The Bruins played their final round-robin game against the Capitals and it was a close game throughout. Both teams played with purpose even if they weren't as physical as they normally would be. It was very evident these teams were saving something for the start of the playoffs. Some good news for the Capitals before the game as star center Nicklas Backstrom was able to play after missing Friday's practice. The Bruins also finally were back to full health getting Kase some game action before the playoffs officially begin. If you missed this early start here is a breakdown of the action.
This game did not take long to catch our attention. As the lines still scrolled across the top of the screen a lively bounce off the end boards led to a chance for Kuznetsov. After faking the shot to get Rask out of position Kuznetsov went for the wraparound chance only to be denied by a great stick play from Chara. Right from the jump, both teams had some extra pep in their step and we finally had a great start from the Bruins. While there was a severe lack in shots the Bruins controlled the pace of play.
The top line had their cycle game going and it led to a penalty on the Caps. With 6:30 left in the first, the Bruins go on the power play. The Bruins generated a few good looks but nothing too challenging for Holtby. With 2:49 remaining Clifton and Kuznetsov take matching minors and they skate 4 on 4. A poorly timed pinch from McAvoy leads to a 2 on 1 for the Capitals but Oshie misses high and wide. With just 16 seconds remaining in the period, Rask makes a save and the rebound goes onto Chara’s stick. Unfortunately, Oshie knocks the puck off his stick and into the net ending the first 1-0 for the Caps.
With less than three minutes gone in the second, the Bruins get an early powerplay. Ondrej Kase gets a great chance in front but Holtby denies him. Charlie McAvoy would get the next chance off a deflection in the slot but Holtby makes a great glove save. A few minutes later the Bruins take a penalty giving the Capitals their first powerplay. Rask makes a few good saves and the Bruins kill off the penalty. Shortly after Kovalchuk comes down the wing and almost sneaks a shot in behind Rask. Fortunately, it slides across the goal line and out the other side. The Caps are starting to take the play to the Bruins. The Bruins third line would answer back after the Caps turn the puck over at their blue line. Bjork takes the shot and Holtby loses it in his pads leading to a mad scramble in front.
Holtby dives back into his net just in time to rob Ritchie of a goal. Somehow the puck stays out and it's still 1-0. The Capitals would answer back with chances from Ovechkin and Oshie but Rask stands tall denying both. A penalty on Debrusk with just over five minutes left sends the Caps back on the powerplay. The Bruins kill it off and with time winding down Rask makes a great stop on the noted league’s best goal scorer Tom Wilson. Bjork would answer back skating circles around the Capitals defense generating a few scoring chances but again the puck just can't find the net. The second period comes to a close still 1-0 Capitals.
The third period would start 4 on 4 after matching minors to Kuraly and Oshie at the final horn. Just after the end of the 4 on 4, a miss played puck by the Bruins would mean trouble. Tom Wilson would win the foot race against McAvoy and he snipes the glove side corner making it 2-0. Another matching minor would lead to yet another 4 on 4. Pasta would get a great scoring chance after weaving through the defense only to be denied once again by Holtby. Finally with just over nine minutes left the Bruins breakthrough.
Kase and Debrusk enter the offensive zone and somehow Kase pushes the puck through a defenders skates to Debrusk. With a bolt of lightning, fast release Debrusk surprises Holtby and sneaks the puck five-hole for the goal. The Bruins are buzzing and Marchand would be in alone against Holtby but just lifts the puck over the crossbar wasting a golden opportunity to tie it up. Rask would make a key stop against Travis Boyd to keep it only a one-goal game. Another lively bounce off the end boards would force another impressive save from Rask with just over two minutes to go. Unfortunately, the Bruins come up just short and the game ends 2-1 in favor of the Capitals.
The first star of the game goes to Braden Holtby. With 30 saves on 31 shots, Holtby was by far the best Capital on the ice in this one. With numerous goal-saving stops, Holtby continues to have the Bruins number even after all these years. The second star of the game goes to T.J. Oshie. With the first goal of the game, Oshie also created a number of the Cap's best scoring chances. Oshie also played an impressive defensive game often being matched up with the Bruins top line using his hands and strength to break up a number of plays. Finally, the third star of the game is split between Anders Bjork and Tuukka Rask. Bjork was absolutely flying around the ice skating circles around the defense creating a number of great chances. With a little puck luck, his line could become a force in the playoffs. Rask did his part making 23 saves on 25 shots. While he did allow two goals he made a number of impressive saves to keep it a one-goal game down the stretch.
While we all wanted a win the Bruins took another step forward in this game. Bad luck and defensive lapses led to both Capital's goals but it was an overall improved performance. The offense generated a number of great chances but Holtby was in top form turning almost all of them away. The second line finally broke onto the score sheet with Debrusk getting his first goal since the return to play. Kase looked good in limited ice time in his first game back. With more games, that line will only grow more dangerous as time goes on. The third line looked great once again along with the top line but both continue to have horrible luck and can't get any bounces.
Now it's on to Carolina and the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs. After sweeping them in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals the Canes will be out for revenge. After facing some of the best goalies in the East the Canes goalies will be a downgrade in competition for sure. The Bruins will need to find their offense and quick of the Canes could make quick work of this series just like they did to the Rangers. The first game will be on Tuesday so stay safe out there stock up on drinks and snacks and LET’S GO BRUINS!!
Features image courtesy of Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP.