The regular season has officially ended for the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. The two teams will next meet on Saturday, May 15 for the first game of their best of seven series. Both the Capitals and Bruins have seen success this season and both are very capable hockey teams. Here is a look at some potential storylines for the Capitals in the upcoming series.
Goals For, Goals Against
The Washington Capitals know how to score goals. They put up 191 goals in the regular season, the second-most in the NHL. They have eight players with ten or more goals this season, the most in the NHL. Washington can usually rely on scoring around three goals in a game with goal support coming from all four forward lines.
Against the Bruins, however, the Capitals have struggled to score. In an eight game season series, the Capitals put up 25 goals, with eight of the 25 coming in one game. Boston held Washington to just one regulation goal twice. While the teams split the season series, two of the Capitals four wins against the Bruins came in overtime.
The goal support put up by the Capitals is vital to the team’s success, not because it creates exciting games, but because it covers up for defensive mistakes. Turnovers and a lack of communication have plagued Washington defensively this season. Even with all their scoring, the Capitals only have a +28 goal differential between goals for and goals against. Against the Bruins, the Capitals have a -1 goal differential. If the Bruins defense and goaltending force low scoring games in the playoffs, Washington is likely to struggle to come away with wins.
Along with high-scoring games, the Capitals also rely on physicality. Washington’s Garnet Hathaway and Brenden Dillion are both in the top 20 for most hits this season with 179 and 143, respectively. Checking allows Washington to be strong defensively and muscle it’s way through their opponents. Capitals players tend to go hard at their opponents net, putting pressure on the goalies and generating scoring chances off rebounds. Washington is loaded with big, physical players who will bring intense, hard hitting play into the series with the Bruins.
The Capitals physicality and focus on being aggressive does sometimes get the better of them. Washington is one of the most penalized teams in the league, drawing a total of 527 penalty minutes, for an average of 9.41 penalty minutes per game this season. Bad blood from the regular season mixed with playoff intensity is certain to create a physical game, but Washington needs to avoid penalties and use physicality in a strategic manner.
The Capitals veteran core provides valuable experience as well as increased chances for injury or fatigue. Along with John Carlson and TJ Oshie who are both currently injured, Washington has seen some wear and tear recently. Alexander Ovechkin, Justin Schultz and Nicklas Backstrom have all missed recent games. It is likely that some on the team are nursing undisclosed injuries. While bumps and bruises may not seem serious now they may become more problematic as they playoffs start.
Washington does have backup options should any of their starters become injured or need rest. Forward Daniel Sprong and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk have both been starting games in recent weeks amongst the slew of injures. They have both performed well and are strong options heading into the playoffs. Forwards Philippe Maillet and Daniel Carr each had a chance to start games recently. While they did not put up points they seemed to mesh well with the team and could be put into the roster if necessary. Defensively the Capitals have less depth and injuries would be more problematic. Aside from van Riemsdyk, Washington has not called up any defensemen this season and is unlikely to do so in the playoffs. For the Capitals injuries may be manageable, but would hurt the team in the playoffs.