Every playoff matchup will receive a once-over prior to puck drop this week, including Bourne’s prediction, explanation and final thought on each. He does not hate your team. He does not love your team. He is just talking hockey.
Season matchup: Washington had the advantage, 3-1-0
Who wins the series: The Bruins
How many games: 7
Please do explain:
Somewhere along the line, the Bruins lost their lustre. Granted, heading into last year’s playoffs they didn’t have a ton of it either, but from their historic run during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs to oh, about the Tim Thomas decided not to go to the White House, they looked damn near unbeatable (and that’s not me saying the White House thing mattered a lick, I’m just saying that’s when the Bruins had their mystique, and when they lost it).
Still, let’s not forget that they retain their title as The Defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. They have one of the best defenders in the NHL (if not thee) in Zdeno Chara. They have one of the best goalies in the League in Tim Thomas. They’re the type of physical team that can make skilled teams wither. And they still have one of the deepest rosters in the League.
Their biggest strength is that their best offensive players are a pain in the ass to play. Once you get past Tyler Seguin’s name on their top scoring list, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are all painfully frustrating to battle. They still have those tools.
A major problem with them this year is that they’re without arguably their best offensive player (who’s also tough to play) in Nathan Horton, Tim Thomas has regressed closer to average than great, and teams see them coming this year.
Combine those three things (and add in the short off-season) with the fact that the Caps will have their four main horses healthy – Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin – something that hasn’t happened 10 times this year, and this series could be closer than people think.
All reports on Braden Holtby say that confidence isn’t an issue, and he’s the type of guy who believes he can succeed at the NHL level. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Capitals wake up and start playing like the team we expected them to be this season. And if Boston wants to get physical, well, the Capitals are the biggest team in both height and weight in the NHL. They should be able to hang.
When the dust settles though, I still think Boston finds a way to get it done. They’ve been there before and know they have the ability to eek out close series’, while all Washington has been told for years is that they don’t.
Thing I’m excited to see:
A) How Tim Thomas plays.
This whole constantly-walking-away-from-interviews thing has made him feel like a bit of a bad guy, when really he’s just an opinionated dude. Still, the spotlight is shining brighter on him than ever, and the Caps can create offense - can he shut the door?
And B) If a healthy Capitals team can find their stride under the hard-nosed Dale Hunter.
If they can’t, it’s not too hard to imagine this one ending in five.
While the “things I’m excited to see” points will affect the outcome, Braden Holtby can’t start out game one by letting in a couple softies. Awarding Boston free wins will make it a hopeless situation for the Caps.