Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 4/14/12

Thursday’s opening of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals had all the drama that one expects from a Stanley Cup playoff game.  The regular season records went out the window, there was a new intensity that the players call “playoff hockey”, and the hometown crowds seem even louder than usual.

The Capitals got off to a sluggish start, seeming to take about half of the first period to get past being tentative.  It appeared that after exchanging some good solid hits and making some good defensive stops, Washington realized that they could make a game of it against the highly favored Bruins.

The question that so many were asking:  “How would Washington’s inexperienced goalie, playing in his first NHL playoff game, fare against the Bruins who ranked third in the league in shots per game?”  The answer became pretty clear, with Braden Holtby stopping all 29 of the Bruins shots in regulation.

Unfortunately, the Caps were unable to generate much in the way of offense, amassing only seven shots in the first two periods. Washington’s nine shots in the third was much better, but at the end of sixty minutes, the game was scoreless — the first time in Capitals playoff history with the score 0-0 at the end of the third period.

The overtime period ended far too quickly when Boston’s Chris Kelly slammed home a slap shot just over a minute into the extra time.

There were lots of positives in this game for Washington:

  • The penalty-killing unit was exceptional, blanking the Bruins who had four power play opportunities, including an extended 4-on-3 scenario.
  • The Capitals controlled the puck well, equaling the Bruins in both takeaways and giveaways.
  • The Caps won their fair share of faceoffs, just one under 50%
  • Nicklas Backstrom led the team in shots and skated extraordinarily well, despite having been back for only a short time before the playoffs commenced.

But the real success story for Washington, however, was young Braden Holtby, whose performance earned him the second star of the game — ahead of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who shut out the Capitals.  He stopped all nine power play shots and frankly kept the Caps in this one.

So, this afternoon is game 2 in Boston.  Likely to be more of the same intense playoff hockey — and very unlikely to be the kind of shootout that occurred in Pittsburgh last night, where the Penguins and Flyers lit the lamp 13 times.

Washington needs to get more rubber at the net — particularly from their pair of Alex’s.  Ovechkin and Semin each had only a single shot on goal, and history shows us that the Capitals chance of scoring and winning goes way up when those two have shots on goal.  It would help, too, if the defense tightened up and was more physical to reduce the pressure on the man between the pipers.

And, finally, Washington fans need to send lots of positive energy northward in the hope that the Capitals can come home having split the opening series in Beantown.

Let’s Go Caps!

 

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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