Washington Capitals (14-3-2) vs Boston Bruins (12-3-4)
|Predicted Goaltender||Record||GAA / SV% / # SO|
|Washington Capitals||Braden Holtby||9-1-3||3.06 / .903% / 0|
|Boston Bruins||Jaroslav Halak||4-1-2||2.68 / .918% / 1|
The Washington Capitals will play their second game of a back-to-back tonight versus the Boston Bruins. Luckily, they have defined themselves as ‘road warriors’, as they are 9-1-1 on the road, and 7-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams. Despite dropping their last four games, the Bruins are still ranked first in the Atlantic Division and have not yet lost in regulation at TD Garden. The Caps and Bruins last played on February 3rd of 2019, where just a single goal decided the winner, and it was David Krejci of Boston who scored it. However, the Capitals won the two other meetings with the Bruins, including a 7-0 shutout on the eve of Washingtons’ combined home-opener/Championship banner raising.
Last night, the Washington Capitals ended a 13-game point streak after losing 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens. Washington played with just 11 forwards, and seven defensemen, after calling up Tyler Lewington from the Hershey Bears earlier in the day. As a result, we saw double-shifting from top nine forwards, and Lewington filling in on the fourth line center position, as well as on defense. The first 10 minutes were ALL CAPS, as play remained in the Habs’ defensive zone for much of the period, and the Capitals’ forecheck was extremely aggressive. Washington fell behind slightly in the second half of the first frame, and Montreal took full advantage, though Ilya Samsonov stopped all 15 shots he faced. The second period, in which the Capitals had dominated in goal-scoring, saw four goals from the Canadiens, each from four different players. Phillip Danault started off the scoring at the 6:22 mark, as he deceivingly snuck the puck past Samsonov. The Habs’ second goal, coming from Shea Weber, resulted directly from a defensive breakdown between the circles, and Samsonov was hung out to dry. Just over two minutes later, Jordan Weal scored his 3rd of the season. The first penalty of the game was called at the 12:36 mark of the second period, as Garnet Hathaway was called for tripping (TheScore, MTL @ WSH). Just moments after the Capitals successfully killed off the penalty, Nick Suzuki improved the Habs’ lead to four goals. The third period saw the only Capitals’ power play of the game, with Jeff Petry going off for interference. Just over a minute into the power play, Alex Ovechkin, from his office, scored his 14th goal of the season, and just his 2nd goal at home. Many fans, myself included, considered a spoiled shutout for Carey Price the singular bright spot of the night. 10 minutes later, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had already taken the majority of the Caps’ faceoffs, scored his 9th of the season, bringing Washington within two. However, Tomas Tatar, who had already registered three assists, scored an empty net goal, securing Montreals’ win, after head coach Todd Reirden elected to pull Samsonov for the extra skater. Since no one likes +/- ratings, let’s talk Corsi for a moment, also known as shot-attempt differential at even strength. Stat heads like myself prefer to utilize this value over +/-, because it generally gives a better idea of in-game contributions. Brendan Leipsic was the only player of the night with a + corsi rating, totaling +3 (TheScore, MTL @ WAS). With Samsonov having played last night, Braden Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals tonight.
