|Goaltender||Round 1 Matchup|
|Washington Capitals||Braden Holtby||New York Islanders|
|Boston Bruins||Tuukka Rask||Carolina Hurricanes|
TLDR; Washington Capitals defeat Boston Bruins, 2-1, will face former head-coach Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in Round 1. The Bruins will participate in an Eastern Conference Final rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both the Capitals and the Bruins were looking to snag at least one win in the Round Robin contest in the East Conference. The Capitals were 0-1-1 heading into today’s tilt, and Boston, 0-2-0. Historically, the Capitals have had good luck against the Bruins, and with a weak showing by the B’s since the start of the Return to Play Phase 4, for a glorified exhibition game, it was pretty important for the Caps to win this one.
With John Carlson still being held out of the lineup, Martin Fehervary filled in for Radko Gudas on the second defensive pairing with Michal Kempny. Nicklas Backstrom was good to go, and Braden Holtby got the start between the pipes. Lars Eller hasn’t been cleared to return after leaving the bubble, and so Travis Boyd held his position in the lineup. Early on, Braden Holtby was challenged with a shot from the B’s, but Evgeny Kuznetsov responded with a wrap-around attempt that was spoiled by Tuukka Rask. Early on, ice conditions made it slightly more difficult to control the puck effectively (and stay on-side). David Pastrnak’s shot nearly made it past Holtby, but effective support kept the score 0-0 with just about seven minutes remaining. The first power play was gifted to the Bruins as Dmitry Orlov was called for holding at the 13:34 mark, but the Capitals successfully killed off the penalty. During the kill, Jonas Siegenthaler took a puck to the hand, but continued to play. With 2:49 left in the period, Connor Clifton and Evgeny Kuznetsov were called for roughing and play resumed as 4-on-4. With 16 seconds remaining in the period, TJ Oshie scored, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
The Capitals registered just two shots on goal in the first period, and Boston had six.
Despite having the advantage where it mattered most, early second period play was sustained primarily in the Caps’ defensive zone. Ilya Kovalchuk was called for hooking, thus giving Boston the man-advantage and hopefully for them, the tying tally. Tom Wilson nearly scored short-handed but Rask was ready for his shot. Washington killed the penalty, keeping the score 1-0, Caps. The Capitals have not allowed a power-play goal against in eight shorthanded situations throughout the round robin matches. A poor turnover by the Caps gave Charlie McAvoy the perfect point-blank shot to tie the game, but Braden Holtby calmly ripped off the shot. Washington earned their first power play as Brandon Carlo was called for hooking but did not convert. There hasn’t been much good to report on during these Round Robin games, but Braden Holtby certainly is the bright spot with his timely saves, suggesting he is on top of his game and ready for anything. A hectic scramble in front of Holtby nearly saw a tying tally for Boston, but heavy defensive coverage helped avert the crisis. With 4:31 left in the middle frame, the Caps got another power play opportunity as Jake DeBrusk went off for holding-the-stick. Washington’s power play was only 1-for-10 versus the Bruins, and 1-for-9 in the round robin tournament. Torey Krug fell awkwardly into the boards and the Caps escaped a short-handed situation after the zebra’s nearly called TJ Oshie for boarding. After 40, the Capitals still lead where it matters most.
With TJ Oshie and Sean Kuraly having been assessed matching minors at the expiration of the second period, the first two minutes of the final frame were played as 4-on-4. Tom Wilson, at the 2:49 mark of the third, made it 2-0 Capitals with a top-shelf snipe. Ilya Kovalchuk and Michal Kempny were the primary and secondary assists on the Wilson goal, respectively.
At the 12:31 mark, Charlie McAvoy was assessed a tripping penalty, and Richard Panik, a minor penalty for embellishment. The Bruins had a wonderful chance to cut into the Caps lead but Holtby again made the stop. A misplay by Siegenthaler allowed Jake DeBrusk to spoil Holtby’s shut-out hopes with 9:30 left, giving Bruins life and a chance to still make a come-back. Brad Marchand nearly tied it off the face-off, but Holtby was poised and ready. Again. With 33.3 seconds remaining, Boston elected to use their time-out, and pulled their goalie, but Washington emerged victorious, handing the Bruins their 3rd loss in three games.
TXHT’s Three Takeaways of the Game
- Braden Holtby is locked in, and the guys in front of him need to thank him for that.
- The Capitals are still not firing on all cylinders, and they really need to start getting there.
- Washington will face their former head coach Barry Trotz, who led them to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018.
With today’s loss for the Bruins and win for the Capitals, Washington will face the New York Islanders in the first round of the Playoffs, and thus, Boston will play the Carolina Hurricanes.
The formal schedule for Round 1 is yet to be determined, but Phase 2 of the NHL Draft will take place tomorrow, and it is at that point that we will find out which of the losing Qualifying teams will pick first overall.