Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1-Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
After a strenuous end to the regular season, #7 seed Washington began its first round series against the #2 seed Boston Bruins on Thursday April 12th. Biggest news of the series: AHL goaltender Braden Holtby slated to start his first Stanley Cup playoff appearance between the pipes due to injuries to both Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth.
Here’s how it all panned out.
Game 1 - 4/12/12: Caps 0 @ Bruins 1 in Overtime
Even though this game seemed to be more about hits than it was about goals, rookie goaltender Braden Holtby keep the Bruins scoreless through the regulation 3 periods, saving 29 shots on goal during that 60 minutes of play. Line matching by Bruins coach Claude Julien played a large part in this game, as well as lots of time killing penalties, keeping the Caps’ shots on goal down to only 16 during regulation. Overall, a tough shutout start to the series, but certainly one that was used by Hunter to make adjustments going forward.
Game 2 - 4/14/12: Caps 2 @ Bruins 1 in Double Overtime
Strong offensive play helped the Caps win over the Bruins in game 2, as well as another stellar performance from Braden Holtby. The game was loaded with gritty play and attempts at greasy goals. If you thought the 47 shots on goal in game 1 was on the low side, game 2 really amped it up with 39 shots for the Caps and 44 shots for the Bruins. The game also showed a shift in defensive play by the Caps with lots of shots blocked and by outhitting the Bruins 41-36.
One notable moment that stands out to me was the reaction from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas when Nicklas Backstrom crashed the net just minutes before the end of the third period, and he swung at Backstrom’s face with his blocker. Anger and/or frustration seemed to be a juggernaut for Thomas and the Bruins in this game.
After 60 minutes of regulation ended in a 1-1 tie, it wasn’t until 2:56 into double overtime that Backstrom scoring the game winning goal. Reminds me of a certain adage about paybacks!
Game 3 – 4/16/12: Bruins 4 @ Caps 3
Caps finally get home to Verizon Center in game 3. This game seemed more about provoking to produce penalties, although this was the highest scoring game yet in this series. Looking back at the 2 previous game, penalties played a much bigger part in this game. Game 1 had a total of 7 penalties for 16 minutes (PIM), game 2 – 5 penalties for 10 minutes (PIM), but game 3 was a whopping 15 penalties for a total of 30 total minutes; not including the 10 minute match penalty for cross-checking imposed on Backstrom for what was considered a deliberate injury to Rich Peverley after the buzzer ended the game. Not a fond memory.
Game 4 – 4/19/12: Bruins 1 @ Caps 2
Game 4 saw the 1 game suspension for Backstrom’s match penalty in game 3 and the return of John Erskine and Mike Knuble to the lineup. Both teams went back to gritty play with few penalties assessed, so power plays and penalty kills were not as much of a factor in this game when it came to scoring in this game, even though the first penalty of the second period seemed to spur a revival in attempts on net by the Caps. Holtby’s 44 saves and snap shot goals from Johansson and Semin were enough to pull off the win to tie the series 2-2, but let’s not forget the stopped clock at the end of the third period. Most notable thing about that stopped clock was the explanation given by the NHL; "The off-ice officials were not able to attract the attention of the referees or linesmen despite sounding the horn, which was not audible due to crowd noise, and the puck was dropped.” Way to go Caps fans! I guess you could say time stood still with this win by the Caps.
Game 5 – 4/21/12: Caps 4 @ Bruins 3
Game 5 sends us back to Boston with a nail-biter of a game and the return of Michal Neuvirth as back up to Braden Holtby. Line matching from Hunter played a significant role in this match up, although many fans questioned the tactic at first. Jay Beagle scores his first Stanley Cup playoff goal and both Caps that are former Stanley Cup winners – Mike Knuble and Troy Brouwer - scored to keep Washington alive in this series by taking a 3-2 lead.
Game 6 – 4/22/12: Bruins 4 @ Caps 3 in Overtime
In what could have been a series finishing game, Boston did not seem to want to go quietly into that good night. Unfortunately, game 6 seemed to be a game of missed opportunities for the Caps and they were unable to get any lead in this game. An interesting note from this whole series to date; for the first time in NHL history, 6 games in a series have been decided by one goal. On the plus side, Mike Green scored his first goal of the series. And even though a late goal from Ovechkin in the third period tied the game to send it into overtime (again!), Boston scored to tie the series once again. So, just when you think your heart can’t take anymore without going into cardiac arrest, we move on to game 7.
Game 7 – 4/25/12: Caps 2 @ Bruins 1 in Overtime
Joel Ward OT GWG. (There really isn’t anything else to say!)
So, congratulations to our Washington Capitals! Everybody get some rest before Round 2 (against “opponent TBD”)!