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Matchups could determine if Bruins-Caps opens up

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Matchups could determine if Bruins-Caps opens up
Washington has the last change with the series shifting to Verizon Center for Games 3 and 4, creating the possibility for coach Dale Hunter to keep his stars away more from Boston's top defenders.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals looked a lot like Game 1, both in style of play and tactics from both sides.

Now that the series has shifted from TD Garden to Verizon Center, will Game 3 on Monday night be any different?

"Seeing two games that were almost identical -- it is pretty tough to do it for a third time," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Those games were tight-checking, a lot of hits, and the crowd was pretty hostile. I think the chances of us seeing a third one in a row like that are pretty slim. It will probably be a little more wide-open and teams will figure it out a little more offensively. We're happy with the way that went and another game like that would be just great for us."

"You get the last change, so you get a little more [control]. With Chara, it is easy to change a D. If you lose the draw, you can still change. It is one of those things that [Ovechkin] is battling through it and playing hard, and that is what we need from him." -- Capitals coach Dale Hunter

There were some defined matchups in the first two games. Boston's line centered by Patrice Bergeron and top defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were on the ice a lot against Washington's trio that features captain Alex Ovechkin, while the lines featuring David Krejci and Nicklas Backstrom saw a lot of each other as well.

As the home coach, Dale Hunter will have the last change and could manipulate those matchups more should he choose. Hunter conceded that avoiding a defenseman like Chara is tough to do, because it is so easy for him to hop on the ice after a faceoff, but getting Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer away from Bergeron, who could win the Selke Trophy in a couple months, might help that trio find some more offense.

It is also possible Hunter would leave that matchup alone, and bank on Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson being better than the Krejci line and Boston's second defense pairing of Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk.

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"Maybe a little bit -- maybe we will get our forward lines out against who the coaches want a little bit more," Alzner said. "On D, we are pretty much just rotating. They pretty much have two first lines, so you pretty much just get out with whoever you get out against and maybe change coming up the ice. It won't be the most intense matching game where every time you have to play against a certain line. It should be more free-flowing."

Added Hunter: "You get the last change, so you get a little more [control]. With Chara, it is easy to change a D. If you lose the draw, you can still change. It is one of those things that [Ovechkin] is battling through it and playing hard, and that is what we need from him."

Alzner and John Carlson saw more time at even strength against the Krejci line, while Mike Green and Roman Hamrlik went up against the Bergeron unit. While Alzner and Carlson have proven to be a quality shutdown pairing in the past, having Green and Hamrlik help stifle Boston's most productive line this season -- and the third most-productive trio together at even strength in the NHL in 2011-12 -- has been a big plus for the Capitals to this point.

One of Boston's advantages coming into the series was its third line, and Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot have both of the Bruins' goals. Both came with Washington's third defensive pairing, Dennis Wideman and Jeff Schultz, on the ice.

That is this series in brief to this point -- Washington's top two lines have outscored Boston's 2-0, but the Bruins have countered with a 2-0 advantage from the role players. The team that can get the other group going, whether it is Boston's top six or Washington's bottom six, could be the biggest difference in Game 3.

Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions