The Bruins will meet a newly Managed and Coached Washington Capitals team for the first official time this season. The two teams exchanged wins during the pre-season in two spirited contests that helped evaluate their respective talent pools.
What's new in DC? The new Coach Barry Trotz is an old school hard nosed coach that believes in strong defense and opportunity scoring from the power play and transition game. After being the head coach of the Nashville Predators for many years, it's a new team for Trotz and he has one thing unique. Offensive weapons, that were never available in abundance in Nashville. On the defensive side, he has a strong large core of defensemen to punish opposing teams. Braden Holtby will anchor the team in goal and he has a winning record of 4-2 against the Bruins and a SV% of .930. This should be a heavy hitting and skating contest.
The Forward lines are highlighted by superstar Alex Ovechkin and he'll be centered by Nicklas Backstrom and and the right wing will be Eric Fehr. This was a killer combo on face-offs and power play last year and the Bruins will need to stay out of the penalty box tonight or things could get ugly quickly. Their second line is centered by Andre Burakovsky with wingers Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansen. There is lots of speed and pop on this line and Brouwer was a 20+ goal scorer last season. The third line plays hard dirty minutes and will pressure the Boston defense when on the ice led by gritty center Brian Laich and Jason Chimera with Jason Ward. Don't expect to see much of the fourth line as they get limited minutes and rookie center Evgeny Kuznetsov will see some spot time on the power play. Wingers Chris Brown and Liam O'Brien will be on the bench to insure that a clean game is played which means you can expect Bobby Robins on the fourth line for the Bruins tonight just in case of fisticuffs.
The Washington defense was reinforced in the offseason by Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen formerly of the Penguins. Orpik is well hated by Boston fans for laying out Loui Eriksson last year and getting Shawn Thornton to lose his cool. He'll be paired with John Carlson and Niskanen will be paired with Karl Alzner and provide a top four of big hits and slot clogging in front of Holtby. Jack Hillen will pair with Nate Schmidt and be good for 13-15 minutes of ice time 5 on 5. Mike Green has an upper body injury and while his offense will be missed, I wonder if he will see ice time as a forward when he returns, to add scoring depth.
The Bruins will sail forth with the same lineup from the Detroit game with Rask in net. Tuukka needs a big game as the shots will be numerous and heavy in this game and if he's not sharp, the game could be over early. The lines of Marchand/Bergeron/Smith and Kelly/Soderberg/Eriksson will have to step up tonight and chip in goals to give the Bruins a chance to win. While I expect that Lucic will again play with Fraser and Spooner, if Lucic doesn't play a tougher, harder game; Coach Julien might consider dropping him to the fourth line and let Dan Paille insert some speed and forecheck along side Fraser and Spooner. Chris Cunningham and Bobby Robins may see spot duty unless the cheap shots emerge, if so, then all bets may be off as I expect Coach Julien after the last game wants a character defining effort from the team tonight.
Keys to the game tonight: If on the power play the Bruins have to score to keep the cheap rough stuff out of the game. If the Bruins can't score, the Caps will be encouraged to take liberties as the game goes on. Staying out of the penalty box will also be necessary as the Caps have one of the premier power play units in the NHL and move the puck quickly and well with big time finishers in Brouwer and Ovechkin. Winning face-offs, possession in this game means not giving the Caps a change to set up or cycle in your own end.
Concerns: This is a very big and hard hitting team. The Bruins to a man have to keep their cool and heads on a swivel. Fast pace, short passes can keep the Caps in check. Shooting when ever the shots are there will wear down the Caps defense and increase the chance of scoring ugly goals on Holtby. If the Bruins can get an early lead, the fans could be a much needed seventh player on the ice. There will be plenty learned tonight about our Boston Bruins tonight, I hope to have positives to report post game.
Until Next Time!