March 29 vs. Boston Bruins at Verizon Center
Time: 12:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
Boston Bruins (50-17-6)
Washington Capitals (34-27-12)
Washington finishes up a two-game homestand on Saturday afternoon when it hosts the beasts of the East – the Boston Bruins – in a matinee match at Verizon Center. The game marks the third and final meeting between the two teams this month and this season and is the Bruins’ lone visit to the District in 2013-14.
With at least a point in six straight games (4-0-2) for the first time this season, the Caps are riding high. But they’re also more than a bit vexed that they let another point slip away in their most recent outing, a Tuesday night tilt at Verizon Center against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Caps took a 3-1 lead into the third period of that game against the Kings, only to find themselves shorthanded and trailing by a 4-3 score with a minute remaining in the game. Improbably, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first NHL goal with 41.5 seconds remaining to help the Capitals salvage one of the points.
But had they not squandered the other, the Caps would have spent the last few days in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think when you lose points like this,” says Caps goaltender Jaroslav Halak, “you’re still happy about the one point. But at the same time, we gave [the Kings] two points. We gave them away. It can’t happen.
“At this time of year, we need those two points. We just have to learn how to play with the lead. Going into the third period and having the lead, the same thing happened against Vancouver. It seems like we slow down and are waiting for them to react instead of pushing forward. We just have to learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. That’s the biggest key right now. We can’t stay at the same place. Learn, put it in the garbage can and worry about one game at a time.”
Halak wasn’t yet a member of the Capitals when Washington turned a 4-2 third-period lead over the Flyers into a 5-4 overtime loss on March 2, a loss that prevented Washington from its first five-game winning streak of the season. That loss stung even more, because it resulted in a three-point swing against a team the Caps were vying with for playoff positioning.
Four weeks later, the difference in the standings between the Caps and the Flyers is those same three points, going into Philadelphia’s home game against the Maple Leafs tonight.
Coming off that March 2 loss against the Flyers, the Caps fell into a rut. They won only one of their next six games (1-4-1). They can’t afford a similar hangover from the loss to Los Angeles.
“We’ve just got to treat it like a playoff game,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera. “It’s water off a duck’s back, so to say, we’ve got to shake it off. If you sulk at this time of year, you’re going to be on the outside looking in come mid-April. We want to be the team that’s in there, playing in the playoffs, so we can’t have any letdowns. We can’t let a loss like that hurt us.
“There might have been a little bit of a momentum shift because we got that goal in the last minute to kind of pump us back up. We feel good about the point; we rescued one of them when it was looking like we were going to get zero. Guys were really pissed off we got to that point; we should have had two points. But you’ve just got to shake it off and move on.”
The Caps have held their own against the Bruins over the last few seasons, and they split two games between the two teams in Boston earlier this month. With only nine games remaining and points at a premium, the Caps know they’ll need to grab some points they’re not expected to get somewhere along the way.
Washington will be aiming to replicate the effort it put forth four weeks ago in Boston when it prevailed 4-2 over the Bruins.
“I think we played them a lot like we did in the playoffs [in 2012],” says Chimera of that Caps’ victory over the Bruins on the first day of this month. “We got pucks down deep. Our goalie was really good; [Braden Holtby] was really good in that game. It was a game where we controlled the puck well and did good things with the puck and in puck management. We didn’t take too many penalties and we got timely goal-scoring. [Eric Fehr] scored a big goal for us and [Joel Ward] got a goal in the second [period]. We scored the goals when we got the chances.
“As I recall it was a pretty tight defensive game both ways and there weren’t a lot of chances. That’s the way you’ve got to play against them. They’re a lot like L.A. They’re a good puck possession team and their forwards are big. Their forwards all play the right way; they dump it in and get it deep. And they’ve got some big [defensemen] on the back end, so it’s going to be a similar game. We always seem to rise to the occasion. We’ve played really well against Boston and we match up really well. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Halak joined the Capitals on the morning of the Caps’ last game against the Bruins, a 3-0 loss in Boston on March 6. Holtby started and lost that night, but was excellent in a losing effort, making 40 saves. That’s the lone loss of Holtby’s regular season career against the Bruins, he is 4-1 with a 2.13 GAA and a .940 save pct. lifetime against Boston.
Halak has also had good success during his regular season career against Boston, posting an 8-3 mark in 11 starts to go along with two shutouts, a 1.86 GAA and a .942 save pct.
Boston dropped the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-0 count in Beantown own Thursday night, recording its 50th win of the season in the process. The Bruins reached the half-century mark in victories for the season on the same night as the St. Louis Blues, and with about two weeks remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, the Blues and the B’s are battling it out for the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy.
St. Louis holds a one-point lead over Boston going into the weekend’s NHL activity. Both teams have nine games remaining in the season.
Boston has been laying waste to the rest of the NHL since returning from the Olympic break. The Bruins are 13-1-2 since the break, with that lone regulation loss coming at the hands of the Capitals in a Saturday matinee match four weeks ago. Boston has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 56-27 in those 16 games.
The Bruins have not permitted more than two goals in any of their last 10 games, and they’ve surrendered a total of just 11 goals against during that stretch.
“They’re going on all cylinders,” says Caps coach Adam Oates of the Bruins. “They’re a good hockey team, a very good hockey team. I think one of the reasons is we respect them. We know they’re a good hockey team and if you’re not ready to play them they can embarrass you. I’m hoping we have the effort we had in there and that we can play solid and not give them much.”