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Saturday, April 8, 2017

B's Lose 3-1 to Caps in Regular Season Finale, Await Either Washington or Ottawa in 1st Round

If the Capitals (55-18-8) don't finally win their first-ever Stanley Cup this summer, they might never get it done. That mildly hot take is a tad sarcastic but come on, does Washington have any real weaknesses? In a game that meant absolutely nothing to the Caps but plenty to the Bruins (44-31-7), Washington still managed to cruise to an easy as pie 3-1 win this afternoon at TD Garden. Boston dropped its last two regular season games so they lost any control over whether they'll finish in third-place in the Atlantic Division or as the second Wild Card (and a certain death penalty vs. Washington). All they can hope is that Toronto (39-26-15) earns no more than two total points in their final two games: vs. Pittsburgh (50-19-11) later tonight and then they host reeling Columbus (49-24-8) to wrap things up tomorrow night.

The B's also suffered what could be another significant injury to their defense as Brandon Carlo (upper-body injury) left in the first period and never returned after a hit by Alex Ovechkin then awkward fall to the ice. Boston has termed defenseman Torey Krug "day-to-day" after he left Thursday's shootout loss to the Senators (44-27-10) but from all accounts, that is being generous since he has a significant right knee injury. Anton Khudobin (21 saves) played for the first two periods before departing because "he didn't feel well." Haha was he hanging out with all the Red Sox that are currently knocked out by the bird flu? BU's Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut today since PC's Noel Acciari is also out with an upper-body injury. JFK centered the third line for Boston but did barely anything (1 blocked shot, 1-1 on faceoffs in just 8:25 of ice time) of note.

Washington is so skilled and loaded at seemingly every position (keep in mind that defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Braden Holtby both sat out) that many of their goals resemble something you do more frequently in a video game than actually experience in real life. Marcus Johansson (24th goal of the season) scored on a basic give-and-go with Justin Williams as they split Boston's tattered defense at 15:39 for a 1-0 Caps lead. Johansson has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in his last nine games.

The second period had some nastiness as Colin Miller's legs took out Tom Wilson's legs which caused Jay Beagle to take a run at Miller. It was a cheap play that could have resulted in a serious injury since Miller was in a vulnerable position (laying on the ice against the boards) and I wouldn't be shocked if Wilson has a hearing with the league about it. Speaking of which, this was Marchand's second game of his suspension so he is free to play starting in Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Washington has swept Boston the last three seasons (7-0-2) and outscored them 30-11 in the process. The only time that the B's were able to beat backup Philipp Grubauer (21 saves) is when Colin Miller put the puck in a millisecond before Drew Stafford crashed into the net (knocking it off its moorings). The goal was reviewed but stood up, Miller's sixth goal of the season assisted by Stafford.

The tie was short-lived (for 56 seconds) as former BU star Kevin Shattenkirk one-timed a pass from Niklas Backstrom (who leads the NHL in helpers) and Ovechkin at 16:09. Shattenkirk added another goal at 17:31 but it was overturned after Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy used his coach's challenge for goalie interference. It hardly mattered to the Capitals though as they made it 3-1 at 19:10 when Williams completed a pretty passing sequence around multiple helpless Bruins with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt. Tuukka Rask (8 saves) started the third period and that's about all we'll ever say about that forgettable frame. Now all we can do is wait until possibly tomorrow night (the last day of the regular season) for all the scenarios to unfold. The B's have no shot if they face the Caps but a matchup with the Senators is infinitely more winnable despite the fact that Ottawa also swept Boston during this campaign.

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