Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bruins/Capitals Preview

Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins
Thursday January 3rd, 2008, 7:00 PM
TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts

Coming off a home and home sweep of the Ottawa Senators that could be deemed "improbable" the Capitals embark on a two-game road trip in Boston tonight, facing a Bruins team with a decent record due to Marc Savard's playmaking savvy, Tim Thomas playing beyond his ability and Zdeno Chara's ability to (1) stymie top opposition forwards, (2) rip the puck from the point and (3) beat the crap out of some guy named Dave Koci. Beyond that the B's haven't impressed too much this year and the team ranks 20th in goals scored per game and 17th in goal differential - and this is with a guy with a career .913 save percentage playing to the tune of .929 so far. Make no mistake about it, without Thomas playing the way he has the Bruins aren't over .500 at this point. The team doesn't have great offensive depth and isn't a tight checking team in the mold of Minnesota or New Jersey either. Frankly, they're mediocre and Thomas will come back to earth soon enough - why not against the Capitals?

About the Opponent

Boston Bruins (19-16-4 42 points, 3rd in the Northeast Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference)

Team Leaders
Goals: Chuck Kobasew (14)
Assists: Marc Savard (34)
Points: Marc Savard (42)
Penalty Minutes: Zdeno Chara (69)

Betcha Didn't Know...
The Capitals have outdrawn the Bruins in terms of home attendance six of the last ten years.

Random Bruins Statistic
The Bruins are ranked 25th in the NHL in shots taken per game and 26th in shots allowed per game.

Keys to the Game

Stay out of the box. The Bruins are not a strong offensive team - they rank 20th in goals per game, 25th in shots per game and behind Marc Savard their leading point producers are Zdeno Chara and Marco Sturm, who each have 23 points (in 39 and 39 games, respectively) - but they are 7th in the league with a powerplay that clicks at a 20.3% rate.

Move the puck. As has been painfully obvious to Capitals fans, Olaf Kolzig no longer has very good lateral movement; the Bruins have several players who are good at moving the puck and their defensive corps can shoot, giving them lots of options. If the Bruins can move the puck and get it on net, they're odds of scoring go way up, because there isn't a whole lot of sniping talent on this roster.

Players to Watch

Viktor Kozlov - Kozlov has struggled to put the puck in the net this season. Hopefully his goal against Ottawa opens the floodgates. The Caps could use one from him, as Tom Poti is going to miss the game, Alex Semin is questionable and Ovechkin could have his hands full with Zdeno Chara all night.

Milan Lucic - Some Boston fans have proclaimed the 6'4'', 220 pound Lucic the second coming of Cam Neely for his size, scoring touch, hitting strength and willingness to drop the gloves. While Lucic doesn't have Neely's hands (he'll never score 50 goals in 49 games) he is a great power forward prospect with solid offense upside who should wind up being like Chris Neil with more offensive talent. Although Lucic's offensive skill isn't at the point where the Caps have to gameplan for him he could change the game with a big hit or fight...but honestly the real reason he's on here is is that I think he's real fun to watch and want to alert other Caps fans to him.

Zdeno Chara - For all his talents Chara is neither particularly swift nor particularly agile - can he keep up with Ovechkin?

The Bruins aren't as talented as the Caps and with the Capitals playing how they are right now they should roll over the B's. Not even Tim Thomas can save you now, Beantown faithful. Caps win 5-2.

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