Boston-Washington Series Preview: Capitals Battle Bruins Twice In Three Games

Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals will face the Boston Bruins twice in the next three games, playing in the District on Thursday night and in Beantown on Sunday night. In between, they will visit the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

The Capitals and Bruins have split four games against one another, though both of the Capitals’ victories have been beyond regulation (a 4-3 overtime win in Washington on January 30 and a 2-1 shootout victory in Boston on March 3) while both of the Bruins’ wins have been in regulation.

Three of the next seven games for the Capitals will be against the Bruins. The two teams will tangle again in Boston on April 18 before wrapping up the regular season against each other in Washington on May 11. Both games this week can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.

Bruins

The Bruins will continue a three-game road trip on Thursday after beginning it with a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and open up a five-game homestand on Sunday. They will conclude their trip in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. The Bruins are 10-5-3 both at home and on the road, where they have won three straight, and they are 4-1-1 in their past six. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 at TD Garden.

The Bruins have fallen off since a 10-1-2 start to the season as they are 10-9-5 since and enter Thursday as the fourth seed in the East Division. Though, they had two games postponed last month due to a COVID-19 outbreak and have three games in hand on the Capitals, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins, the three teams ahead of them. The Bruins are 4-2-2 since returning from their COVID-19 pause to boost their cushion for fourth place by five points with two games in hand on the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

Forward Brad Marchand leads the Bruins with 18 goals, 27 points, and 45 points this season. The 32-year-old has four goals and eight points in his last three games and has gone scoreless in just eight of his 34 games this season. Forward David Pastrnak has posted 16 goals and 32 points in 29 games and two goals and five points during a three-game point streak. Center Patrice Bergeron’s 62.5% faceoff-winning percentage is tied for fifth in the NHL.

The Bruins’ average of 2.47 goals-against per game is the sixth-best in the NHL this season but their average of 2.75 goals-per-game is 17th. Their 24.1% power play efficiency ranks seventh and 88.7% penalty-killing rate is the league’s best. The Bruins’ average of 32.1 shots per game ranks fifth and their average of 27.6 shots-against per game is fourth. The team’s 56.1% faceoff-winning percentage is tops in the NHL.

The Bruins’ 52.83% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage ranks fifth while their 49.51% expected goals-for percentage is 18th. Their 49.78% scoring chances-for percentage is good for 18th and their 6.61% five-on-five shooting percentage is better than only the Nashville Predators (6.43%) and Buffalo Sabres (6.4%). Their .9167 five-on-five save percentage ranks 19th while their .983 PDO is tied for 27th.

Capitals

The Capitals come home from a five-game road trip in the New York Metropolitan area where they went 2-3-0. Three of their next five games will be at Capital One Arena, where they are 13-4-2 this season. The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their last 10 at home, where they have won three straight. They are 12-6-2 away from home and won four straight on the road prior to their five-game road trip.

The Capitals have slowed down a little lately as they are 5-4-0 since their season-high seven-game winning streak and a stretch where they went 14-2-1 in a span of 17 games ended. Their goals-against average has gone up lately as they have given up an average of 3.22 per game during this nine-game stretch. After falling 1-0 to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Islanders tied Washington for first place in the East Division as both teams are 25-10-4 this season.

Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 26 assists and 39 points in 39 games this season and has one assist in his last three games since a four-game point streak where he recorded a goal and four points ended. Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 19 goals this season lead the Capitals but the 35-year-old has points in just two of his last five, where he has recorded one goal and four points. The Capitals placed forward Richard Panik, who has been a healthy scratch for three of the past five games, on waivers on Wednesday.

The Capitals’ average of 3.33 goals-per-game only trails the Colorado Avalanche (3.61) and Tampa Bay Lightning (3.36) this season. Their average of 2.97 goals-against per game is tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 18th. The team’s 24% power-play efficiency ranks eighth and their 82.9% penalty-killing rate is seventh. Their average of 27.8 shots-per-game is only 27th but their average of 29.2 shots-against per game is good for 12th. The Capitals’ 49.1% faceoff-winning percentage is 21st.

The Capitals’ 48.87% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage this season ranks 17th while their 49.52% expected goals-for percentage is 18th. The team’s 49.6% scoring chances-for percentage is 17th while their 11.02% five-on-five shooting percentage and 1.024 PDO are tops in the NHL. The Capitals’ .914 five-on-five save percentage is the eighth-worst.

Goaltending Matchup

Bruins – Daniel Vladar, 23 (2-1-1, .922 save percentage, 2.25 goals-against average this season), and Jeremy Swayman, 22 (1-0-0, .952 save percentage, 2.01 goals-against average). Tuukka Rask (upper-body injury) and Jaroslav Halak (tested positive for COVID-19) are both expected to miss at least Thursday’s game. Rask, who is 8-4-2 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average this season and 3-11-7 with an .893 save percentage, a 3.03 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 22 career games against the Capitals, will accompany the Bruins on their road trip. Rask has made 46 saves on 51 shots (.902 save percentage) in two games against the Capitals this season, both losses. Both Vladar and Swayman have yet to face the Capitals in their young careers.

Capitals – Ilya Samsonov, 24 (9-2-1, .896 save percentage, 2.87 goals-against average, one shutout), and Vitek Vanecek, 25 (15-7-3, .911 save percentage, 2.64 goals-against average, one shutout). Vanecek is 2-2-0 with an .893 save percentage and a 3.28 goals-against average against the Bruins this season. Samsonov made three saves on four shots in a relief appearance, the only one he has made against the Bruins in his career, in a 7-3 loss at TD Garden on December 23, 2019, where he played 37:41.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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