third seed leaving the loser in fourth. The winner will play the Islanders while the loser goes on to face the Hurricanes. The Bruins had three games against the Islanders going 2-0-1. As for the Hurricanes, the Bruins only played them once a 2-0 victory all the way back on December 3rd. Since then the Hurricanes were probably the most active team at the deadline making a number of big trades to improve. That potential series also has the revenge factor with the Bruins sweeping the Canes in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Against the Capitals, the Bruins went 1-1-1 with the series finale going to the Bruins in a 7-3 win.
The Bruins will look to build off their best performance so far a 3-2 loss to the Lightning. The Bruins were down 2-0 early but battled back controlling much of the game getting it even early in the third period. Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn't keep up the defensive pressure and allowed the winning goal with 1:27 remaining. As a whole, the game was a massive improvement from their previous performances. Rask will once again get the start in net with the plan being for him to play the whole game. The Bruins will be making some roster moves as they finally welcome Ondrej Kase back to the lineup.
Quarantine protocols kept Kase from participating in the majority of training camp. Now with a week of practices under his belt, he is ready to finally see some game action. The Bruins will also welcome Connor Clifton to the lineup for his first game in these playoffs. Clifton will give Grzelcyk the night off taking his spot on the third pair opposite Lauzon. Kase will go back on the Krejci line along with Debrusk. This line was briefly together before the pause and looked like they could be dangerous with time to build chemistry. Nick Ritchie and Anders Bjork will be the wings on Coyle’s line. That leaves Kuhlman as the odd man out with the first and fourth lines staying the same.
The Capitals got their return to play started on a high note beating the Hurricanes 3-2. Since then their game has worsened with each outing a 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa and a 3-1 loss to the Flyers. A big factor in their play is the loss of star defenseman John Carlson who missed the last two games. Against the Flyers the Caps only had 17 shots on goal. They also struggled defensively relying on Holtby to make several big stops to keep the game close. Lars Eller likely will miss the game after returning to Washington for the birth of his second child earlier in the week. Nicklas Backstrom was also absent from the team's Friday practice with no word on if he will play of not. If all three are unavailable for the game the Bruins will have a great chance at taking that third seed.
What To Watch For
The first thing to keep an eye on is the reuniting of the Bruins second line. It's been a long time since Krejci has had two 20 goal scorers on his line. Hopefully, the week of practice allowed them to build some chemistry since they couldn't with the regular season cut short. Second, on the watch list is the new-look third line. With Ritchie joining Coyle and Bjork hopefully, that line can start finding the back of the net. With Ritchie acting as a net-front presence the speed of Bjork and Coyle in the cycle game could give defenses fits. Finally just the team's overall play. We have yet to see a consistent game from puck drop to the final horn. With this being the last warm-up before the first round the Bruins need to look like the team we saw go 14-4 before the pause.
With the Capitals possibly missing some key players the Bruins should be able to finally get a win. Even against a healthy Caps team, the Bruins need this win. Going 0-3 so far a win before the real playoffs start just has the team going in on a high. With progress in each game so far it's time to put it all together for a 60-minute effort. Personally, I would much rather face the Islanders.with their defense-first style and some trouble scoring that sounds like a great matchup for this Bruins team. Yes, we have had our own struggles but our offense can score at any time and it's about time the top line woke up. I see the Bruins turning in their best performance so far and taking this game 5-2. Putting an end to any doubt we can beat the Capitals if we face them in the later rounds. As always stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!!
Featured image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.