Boston also played last night, where they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2 on the road. After losing their last four games, Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy was looking to his veterans to beat the team that they are nearly guaranteed to play in the first round of the playoffs, year in and year out. Charlie Coyle got the Bruins on the board at the 13:48 mark of the first period. David Pastrnak was called for interference shortly thereafter, but Bostons’ penalty kill successfully kept Toronto off the board. As the Leafs’ power play expired, Nicholas Shore was called for holding, and Bostons’ 3rd ranked power play unit would hope to add to their lead (TheScore, Boston Bruins). Neither team would score again until the 9:20 mark of the second, when Auston Matthews scored his 14th of the season. Boston ranks 5th in goals for, averaging 3.56 goals per game, and they also allow the 4th fewest goals against, averaging 2.5 goals per game (TheScore, Boston Bruins). Brad Marchand would give the Bruins a 1-goal lead just 11 seconds into the third period, and less than three minutes later, Kasperi Kapanen would score, tying the game. Just as quickly as Kapanen tied the game, Brad Marchand would score his second of the game, and his 13th of the season, a goal of which would be the eventual game-winner. Andreas Johnsson would be called for tripping at the 11:11 mark, which isn’t very lucky, but Boston would not convert on their second power play opportunity. Just under the 17 minute mark of third period, four-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron would go off for slashing, and like Boston, Toronto was unable to score with the extra skater. With 90 seconds remaining, Zdeno Chara secured Bostons’ win with an empty net goal, giving the Bruins a 4-2 lead. David Pastrnak, who leads his team, and the league, in goals (16G), has just one point in his last four games. It is worth noting that nine, yes, nine, of his goals have come on the power play. After starting the season with points in 13 straight games (31P in 18 games), and five assists coming versus the New York Rangers on October 27th, Pastrnak, as he usually does, has gone cold for the moment. The Washington Capitals absolutely cannot let this Czech winger get behind their defense. Or offense, for that matter. Because he is one of those skaters who, given an inch, will take a mile. Or four. Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with 19 assists, and is close behind ‘Pasta’ with 30 points (TheScore, Boston Bruins). A right winger leads the Bruins in hits, with 47. That’s right. A forward, not a defenseman, and that wingers name is Chris Wagner. Arguably the most physical player on the squad, Wagner, who averages 13:37 TOI per night, is a heavy hitter, so sparks will likely fly between these teams tonight. Tuuka Rask stopped 29 of 31 shots, ending his night with a .935 save percentage (TheScore, BOS @ TOR). However, as they too will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, former Capitals’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak is slated to start tonight. In 21 career games VERSUS the Washington Capitals, Halak is 9-10-0, with a .900 SV% and 2.80 goals against (HockeyReference).
Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin are both listed as ‘OUT’, and timelines to return are unknown at this point. We will continue to update this article as we receive further information from the Washington Capitals. Due to tight salary cap restrictions, the Capitals have recalled forward Travis Boyd and goaltender Vitek Vanecek, and have reassigned Ilya Samsonov and Tyler Lewington to the Hershey Bears. Vanecek will serve as back-up goaltender to Braden Holtby tonight. The Boston Bruins have been to hell and back with their lengthy laundry list of injuries. See below:
- D- John Moore (IR-NR, shoulder)
- D- Kevan Miller (IR-NR, kneecap)
- D- Tory Krug (OUT, upper body)
- LW- Anton Blidh (IR-NR, shoulder)
- LW- Jake DeBrusk (DL, lower body)
- RW- David Backes (DL, upper body)
- RW- Brett Ritchie (OUT, upper body)
- RW- Zach Senyshyn (DL, lower body)
- RW- Karson Kuhlman (DL, leg)
It is expected that none of these nine players will play tonight.
Coverage of the game begins at 6:00pm with Caps Faceoff Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, all on NBCSN/NBCSWA, with puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.
HockeyReference. (2019). Jaroslav Halak Career Splits.Retrieved from https://www.hockey-reference.com/players/h/halakja01/splits/.
TheScore. (2019). Boston Bruins News & Stats. Retrievedfrom https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/1.
TheScore. (2019). Boston Bruins @ Toronto Maple Leafs. Retrievedfrom https://www.thescore.com/nhl/events/22020.
TheScore. (2019). Montreal Canadiens @ Washington Capitals.Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/events/22022.
Washington Capitals. (2019). Caps Recall Boyd and Vanecek From Hershey, Assign Samsonov and Lewington. Retrieved from https://www.nhl.com/capitals/news/caps-recall-boyd-and-vanecek-from-hershey-assign-samsonov-and-lewington/c-311381504.