The Washington Capitals and in particular, Braden Holtby, should enter the second contest of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with a bit more confidence. The Caps hung tough and battled a Boston Bruins team that dominated the game early on and played extremely physical. While the 1-0 overtime loss puts Washington down 1-0 in the series, with a bounce or a well placed shot, the Caps could easily have stolen a game at TD Garden last night. While they played well, the Capitals could work on a few areas to increase their chances of success in game two.
- Immediately following Chris Kelly’s overtime game winning goal, there were many social media goalie coaches looking at where Braden Holtby ended up on the shot and not his position when the shot passed him. Kelly’s shot was perfectly placed just inside the far post. It was a shot that nine times out of ten, Holtby would stop. The entire play unfolded with Johansson’s OTGWG bid being thwarted by Tim Thomas and the Bruins beating the Caps in transition back up ice. If the Caps could have sustained pressure on that rush, they wouldn’t have given up the scoring chance. Holtby played well enough to earn his first Stanley Cup Playoffs victory. He’ll need some help from his teammates to earn it in game two.
- The Bruins dominated the first 40 minutes of play. They out shot the Caps 26-7 in the first two periods. In the first 10 minutes of the game, it looked like Washington was dealing with some serious nerves. To me, they gave up the puck too much on zone exits. Many times the Caps turned pucks over in the middle of the ice. One of the keys to this series will be how well the Capitals can react to offensive and neutral zone turnovers by both teams.
- For the game, Boston outhit the Capitals officially, 40-29. They clearly tried to intimidate the Caps NHL Playoffs rookie netminder and set up a physical advantage in front of the Washington net. The Capitals would do well to try owning the ice within 6 feet of their goalie. No player with a B on the front of their sweater should skate through that ice untouched.
- The Bruins shut down Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. They each only managed one shot on goal in 34 minutes of combined ice time. That’s not going to cut it.
- I think it’s time to end the Keith Aucoin experiment. I expect Mike Knuble to get a sweater on Saturday. The Bruins are big. Fight fire with fire.
I still believe that the Caps must win one of the first two games in Boston to have a shot at winning the series. So, Saturday’s afternoon game is huge. One of the Capitals’ superstar wingers, either Ovi or Semin, needs to step up and get the offense going. Look for lineup changes to match the Bruins’ size and commitment to physical hockey. Finally, Holtby needs to build on his 29 save performance and continue making a name for himself in the NHL.