Round 1… Fight: Washington Capitals vs Boston Bruins

 Season RecordPredicted GoaltenderGAA / SV%
Washington Capitals36-15-5TBD
Boston Bruins33-16-7Tuukka Rask2.28 / .913
Predicted Starting Goaltenders

The playoff field is final, and the matchups are set. The Washington Capitals are taking on the Boston Bruins in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals have the longest current playoff appearance streak, with seven straight postseason berths. The Bruins have the 2nd longest streak with five consecutive playoff appearances (mcubed). In eight regular season meetings, the two teams split the series with four wins apiece, including an 8-1 beatdown by Washington back in April, and a similar 6-3 win for the Bruins just seven days later.

Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals ended their shortened 56-game season with 36 wins and a .688 win percentage, landing them 6th overall in the league and in 2nd place in the Mass Mutual East, right behind the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. More than half of the Caps’ wins (19) came on the road, giving them the best road record in the league. Offensively, Washington averaged 3.36 goals per game and boasted the 3rd best power play in the league (24.8%). At one point, the Capitals power play at home was well over 80% but ended the season as the best among all teams (30.6%). Unfortunately, Washington allowed a league-most eight shorthanded goals, despite having one of the league’s best penalty killing units. Under Todd Reirden, the Caps had failed to advance beyond the first round each of the last two seasons. But head coach Peter Laviolette has taken his three previous teams to three Stanley Cup Finals, winning one with the Carolina Hurricanes, but falling just short to the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Predators in 2016-17.

Difference Makers

Nicklas Backstrom

In 55 games, Backstrom played his 1000th career NHL game (all with the Washington Capitals), scored 15 goals, and tallied 38 assists for 53 points (leads team). Arguably the best Cap of the season, Nicklas had eight-multi assist games and seven games in which he both scored and provided either a primary or secondary assist. In 128 career playoff games, Backstrom has 36 goals and 71 assists, and in six games versus the Bruins in the postseason, Nicky has four points (1G, 3A).

Daniel Sprong

Although not considered a mainstay in the Caps lineup early on, Sprong has made a strong case to remain there. In 42 games played, Daniel tallied 13 goals and 7 assists for 20 points, marking a new career high previously set with Anaheim (2018-19). After finding a home comfortably within the middle six forwards, Sprong put up six goals in his final eight games, including a two-goal performance versus the Islanders.

Vitek Vanecek

The 25-year old Czech netminder has been the story of the Capitals season. After Ilya Samsonov was placed on the COVID Protocol list to begin the year, Vanecek suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight and quickly and convincingly won not only the hearts of Caps fans, but also the #1 goaltender in DC. Vitek’s first NHL start turned into his first NHL win, and went on to tally 21 wins in 37 games played, including two shutouts. Vanecek led rookie goaltenders in wins, and ranked 6th among all goalies across the NHL. He was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in January after failing to lose in regulation in all seven starts. In 21 wins, Vanecek tallied a .934 save percentage and allowed just 1.79 goals against, but over his 10 losses, those number shifted dramatically to .865% and 4.16 GAA (respectively).

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins tallied 33 wins, 16 losses, and 7 overtime losses, ending their season with a .652 win percentage. Eight of their 33 wins came by way of an overtime period or the shootout. They did however drop two games to the Caps in which extra hockey was needed (OTL, SOL). Boston’s season began pretty poorly, having lost nearly half of all games played in the opening month of January as well as in February with 12-5-3 and 22-12-6 records, respectively. The Bruins ranked 13th in goals for and allowed the 4th fewest goals against. Boston’s power play rounded out the season 10th best overall (21.9%), tallied nine shorthanded goals, and boasted the 2nd best penalty kill in the league, killing off 86% of all penalties taken. Impressive when you consider that the Bruins took the most minor penalties (194) of all teams.

Difference Makers

Brad Marchand

Marchand led his team in goals, assists, and points with 29, 40 and 69, respectively. In 121 career playoff games, Marchand has 37 goals and 58 assists, with 16 goals coming in his most previous two seasons. ‘The Rat’ has been a thorn in Washington’s side with 33 points in 39 games, including 15 goals, three of which were power play goals. With that being said he has just two points (1G, 1A) against the Capitals in the post-season.

Taylor Hall

After coming over from the Sabres in a HALLmark trade with the Bruins, former Hart Trophy recipient Taylor Hall has met and exceeded all expectations previously set for him. The winger, in 16 games with Boston, has 8 goals and 6 assists for 14 points. Compare those numbers to 2 goals and 17 assists in 37 games with Buffalo prior to said trade. Hall has arguably been the Bruins most consistent player, putting up points in 11 of his final 16 games, and never going more than a single game without doing so. Taylor boasted a career-best 16.7% shooting percentage in the same span, up from a measly 2.3% in 37 games with Buffalo earlier in the season. In 14 playoff games, Hall has 4 goals and 8 assists (NJD, ARI).

Patrice Bergeron

The center registered 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points in 54 games, including 7 power play goals (leads team). Bergeron was riding a five-game goal streak before failing to register a point in his final game of the season versus the Islanders on May 10th. ‘Bergy’ marked a career best 64% Fenwick For, meaning that the Bruins controlled the puck more often than not when he was on the ice. Once again, he is a Selke Trophy Finalist, and should Bergeron win it, it would mark his 5th time taking home the two-way trophy.

Below is the official schedule vs. BOS (all times in EST):

Game 1: Saturday May 15 at 7:15pm

Game 2: Monday May 17 @ 7:30pm

Game 3: Wednesday May 19 @ 6:30pm

Game 4: Friday May 21 @ 6:30pm

Game 5 *if necessary*: Sunday May 23 @ TBD

Game 6 *if necessary*: Tuesday May 25 @ TBD

Game 7 *if necessary*: Thursday May 27 @ TBD

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins will play Game 1 on Saturday May 15th at 7:15 EST, and can be watched on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Washington.

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