Monday, October 18, 2010

Preview: Bruins @ Capitals

Boston Bruins @ Washington Capitals

Washington: 4-1-0, 8 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 4-4-8 in 5 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries: D Mike Green, D Tom Poti, W Matt Bradley
Probable starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov (season debut; 19-4-7, 2.52, .911 career) Michal Neuvirth

Player to watch: G Semyon Varlamov Michal Neuvirth

Boston: 2-1-0, 4 points
Leading scorer: Nathan Horton, 3-2-5 in 3 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 53.4%
Notable injuries: C Marc Savard, W Marco Sturm, D Andrew Ference
Probable starting goalie: Tim Thomas
Player to watch: W Nathan Horton

In recent years, the Capitals and Bruins have had some close, fun games. Aside from a 10-2 victory by Washington in the spring of 2008 that saw Tim Thomas give up 8 goals, each matchup has been within two goals, in large part because of the Bruins' great goaltending. In 2008-2009, both Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez put up Vezina-esque numbers in net for Boston (as did both Craig Anderson and Tomas Vokoun in Florida, and as will Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth this season for Washington, one can hope). Last season, it was Tim Thomas and 23-year old rookie goalie Tuukka Rask, who was absolutely stellar. Thomas actually had pretty solid numbers last year, which is in part why through three games he seems to be Boston's starter...for now.

Questions that will be answered:

1) How will the Caps handle Boston's forward depth? Take a quick gander at Boston's depth chart. Even without Savard, there's 9 solid forwards in there, minimum. While the Bruins lack the top-tier offensive talent the Capitals have, they can match the Capitals line-for-line after the first lines. Considering the Capitals' lackluster blueline at the moment, depth should be extremely important. The Bruins will always be icing a capable group of forwards, and the Capitals won't always have the defensemen to match.

2) How will the Bruins' goaltending hold up? It may seem like a funny question to ask, but the Capitals have a knack for making premier goalies look bad. Tim Thomas isn't the most consistent goalie, and thus far Rask hasn't been great either (in only one game, note). The Bruins rely on their goalies stopping the shots they should and can't really afford for their goalies to let in several softies, since they don't have the star power up front that a team like Washington or Chicago does.

3) Will the special teams continue to be 'specially good? The Caps' PK so far is at 100% and the PP has struck 3 times in the last two games. The Bruins look like the slightly better team at even strength, so the Capitals can't afford a clunker from their special teams units.

4) Can the Capitals, you know, actually play well? The Caps went 4-1, and I gave them a C for the first five games, in large part because of a negative Fenwick and unimpressive scoring chance ratios. Let's see some better hockey, boys.

5) Which Caps goalie shows up? If Neuvirth starts, it will be his sixth straight. If Varlamov starts, it will be his first since returning from injury, and the last few times he's returned from injury he's not been too impressive in his first game back. Boston plays a disciplined system and the Capitals will be hard-pressed to overcome a large deficit against Boston.

Bruins 3, Capitals 1.

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