Washington Capitals @ Boston Bruins
Washington: 8-4-0, 16 points
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 7-8-15 in 12 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 51.1%
Notable injuries/illnesses: D Tom Poti, C Marcus Johansson, D Tyler Sloan, G Semyon Varlamov
Probable starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth (8-3-0, 2.31, .920, 1 SO)
Player to watch: G Michal Neuvirth
Boston: 7-2-0, 14 points
Leading scorer: Nathan Horton, 5-5-10 in 9 GP, and David Krejci, 2-8-10 in 9 GP
Tied Fenwick% last season: 53.4%
Notable injuries/illnesses: C Marc Savard, W Marco Sturm, D Andrew Ference, D Johnny Boychuk
Probable starting goalie: Tim Thomas (7-0-0, 0.72, .977, 3 SO)
Player to watch: G Tim Thomas
Time for revenge. Again.
1) Is Tim Thomas falling back to Earth? After a scorching hot start through six games, Thomas actually gave up two goals to Buffalo. Granted, that's just as easily an outlier as the beginning of a trend, but if he's truly cooling off, even a tiny bit, the Capitals should be able to take advantage.
2) Will the second line hold its own? With Alexander Semin on the top line for the time being, Mike Knuble-Brooks Laich and someone else will play on the second line. While in terms of pure ability that might make a good line, chances are none of the guys on that line will be a guy who drives the play (maybe Eric Fehr). If Tomas Fleischmann plays there and has a down game, this game could get ugly.
3) Will Alex Ovechkin take control? Thus far in his career Ovechkin has been kept in check pretty well by Boston, and in the season series to date Ovechkin has been pretty ineffective. He needs to dominate whoever he goes up against (I'd bet on his matchup at the outset being against Krejci-Horton-Lucic and Chara) and set the tone early. He shouldn't be a guy who consistently can't come up big against a good team.
4) Who takes control early? While the Caps broke 60% Corsi in their two previous meetings with Boston, Boston also scored early and took multiple goal leads, so score effects were likely in play. I'd much rather have the Capitals score first and force Boston to open it up a bit. If the Caps can stay disciplined early and take a lead, or the better of the play with the score tied, into the first intermission, I like their chances. But no so much if they can't.
5) Can the Caps put together a 60 minute defensive effort? Boston's forward depth is pretty good, so if any line is off it could potentially be disastrous. With the way Thomas is playing, this game will be within striking distance all game long for Boston, and the Caps need to make sure they don't let Boston back into it with sloppy play from the bottom pair or bottom six forwards.
All in all, I think the Capitals have got this. The home ice means Boudreau can get Fahey/Erskine and the bottom forwards away from Bergeron and/or Krejci, using the last change, and the team has looked much, much better with Mike Green back in the lineup. Marcus Johansson is expected to suit up as well and should stabilize the third or second line. Semin has sparked the first line to better results, even if not always to better puck control. Things are looking good.
Capitals 4, Bruins 2.