With the regular season recently ending, the fun part is just about to start. The NHL playoffs are under way and for hockey fans what more can you ask for? With the mix of great first round matchups such as the Philadelphia Flyers vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Washington Capitals vs. the Boston Bruins the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is guaranteed to be an exciting thrill ride for all fans of hockey.
With the Bruins coming off an Stanley Cup win last season, the team looks to do something that hasn’t been done since the late 90’s, repeat. The team currently holds the number two seed in the East, however they look to have a tough matchup against the Washington Capitals. Despite the Capitals need to fight for a playoff spot with a week remaining, they definitely have the star power to give the Bruins a run for their money in what should be a hard fought and extremely close series.
I am going with the favorite to win this series in 5 games, and here’s why.
Despite having their fair share of troubles throughout the season the Bruins were still able to maintain one of the top defenses in the NHL allowing only 2.43 points per game. With All-Star and James Norris Memorial Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara leading the defensive charge along with other strong defensemen such as Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg, scoring on the Bruins defense is surely no easy task, and with one of the best goalies in the league, Tim Thomas, scoring won’t come as easy. The Capitals defense is a little different. With sharpshooters such as Dennis Wideman and Mike Green, the Capitals are set up to gain a little more offense with their defense. This can hurt them when it comes to playing a proven veteran team such as the Bruins.
Throughout the season the Washington Capitals didn’t exactly have the most electric offense in the league. Managing to only put up an average of 2.66 goals per game, the offensive numbers weren’t what they normally are. However with that being said, I believe there is too much talent on the offensive side for them not to improve their regular season numbers. Even with Boston’s top defense Washington has stars that are hungry to go far in the playoffs such as former MVP Alexander Ovechkin, and young star Alexander Semin. With the team struggling to score goals during the regular season, the Capitals organization is looking for big things coming out of the “Alex’s”. Boston is no pushover though. With up and coming stars such as Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins offense was one of the top scoring offenses in the league. The Bruins with one of the most consistent offenses in the league had six players who were able to manage to score more 20 goals during the season. Despite the star power that Washington possesses I believe that Boston has the advantage as they don’t have to lean on one or two players to help score goals. With the high offensive potential that both teams possess, watch out for some high goal scoring games between the two.
Tim Thomas vs. Tomas Vokoun, scratch that. Tim Thomas vs. Michal Neuvirth, possibly. Tim Thomas vs. Braden Holtby? Most likely. Yes that’s right; the Capitals may have to turn to their rookie third string goalie Braden Holtby. With Tomas Vokoun going down late in the season due to a groin injury, the Capitals turned to backup goalie, Michal Neuvirth, however he also fell to injury against the Florida Panthers on April 5th, the Caps had to rely on rookie Braden Holtby. With lack of playoff experience between Neuvirth and Holtby the Bruins definitely hold the edge when it comes to goaltending which is going to be key in this series. With Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in the net for Boston, the Bruins are confident in their goaltending ability and with one of the top rated offenses, they are looking to feast on the lack of depth that the Capitals currently have at goalie.
Both of these teams are no strangers to playing in the playoffs. With both of these teams making the playoffs ever year since in the 07-08 season there is plenty of experience between the two teams. Even though the Bruins have been the more successful team in the playoffs the past five season, I don’t see the experience factor playing the role of favorite in this series as both of these two franchises are playoff regulars.
Going into the playoffs last season the Bruins had the worst power play in the league. This year it’s different. The team was able to significantly improve their power play from taking it to last in the league to 17th this season. The Capitals are entering the playoffs right behind Boston with the 18th ranked power play in the league. Even though statistics wise these two teams are almost identical while on power play, I like Washington in this battle as the star power up front and the sharpshooters on the blue line will be a little too much to handle for Boston.
With one of the best defenses in the league, it is easy to like Boston’s advantage in this category. The Capitals have had trouble on the penalty kill being ranked 21st in the league. The Bruins are just too good defensively and they will have their opportunity to show it.
Even though I gave Boston the edge for the majority of the categories, it will not be a cake walk for Boston. This will be a very tough fought series that will come down to the wire in most of the games. The Bruins need to make sure they can take care of business, because you don’t want to give players like Ovechkin, Semin, Green, and Backstrom more time to change the series. Though picking Boston in 5, look for the Capitals to pull out a second victory and stretch the series to 6 games.
Thanks For Reading!
Follow The Rat Pack on Twitter! Me: @justenrosenberg, Frank Rekas: @TheRatTrick Josh Luecht: @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin: @PatrickRattrick, Scott Mullin: @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez: @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis: @peejlewiz, Adam Reid: @AdamReid_, Gabby Kiger: @gabbykiger, Chrissy Parente: @Chrissaay44, and Amanda Land: @HockeyGirl2530. Also, please visit our Facebook Fan Page and like us! Share comments, photos, anything Panthers related!