BOSTON – After he was limited to just one shot on goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Boston on Thursday, Washington star forward Alexander Ovechkin’s task in the second game is to find more room to work against the Bruins’ defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
If Ovechkin is looking for a little relief from his coach manipulating the matchups, Dale Hunter doesn’t sound like a man who plans to back away from allowing that marquee showdown to continue through Game 2 on Saturday and beyond.
“You can mix around lines, but pretty much even strength it was an even battle both ways through the whole thing,” Hunter said in reference to the Bruins’ 1-0 win in Game 1. “Until an overtime goal, it was pretty much even at even strength. Power-play time, they did have some more scoring chances because they had more power -play time. But as far as even strength, it was pretty even out there.”
The Capitals know that Ovechkin can’t beat the Bruins on his own, so his linemates are going to try to find way to aid the sniper’s cause.
“There’s things we can do. We know that he’s going to be keyed on, especially [by] Chara. He’s going to try to come across the ice a lot and pinch Alex,” center Brooks Laich said. “We can try to talk to him, we can try and get our bodies in the way. But when we get the puck, we have to skate. If we move the puck quick before they’re able to adjust their defense, whether it’s from the wing to the middle to the other wing or diagonal all the way, there’s some things we’re going to have to try to do.”
BOSTON – An ineffective power play was maybe the only thing standing between the Boston Bruins and an easier road to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
Boston improved against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, but still finished the 2011 postseason just 10-for-88. Against Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday, the Bruins’ power play was 0-for-4, a reminder of the 0-for-21 Boston compiled in last year’s first round against Montreal.
Rich Peverley had maybe the best two scoring chances during the Bruins’ man-advantages, and they both came on the same sequence. He sees room for improvement heading into Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday.
“We definitely had chances, but I think quality chances, Grade-A chances, we definitely have to improve on,” Peverley said a couple hours before puck drop. “We’ve got to have a net-front presence, and if he’s [goaltender Braden Holtby] coming out and challenging, we’ve got to have a guy in his face.”
BOSTON – Somewhat lost in Braden Holtby’s 29-save performance in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut Thursday was the roughing penalty the rookie goaltender was called for against Boston center Chris Kelly.
Holtby and the Washington Capitals killed the penalty but when on to lose the game, 1-0, on a Kelly overtime goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden. However, the message Holtby sent about not trespassing on his territory might be beneficial as the series that continues Saturday goes on.
“That’s my game. That’s where I like to [be]. It’s my crease,” said Holtby, who conceded he shouldn’t have taken the penalty. “I don’t really like to let anyone in there because I want to fight as hard as I can to find the puck and to make saves.”
Holtby’s always been a feisty goaltender, according to coach Dale Hunter. And that the penalty occurred in the same crease Boston goaltender Tim Thomas decked Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the Stanley Cup Final last year was not lost on the 22-year-old netminder.
“It was funny actually, when I was at home [last June], my buddies and stuff were saying that that was a play that I would make,” Holtby said. “So it’s good to see and it’s a good competitive game out there.”
BOSTON – The stiches above Marcus Johansson’s left cheek tell only part of the story.
The Washington Capitals were credited with 22 blocked shots in their 1-0 overtime loss to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday night. And the notches in Johansson’s face were the result of one of his two big blocks.
“You just try to stay in the shooting lane, and sometimes you have bad luck, and the puck came high a couple times,” Johansson said after the Capitals practiced at TD Garden on Friday in preparation for Game 2 on Saturday. “But right now it’s just a matter of blocking a shot and it’s not that bad. It hurts a little but it’s OK.”
Washington was ninth in the League in total blocked shots during the regular season. But the commitment to risking life and limb was part of an overall defensive improvement that pushed the Capitals into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season.
“We’ve been sacrificing a lot down the stretch here,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “We blocked a lot of shots. We know it hurts and stuff, but the guys are doing it to save some of the shots on net. It’s a sacrifice by the guys.”
He’s also the team’s “designated shopper” and one of the caretakers of the team’s excellent chemistry.
It was Ference’s eBay shopping that produced last year’s atrocious-looking Bruins jacket that the team handed out to the player of the game after every postseason win en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. This year, Ference went to a local hardware store and purchased a 2-pound metal chain.
“Earlier in the year we talked about, when things weren’t going so great – a lot of teams probably could say it – but we have our success when everybody’s going and doing their role, so we had talked about not being a weak link and having a lot of pride,” Ference said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden Friday. “Our guys kind of thrive on that. You know we have a lot of proud guys in this room. So it’s just kind of from that and being goofy. Not necessarily trying replicate the jacket but it’s kind of a fun thing to do after games.”
Chris Kelly, who scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday, was the first winner of the chain. Kelly will be responsible for awarding it to the winner after Boston’s next victory. Game 2 of the series is Saturday at the Garden.
The chain also has a padlock on it with a Bruins spoked-B logo that Ference engraved himself with a kit in five minutes. The plan is to put a notch in the lock after every playoff win. Last season, as the playoff run went longer and longer, the jacket took on added meaning – first with Nathan Horton returning while injured to award it to Rich Peverley, and then with the Bruins giving it to the retiring Mark Recchi as a parting gift after the championship run.
Regardless of how the Bruins fare this postseason, the chain will be another representation of the Bruins’ unity and ability to not take things too seriously.
“It’s not like you want to put too much significance on fun things like that. They’re fun, kind of goofy things to do,” Ference said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s like one of those ingredients that goes into having a good environment to work in. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or business, I mean employees that have fun and enjoy goofing around and don’t take themselves so seriously, I think we found a lot of success in that. Even with our success last year, I think that we’d like to think that we take some pride in remaining somewhat true to our roots and kind of what’s the sport’s all about. I think that once you lose that, you kind of lose the soul of what hockey is pretty proud of.”
