Thursday, April 12, 2012
There Is Nothing Better In The World Than The NHL Playoffs
Last season's run to the Stanley Cup by the Boston Bruins, was easily one of the most enjoyable sports moments in my lifetime. The beautiful part is that the B's are in good position to accomplish what hasn't been done since 1996 and 1997 (back-to-back titles by the Red Wings). The B's begin their quarterfinal series tonight at TD Garden vs. the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m., NESN).
Throw out the regular season series (the Caps were 2-1-1) because when you look at these teams, the Bruins have a much deeper squad. Most importantly, the playoffs are all about goaltending and defense, two things that Bruins head coach Claude Julien is renowned for. The biggest advantage the Black and Gold possess against the Capitals is in net: Tim Thomas (last season's Conn Smythe winner) against 22-year-old Braden Holtby. Washington is down to its third-string goaltender due to injuries.
Washington's best hope to pull off the upset against the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference is to make it a high-scoring, up and down series. Alex Ovechkin had a down season (38 goals, 27 assists) but this is the same guy that has put up 60+ and 50+ goals seasons in the past. He's not a one-man show either with players like Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom also on the top two lines for the Caps.
Everybody knows that Ovi will get a big dose of Zdeno Chara, advantage Bruins. The Capitals' defense is also suspect with former Bruins whipping boy Dennis Wideman being counted on as one of their top defensemen.
Boston would help themselves by getting off to a better start then they did last season vs. Montreal: losing the first two at home. If the B's want to make another deep playoff run, it's doubtful that they can survive another grind of three seven-game series. When you face a beatable opponent like this, you need to take advantage and get them out in four or five games. That gives you the most possible rest before you play better teams.
I'm not looking past Washington; they've flopped the last few years in the playoffs (why Bruce Boudreau was fired) but this time all the pressure is on the other team rather than them. They have plenty of top-end talent and oftentimes, your stars carry you in the playoffs.
For the Bruins, they just need to stick to the gameplan: roll four lines, don't put Washington on the power-play too much, put shots on Holtby and use the home energy and emotion to their advantage.
Adam McQuaid is out for Game 1 and Johnny Boychuk is a game-time decision for Boston.
With mostly the same team from last season (minus Nathan Horton who's out for the playoffs) except for Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, the B's have a wonderful opportunity in front of them. Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Dennis Seidenberg, Brad Marchand, Andrew Ference and Co. will all be expected to play like they did last spring. We assume that Chara will be a rock and Thomas should be solid, it's up to the top goal-scorers and other defensemen to carry their weight as well.