By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
After 56 games spread across four months against seven teams in the Northeastern region of the country, the Bruins are heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. There were many ups and downs from the shortened season, but the Bruins found their game and locked themselves in as the number three seed in a stacked MassMutual East Division. A date to dance with the Washington Capitals starts on May 15th, with game one’s puck drop is set for 7:15 pm EST.
Anybody should’ve seen this coming in a season like this. Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals last offseason, is set to square off against his former team and former teammates in the first round. It’ll be an interesting battle, notably because Chara played in 160 playoff games with the Bruins throughout his 11-year tenure. He led the Bruins to Cup appearances in 2011, 2013, and 2019, with a hard-earned Stanley Cup parade resulting from 2011’s championship run. Simply put, Chara has the experience in a black and gold sweater nevertheless.
The Capitals balanced attack with Chara on the back end has been a real problem for opposing teams this season. The Caps averaged 2.88 goals-against per game this season but have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league led by none other than captain Alex Ovechkin and play-making machine Nicklas Backstrom. Chara isn’t afraid to throw around the body even at 44-years-old, so this series should make for a fun reunion between Chara and the Bruins.
Watch Out for Wilson
Capitals forward Tom Wilson is known as the biggest agitator in the league, and many consider him the dirtiest. His run against the New York Rangers just last weekend was the nail on the head, and Bruins fans have their own opinion with his controversial shot to the head of defenseman Brandon Carlo earlier in the season. Carlo got a concussion and missed time as a result, so the Bruins will need to keep their heads on a swivel to avoid being on the bad end of Wilson’s antics again.
Lucky for him, Wilson does have some talent being an agitator in the offensive zone. Playing with Ovechkin also helps in the point department, but he’s got the hands and skill to finish around the net. This series should be all about physicality and, for the Bruins specifically, slowing down the Capitals offense and transition game. Besides, how about a scrap between Wilson and Kevan Miller early in game one to set the tone? Get ‘cha popcorn ready.
Battle of the ‘Tendys’
It’ll be a familiar face between the pipes to start the series as Tuukka Rask is gearing up for his first playoff run in two seasons after opting out of the playoff bubble last year due to family reasons. Rask had a rocky regular season due to the fact that he couldn’t quite stay healthy enough to gain any big-time momentum. He still finished with some great numbers, however, as the Bruins played really strong in front of him in the games he did play. Rask went 15-5-2 on the season with a 2.28 GAA, and a .913 save percentage. As for the Capitals crease, it’ll be handled by Vita Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.
It’ll be Rask’s 51 career playoff wins that will headline a hopeful continuum of success, but the real question remains as to who will be his number two. The Bruins are currently rolling with a three-headed carousel in the net. Jaroslav Halak started the season as the sure backup, but with Jeremy Swayman’s emergence from Providence to the big club being so successful, that might put Halak on the shelf. Swayman, 22, should’ve done enough in his small sample of nine starts (7 wins) to earn a spot on the bench, leaving Halak’s future with the club after the playoffs are even more uncertain.
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