Photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference and the last two Eastern Conference Champions clash for the first time this season when the Washington Capitals visit the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday night. Before the Bruins beat the Capitals by a score of 1-0 at Capital One Arena the last time the two teams met on February 3, the Capitals had a 14-game winning streak over the Bruins, including a 4-2 win in their last visit to TD Garden on January 10. Action from Boston can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Capitals look to bounce back from their most abysmal performance of the season, a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at home on Friday. Before last night’s loss, the Capitals were on a 13-game point streak, where they went 11-0-2, and won six of their last seven games. The Capitals lead the St. Louis Blues by three points for the league-lead in points heading into Saturday night, though the Blues have a game in hand on them.
Defenseman John Carlson’s 31 points are tied with Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the fourth-most in the NHL this season, while his 23 assists are tied with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid for the second-most, three behind Oilers center Leon Draisaitl for the league-lead. He also leads the Capitals with a +13 rating and is riding a five-game point streak, where he has tallied a goal and eight points. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored in the Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the Canadiens on Friday, leads the Capitals with 14 goals, which is tied for the third-most in the league.
The Capitals’ 79 goals this season are 10 more than anyone else in the NHL while their average of 3.76 goals-per-game is second, slightly behind the Nashville Predators (3.78). Their 23.9% power-play efficiency is the eighth-best in the league as is their 85.1% penalty-killing rate.
The Capitals recalled forward Travis Boyd and goaltender Vitek Vanecek from the AHL’s Hershey Bears and assigned goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Tyler Lewington to the farm team on Saturday in an effort to get under the NHL salary cap. With center Nic Dowd and forward Carl Hagelin, who have missed the last one and four games, respectively, out with upper-body injuries, Boyd will slide on the fourth-line after the Capitals dressed 11 forwards against the Canadiens.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 9-1-3 with a .903 save percentage and a 3.06 goals-against average in 14 games this season, will start for the Capitals after sitting against the Canadiens on Friday. In 19 career games against the Bruins, the 30-year old is 16-3-0 (tied for second-most wins against a single opponent – New Jersey Devils, 17) with a .946 save percentage (highest), a 1.80 goals-against average (second-lowest – Canadiens, 1.67), and four shutouts (second-most – Devils, five). He made 39 saves in the Capitals’ 4-2 win in Boston on January 10.
After falling to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Bruins lead the Atlantic Division with 28 points and lead the league with a +18 goal differential. After a hot start, they have gone 1-2-2 in their past five games after a 10-game point-streak, where they went 8-0-2. Like the Capitals, the Bruins will play their second game in as many nights after beating the Maple Leafs by a score of 4-2 on Friday night in Toronto.
Pastrnak’s 16 goals this season are the most in the league while his 31 points are one behind forward Brad Marchand for the team lead. Marchand leads the Bruins with 19 assists and is second with a +11 rating only behind captain Zdeno Chara (+13). Pastrnak has cooled off a bit as of late as he’s been held to only two points (both goals) in his last five games. Marchand is riding a three-game point streak, where he’s tallied three goals and four points including a two-goal performance against the Maple Leafs on Friday.
The Bruins’ average of 3.58 goals-per-game is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the fourth-highest in the NHL while their average of 2.47 goals-against per game is the fourth-lowest. Their power-play enters Saturday night as the third-best unit in the league, clicking at a 29.5% efficiency.
The Bruins didn’t make a ton of changes in the offseason after coming up just short of the ultimate goal. Former Capitals forward Marcus Johansson was their biggest loss after he signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres in free agency. Fourth-line center Noel Acciari, who signed a three-year contract that carries a cap hit of $1.67 million annually with the Florida Panthers, also left via free agency. The only offseason additions made by the club were center Par Lindholm, who has just a goal and a +2 rating in 10 games this season, and forward Brett Ritchie (out Saturday with a lower-body injury), who has posted two goals, three points, and a -1 rating in 13 games.
Defenseman Torey Krug (upper-body), forward Jake DeBrusk (lower-body), and forward David Backes (upper-body) are all out against the Capitals due to injury.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who is 4-1-2 with a .918 save percentage, a 2.68 goals-against average, and one shutout this season, will start for the Bruins after Tuukka Rask made 29 saves in their 4-2 win in Toronto on Friday night. The 34-year old is 9-10-0 with a .900 save percentage, a 2.80 goals-against average, and one shutout in his career against the Capitals. He made 18 saves in his lone start against the Capitals last season, which came in the 4-2 loss on January 10.
- Ovechkin’s 105 shots this season lead the NHL.
- Carlson ranks fifth in the NHL in ice time per game (25:21). He has led the Capitals in ice time in 20 of their 21 games.
- The Capitals lead the NHL in road wins (9) this season, have earned a point in their last eight road games (7-0-1), and hold a record of 104-53-18 on the road over the last five seasons and lead the NHL in wins and points (226) during that span.
- The Capitals won four-straight road games in overtime (Oct. 25 at Vancouver Canucks through Nov. 13 at Philadelphia Flyers), the second time in NHL history this has occurred (Canucks: four road overtime wins, Jan. 10-Feb. 7, 2012).
- The Capitals are 3-1-1 in games where they trail after the first period and 2-1-0 in games where they trail after the second period.
By Harrison Brown