Here are five things to watch when the series kicks off Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
How much impact will Zdeno Chara have in the series?
It has been well documented that the Bruins did not want to re-sign Chara this season, instead opting to go younger on their blue line. Now the former Bruins captain will begin a new Stanley Cup pursuit against his old team.
While there is much talk about how much Chara can help the Capitals understand the Bruins, he’s also a source of motivation for Washington.
“[He’s] a little bit father figure-ish,” John Carlson said. “But I just think he’s one of the most caring people I’ve ever met, too. He likes to check in with everybody. It’s just in his nature to be that way, I would say. It is a great asset to have, and everyone respects him, and certainly he treats them with so much respect as well.”
How will Washington’s goaltending situation play out?
The Capitals have not revealed their starting goaltender ahead of Game 1, but their options have dwindled to Vitek Vanecek and Craig Anderson. As of Friday, Ilya Samsonov was still unavailable because he remains on the NHL’s covid-19 protocols list. Friday was the 11th day Samsonov and Evgeny Kuznetsov have been in the coronavirus protocols. There is no timetable for their return.
Vanecek appears to have the edge to start the series with Samsonov out. The rookie is 21-10-14 this season with a 2.69 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He carried the team in the early stages of another coronavirus-related issue involving Samsonov, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov. Vanecek is 4-3-0 against the Bruins this season with a 2.86 goals against average.
Anderson is also an option if the Capitals want to try a different route later. He has made four appearances, with his previous start last Saturday. He has a 2.13 goals against average in his brief in-game action this season with a .915 save percentage.
How will the Capitals combat the Bruins’ ‘Perfection Line’?
One of the Bruins’ biggest strengths in recent seasons is their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. All three are explosive in their own right, but together they have been known to create problems for opponents. Combating the “Perfection Line” will be one of the keys for the Capitals.
When playing at even strength in seven games against the Capitals this season, the line has been on the ice for about 64 minutes and has scored nine goals and only allowed three, according to NaturalStatTrick.
“They have a lot of chemistry, they have played with each other for a lot of years, and they have had great success,” Carlson said. “They are a dangerous line, and they have been since they were put together.”
What will Alex Ovechkin’s impact be?
Ovechkin is “100 percent” healthy, according to the player and his coach. Ovechkin had missed seven of the previous eight games because of a lower-body injury before he played in the team’s season finale against Boston on Tuesday. Ovechkin skated 19:00 and recorded four shots on goal. He appeared to skate better as the game went on, and Coach Peter Laviolette said he has full confidence in him moving forward.
“Your big players are important,” Laviolette said. “We need him to be on point with his game; we need him to be healthy. Him playing the last game was to get him going. … He is back to healthy, and so I think that is a real positive for our team.”
While Ovechkin’s health will be closely monitored, so will the status of T.J. Oshie. The winger suffered a lower-body injury in the team’s penultimate regular season game and was not medically cleared as of Friday. He has been skating the past few days at the Capitals’ practice facility.
Will the Capitals be able to keep their emotions in check?
The Capitals and Bruins have played each other eight times this season, and there has been no shortage of heated, physical matchups. In multiple games, the two teams have not held back hits — or punches.
Tom Wilson probably will be thrust into the national spotlight again after he was suspended this season for boarding Boston’s Brandon Carlo. The first round will be the first time Carlo is back in a game against the Capitals.
Brenden Dillon said the team has talked about how some Boston players rile opponents and the importance of thinking before taking action.
“That’s a big thing in playoffs,” Nicklas Backstrom said of the team keeping its emotions in check. “… To be able to play a hard, tough game without too many penalties, that’s going to be key in this series. With all that’s happened before, you just have to put that aside and focus on what’s more important — and that’s scoring more goals than them.”
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