BOSTON — The Bruins will host the league’s top team on Saturday night when they welcome the Washington Capitals to TD Garden.
After a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks — one of the top teams in the Western Conference — on Thursday, the Bruins are looking to follow up that strong performance.
Two wins against top of the NHL’s best teams? That would not be a bad way to finish off a homestand.
“I think, before you know it, the season will be over — there’s not that many games left, so we need to assert ourselves every game,” Head Coach Claude Julien said pregame on Saturday.
“So it’s not so much what [a win] means, more than what we need to do here, and we need to, again, bring our A-game and understand that we have to play a lot like we did the other night — be strong in all areas in order to beat good teams like Washington.”
“We know they’ve given us their fair share of problems in the past and we have to kind of push that aside and look at tonight and go in there with an optimistic and determined outlook.”
The Bruins have not defeated the Washington Capitals since March 2014 and have lost five straight since that time. That stretch includes two losses this season, along with three losses in 2014-15 (in which the Bruins were shut out every time).
This is the third and final meeting between these teams this season.
Despite the recent record, the Bruins don’t believe there are any mental hurdles to overcome in facing the Capitals.
“We’re not going to do anything different tonight than we did last game and the game before as far as our preparation is concerned,” said Julien.
“I think the biggest thing is your approach to the game,” he added. “Are the guys ready to play hard like they did the other night? It’s more about that than anything else.”
“You know, when you say this team has given us some issues; well, I don’t think we’ve played our best against them either, and this is an opportunity tonight to play better.”
In the Bruins’ 4-2 win over Chicago, they showed commitment in all three zones. They played with pace, and kept the the Hawks’ top players from getting time and space.
“It should be a challenge for us. Everybody welcomes challenges in this locker room,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “I think we would love to score more on those guys, because we’ve had troubles in the past putting the puck in the net, but again, our most important thing is just keeping the puck out of our net and we’ll have a chance to win.”
The Bruins could be facing the Caps’ backup goaltender Phillipp Grubauer between the pipes as they come into TD Garden on the second leg of a back-to-back. Braden Holtby was in goal on Friday night, when Washington was edged 3-2 by the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center in D.C.
“We’re going to have to continue getting pucks in and getting shots quick from up top,” said Jimmy Hayes. “Getting down on net and having traffic around the net, no matter who’s in net.”
“It’s about trying to make it difficult for that goaltender and that’s going to be key for our game.”
The Bruins will also have to roll four lines again, like they did against Chicago.
Washington’s new-look fourth line after the trade deadline with new addition Daniel Winnik, Mike Richards and Jay Beagle had a strong night against New York.
The Bruins’ newly put together fourth line of Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari and Landon Ferraro has played with pace in its first two games as a trio, and will need to remain consistent.
“You’re excited to play these games — that’s where it’s fun,” said Ferraro. “It’s a good challenge. We answered well last time and we’re happy with how we played, especially coming at home.”
“Coming into tonight, they’ve got a lot of firepower again… so you just have to keep it simple, try and be crisp with your passes and make sure that you’re not turning the puck over. That’s where you’ve got to be extra careful.”
The Capitals finished the final 40 minutes strong against New York after falling down 2-0. The Bruins have been starting strong — with Patrice Bergeron scoring just 1:18 into the game against Chicago — and will need to continue that trend if they want to pull out two points and climb up the tight standings.
“It would give us a lot of confidence, being able to put forth the same effort as we did last game, which was playing consistent throughout 60 minutes,” said Seidenberg. “We have to come out ready against a very good offensive team that’s won so many games this year — so it will be a tough task.”
Optional Pregame Skate
The Bruins held an optional pregame skate at TD Garden on Saturday morning. Stay tuned to the Bruins’ official Twitter account @NHLBruins for lines and defense pairs during warmups at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).