Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game One

It seems as if it was just yesterday. The Boston Bruins broke the 39-year championship drought and brought Lord Stanley's Cup back to the city of Boston. Over 1 million people joined the celebration as duck boats and a sea of Black and Gold filled the Hub.

That was over 10 months ago.

Now the Bruins will be focused on the new task at hand: repeating as Stanley Cup champions. They took the ice on Thursday night as they opened up another potential two-month long campaign. The B's first round opponent will be the Washington Capitals.

The Caps hold the regular season advantage by possessing a 1-2-1 record against Boston. This match-up became a bit of a surprise since everyone was expecting the B's to face off against the Ottawa Senators. However, the Capitals caught fire the final two weeks of the season and surged into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins own every major advantage (offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, home ice) over the Caps. The biggest advantage for the Bruins will be in net. While they send out two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, Washington will have to send out third-string goaltender Braden Holtby to start the series. Let's see how everything unfolds.

Adam McQuaid missed game one due to an eye injury and was replaced by Joe Corvo. Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup after injuring his knee in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jordan Caron was the healthy scratch, which will likely be the case for most of the playoffs.

The Bruins wanted to set the tone early as their top defensive pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg was assigned the daunting task of defending Alex Ovechkin. The duo and Ovechkin matched hit for hit throughout the contest. By the end of the night, they held Ovechkin to only one shot on goal.

Both teams established a great forecheck and that forced each player to make quick passes from zone to zone. The Bruins looked really good on their lone penalty kill of the period, allowing only one shot. Boston ended the first period with a four-minute power play that carried over into the second period (Jay Beagle sliced David Krejci's lip with a high stick).

Immediately after that penalty expired, the B's received another power play opportunity due to a delay of game penalty whistled against the Caps. Essentially six straight minutes with the man advantage, but no goals were produced.

The physical play increased, which is to be expected during playoff hockey. The Bruins opened up the ice more and started to produce multiple scoring chances. They outshot Washington 26-7 through two, but the game remained scoreless.

Washington started to find their game in the third period. They clearly were the more physical and heavy hitting team that it may have worn down Boston just a bit. Thomas came up big for the Bruins by making nine huge stops in the third frame. Sixty minutes came and went with no goals. This game went into overtime.

Less than two minutes into the sudden death overtime, Chris Kelly ended the game with a blast from just inside the blue line that beat Holtby glove side. Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston had the assists. The Bruins take game one by a score of 1-0.

Thomas recorded his 6th career playoff shutout while Holtby finished with 29 saves.

Game two will take place on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden. Hopefully the ice will be in better shape than it was for game one.

Gold Star: Brian Rolston (1 assist, plus-1 rating, 3 shots on goal)...In a game where someone needed to step up, he did. He played solid in all three zones, specifically in the defensive end where he shut down some good scoring chances for the Capitals.

Black Star: David Krejci...When a game gets heated, he tends to disappear. The series is still young enough for him to rebound.

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