BOSTON – An afterthought in terms of the Boston Bruins’ lineup a year ago, forward Tyler Seguin is heading into his second Stanley Cup Playoffs as a focal point.
As an NHL sophomore, Seguin led the Bruins in goals (29) and points (67) during the 2011-12 regular season. Still, the 20-year-old has some of the feelings of a less-important player.
“It’s still kind of like even during the pregame skate there, I’m still thinking my head ‘maybe I won’t even play tonight; maybe I’ll get scratched.’ Just from last year and obviously it was a year ago but it really doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. It’s nice to be in different shoes this time around,” Seguin said Thursday after the Bruins’ morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington.
Seguin admitted he slept better Wednesday night than he did last year on the eve of the postseason. And he’s better prepared to contribute this season after playing a small part – three goals in two games of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay – of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship drive.
“It’s almost a night-and-day difference from going into the playoffs last year to going into the playoff this year,” he said. “It’s just the whole ride that we went on and seeing everything that I saw both on the ice and off the ice, it just makes me a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident.”
BOSTON – All the days of hype are through and it’s time for Braden Holtby to face the reality.
The Washington Capitals rookie goaltender is going to be the starter in net for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday night.
After playing in six of the nine games he dressed for during Washington’s late-season push for a playoff spot, Holtby is trying to just keep everything about his preparation consistent prior to his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.
“Not much, I’m just trying to go about my usual ways. If you start changing things up, you get too wrapped up in everything. I just want to go have fun,” said Holtby after his team’s morning skate.
Coach Dale Hunter said there’s not much he can say to Holtby to prepare the 22-year-old.
“He’s been kind of in the fire for the last two or three weeks here playing some tough games. So you know he’s a confident kid and you know he can’t wait to play,” Hunter said.
Center Jay Beagle didn’t skate, but according to Hunter it was an optional skate. Injured goaltender Michal Neuvirth was on the ice but he doesn’t figure to dress.
BOSTON – Although Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday morning he would dress 22 skaters for his team’s pregame warmup and then make his lineup decisions, all signs have pointed toward the return of Johnny Boychuk to Boston’s lineup against Washington for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden.
Boychuk skated on a pair with Andrew Ference during the morning skate, after he practiced three consecutive days in preparation for the playoffs. The veteran blueliner has been out since he sprained his knee in a game April 3.
While Boychuk should be back, Adam McQuaid remains out with an upper-body injury. That leaves Greg Zanon and Joe Corvo as Boston’s third pair. Julien is certain the Bruins can overcome McQuaid’s absence.
“I feel very confident. Everyone that we have here is very capable of playing ... they’ve all done a great job, so if anything I feel extremely confident," Julien said. "I think [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] did a great job of solidifying that position for us, because it’s position that we needed to solidify and the two guys he brought on in – you look at Zanon and [Mike] Mottau have both played extremely well for us in the games that they’ve played.”
Julien will also have a decision to make up front because the Bruins have 13 healthy forwards. Based on practices, that choice seems to be between Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron.
WILMINGTON, Mass. – The announcement Wednesday that forward Nathan Horton would not be returning to the Boston Bruins during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs due to post-concussion symptoms means the Bruins will start the playoffs with Rich Peverley as the team's first-line right wing.
Since returning from a 19-game absence March 25 due to a knee sprain, Peverley had been rotating with Tyler Seguin at Horton's old spot alongside left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci. Through three days of practice, including Wednesday's workout here at Ristuccia Arena, Peverley consistently was on Krejci's right. He's expected to start in that position for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington Thursday at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
Peverley had two goals and four points in the final eight games of the regular season as he tried to get back to feeling like himself before the playoffs. He said it took five or six games, but now he's at full strength.
"I feel like the last two games of the season I really felt like I was skating a lot better. My timing feels good. I feel 100 percent," said Peverley, who finished the season with 11 goals and 42 points in 57 games.
Krejci's confident his chemistry, which has been so strong with Lucic for two seasons now, can continue to improve with Peverley.
"When [Horton's] on my line, it's more like two power forwards and one set-up man," said Krejci. "Now with [Peverley] there it's kind of like two set-up men and one power forward. So, you know, me and him [Peverley], we've got to realize that if one guy has the puck on his stick, the other guy's got to become a power forward. That's what we've got to do and I think that's going to be the key to score goals for our line."
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins' defense corps might be close to whole when they host Washington Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) at TD Garden for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
Johnny Boychuk practiced Wednesday for the third straight day in his attempt to return from a knee injury that occurred April 3 in a collision with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham. Boychuk missed Boston's last two regular-season games.
"Obviously, we have an opportunity maybe to make a decision [Thursday]," Bruins coach Claude Julien said following the workout here at Ristuccia Arena. "Again, specifying opportunity, not a 100-percenter. But he's feeling fairly good, so we want to remain optimistic with him."
Boychuk started the week a bit ahead of schedule, as he wasn't supposed to take part in battle drills on his first day on the ice Monday. However, he competed in those drills and emerged unscathed.
The news wasn't as positive for fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left Boston's April 5 game with an upper-body injury and then missed the regular-season finale. He has yet to skate since then and Julien said McQuaid would be out for Game 1.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has been out since March 3 with an abdominal/groin injury, practiced for a third straight day Wednesday. He started taking shots Monday. Julien said that as of Wednesday afternoon he didn't expect to have Rask dress against the Capitals, but that could change Thursday.
I'm here to develop a winning culture and a winning team. There is a bright future ahead of this team. A lot of young, great hockey players here and on the way … a fan base that's passionate about the game of hockey.
— Dan Bylsma after being introduced as new coach of the Buffalo Sabres