Thursday, April 12, 2012

Caps - Bruins Game 1 Preview

As usual with these things, I am cutting it a little close to game time here, so I'll keep it brief.

The Caps took the regular seasons series 3-1, including a 5-3 win that saw Mathieu Perreault get his first career hat trick. It was one of only nine times that the Capitals scored five or more goals, including a 5-4 OT win against Anaheim. Oh, and that was a game where Ovechkin, Green, and Backstrom were all suspended or injured. Tonight, of course, all of the "Young Guns" will be healthy and in the game. This will be the first time that Boston has had to face such a scenario.

Braden Holtby's first NHL appearance was against the Boston, making four saves on four shots in 10:09 of ice time on November 5, 2010. It is only fitting that his first NHL playoff appearance would be against the same team. The kid has amazing talent, and in limited appearances has posted a record of 14-4-3 with three shutouts since last season. Skilled rookie goalies are nothing to sneeze at in the playoffs, as quite a few luminaries have gone on to make their mark in the league. He has played well when called upon in the past, the team has expressed the utmost faith in him, and I join them.

Of course, the Caps are playing on the road. This is the playoffs. The Bruins are the defending Cup champs, and have been playing great hockey down the stretch. All-star players Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara are two of the most formidable names for offensive-minded players, and this team knows how to win. They are a very physical team, and they will have no problem throwing their weight around tonight now that the league has pretty much OK'd everything.

Like I say, the playoffs are all about matchups. As little faith as I have had in this team for the past year, I absolutely believe that they can and will win this series... so long as Hunter doesn't coach like a fool. It's nice that he has been giving ice time to Jay Beagle, a very hard-working player that has endeared himself to many a Caps faithful over the years. Keith Aucoin has also been doing fairly well with increasing responsibility after years languishing in the AHL as one of that league's top offensive players. But to play them at all, barring injury, in the playoffs is simply a laughable notion when you have Jeff Halpern and Mike Knuble sitting on the bench instead of those two guys. If both of them are healthy and on the bench, the Caps lose this series, and rightfully so. They are currently both expected to be scratches. There is no reason to sugar coat this: benching them is absolutely moronic. It's how you lose games and cost people their jobs. Halpern + Knuble = a win tonight and a series win in six. If they don't get ice time, and the remarkably less skilled and experienced players get their spots, the Caps lose tonight and the series in no more than five. It won't be the goaltending, it won't be the system, it will be the coach making bone-headed, stupid, moronic moves that only...well, nobody who should be coaching at this level would make this mistake. So here's hoping that Hunter either gets his head on straight or that the current lineup plays above the abilities of the bottom six.

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