Gametime: 3:00 EST TV: NBC
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Boston leads 1-0
You don't need much of a game preview for this one, we all know what is at stake. (in case you do, here's Vog's game preview)
The Washington Capitals look to even the series with the Boston Bruins Saturday afternoon at TD Garden before heading back to Washington for game's three and four. With a victory, the Caps would seize home-ice advantage in a best-of-five series. Lose, and be forced to win four of the next five games.
Simply put, if Braden Holtby plays the rest of this series like Thursday, there is a good chance the Capitals move on to the second round. While he was nearly perfect stopping 29 shots in a game one 1-0 overtime loss, the Caps need to figure out a way to find the back of the net against Bruins' netminder Tim Thomas.
Here are some minor changes that Capitals 101 feels Dale Hunter should make in game two.
Get Joel Ward on the ice, a lot. Including the power play.
Ward logged a team-low 9:21 of ice-time in 12 shifts in Thursday's loss. Thing is, Ward was one of the best skaters on the ice, for both teams. He tied for second on the team with two shots (one more than Alex Ovechkin), and seemingly won every single battle along the boards.
It wasn't just a fluke last year; Ward really does step his game up in the playoffs. It was clearly evident that Ward was unwilling to lose a one-on-one battle, something that was missing during the regular season. He created a few chances by getting to the front of the net, as well.
Now that he has seen what Ward can do, Dale Hunter needs to give number 42 more opportunities. This would mean putting Ward on the third line for more even-strength ice-time, and Ward is an excellent defender that can thrive on the checking line. Also, Hunter should let Ward have an opportunity on the second power-play unit. His gritty style is exactly what the Capitals need in front of Tim Thomas to jumpstart the slumping power play.
Put Jason Chimera on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich.
Plain and simple, the Caps' first line needs to figure out a way to divert some attention away from Ovechkin. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were in his mug the entire night, and Troy Brouwer (1 goal in 20 games) is not the man who is going to capitalize. By putting Chimera on the first line, it makes the line more dangerous in a few different ways.
Most importantly, it adds another serious scoring threat to the group. Perhaps just as important, Chimera's speed is the best facet of his game. The Bruins' defenders weren't allowing Ovechkin any space to go up the left wing without obstacles the entire way. With the speed of Chimera, it would force the Boston defense to spread out and be aware of any long stretch-passes. It also creates more space for Ovechkin.
If Brooks Laich is struggling on face-offs again, mix in Nicklas Backstrom on the first line.
While Brooksy did a great job defensively, Patrice Bergeron made mincemeat of him at the dot Thursday night. Laich won just 29.6% of his face-offs, going 7-for-26 in the circle. That's not exactly the recipe to maximize Ovechkin's offensive possessions. If Bergeron is having his way with Laich again on Saturday, Hunter should mix in Backstrom on the top line. Nicky is excellent in the circle, and it would give him a few opportunities to play alongside Ovechkin. It would mess with the mind of Claude Julien, too.
Rock The Red!
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Braden Holtby, Brooks Laich, Dale Hunter, Dennis Seidenberg, Hockey, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, NHL, Nicklas Backstrom, Tim Thomas, Washington, Washington Capitals, Zdeno Chara