The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
What goes ‘round, comes ‘round, that that goes for robins, too. Not that the term “round robin” has anything to do with birds. More like we English-speaking folks have trouble with French (the term is derived from the French “ruban rond,” or “round ribbon”). Wherever the term comes from, the NHL version of the round robin comes to an end for the Washington Capitals on August 9th, when they face the Boston Bruins. The Caps (0-1-1) and Bruins (0-2-0) will play in what amounts to the “losers’ bracket” of the four-team Eastern Conference pre-tournament tournament to determine who will get the three and four seeds in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But before that tournament starts, let’s take a look at…
How we got here:
November 16: Capitals 3 – Bruins 2 (OT/Gimmick)
The Capitals chased this game a bit too much, allowing the Bruins the game’s first goal and then falling behind again before T.J. Oshie tied things up late in the third period. With the Caps’ net empty, and the clock winding down under a minute remaining in regulation, Evgeny Kuznetsov settled a pass from Nicklas Backstrom at the goal line, stepped out to give himself a passing angle, and laid the puck out to Oshie between the hashmarks for a one-timer that beat goalie Jaroslav Halak with 58.6 seconds left to send the game to extra time. After a scoreless overtime, Boston’s Charlie Coyle scored to open the freestyle competition, but Backstrom scored in the Caps’ last chance to tie it, and Jakub Vrana won it with a goal in the fifth round of the Gimmick.
December 11: Capitals 3 – Bruins 2
The Caps yielded the first goal once more, this time off the stick of David Pastrnak mid-way through the first period. The Caps took a second period lead on a pair of goals by Oshie 3:30 apart. Boston tied things up on a sean Kuraly goal in the third minute of the third period, but John Carlson got the game winner less than two minutes later. The game-winning play started with Nicklas Backstrom skating the puck down the left wing, around the corner, and behind the Bruin net. Coming out the other side to the left of goalie Jaroslav Halak, he found Carlson stepping into the right wing circle for a pass that Carlson one-timed from the faceoff dot past Halak and a 3-2 win.
December 23: Bruins 7 - Capitals 3
The last game before Christmas for the Caps was one big lump of coal. Boston put the game away early with four first period goals, chasing Caps starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Ilya Samsonov did not have to face many pucks, allowing one goal on four shots, but Boston scored two empty net goals around a Garnet Hathaway score for the Caps to wrap up the 7-3 Bruins win.
Who’s hot, or at least, who was hot for the Caps?
- Radko Gudas. Raise your hand if you had Radko Gudas leading the Caps in points in the round robin. OK, it is only two points. He had an assist in each of the Capitals’ round robin games to date. Although the point total is modest, it did represent a turnaround of sorts for Gudas. He finished the regular season without a point in his last ten games and had only one point (an assist) in his last 19 regular season games dating back to January 8th.
- T.J. Oshie. In three regular season games against Boston, six different Capitals recorded goals. Oshie was the only one to post more than one. He had three – two in the 3-2 win over the Bruins on December 11th and one in the 3-2 Gimmick win over Boston on November 16th. The three goals almost doubled his career goal total against the Bruins; he now has seven career goals in 22 games against Boston.
- John Carlson. The Caps were led in points (four), assists (three), shots (11, tied with two other players),and game-winning goals (one) by John Carlson I the season series against Boston. He had points in each of the three games against the Bruins – an assist in the win on November 16th, a goal and an assist in the win on December 11th, and an assist in the loss to Boston on December 23rd. His goal against Boston on December 11th was the game-winner in a 3-2 win and his fourth against Boston in his career, the most he has against any NHL team.
Who’s cold, or at least, who was cold for the Caps?
- Tom Wilson. In two round robin games, Wilson has one shot on goal and no points in more than 35 minutes of ice time. He did not have a goal against Boston in three games this season and has only two in 18 career games against the Bruins.
- Ilya Kovalchuk. In the first two games of the round robin, Kovalchuk did not put up a point and recorded only three shots on goal in 32 minutes of ice time. He faced the Bruins only once in the regular season, going without a point when the Montreal Canadiens lost, 4-1, to the Bruins on February 12th. He does, however, have 23 goals in 44 career games against Boston.
- Jakub Vrana. Since he posted goals in three consecutive games in January, Vrana has only two goals in his last 21 games and only one point (an assist) in his last eight games, including the two games of the round robin.
Who to watch for the Bruins…
- David Pastrnak. “Pasta” was 2-3-5 in three games against the Caps this season, the team leader in points. What he does not have, though, is a point in the round robin in two games. Watch his shots on goal. In 28 games in which he recorded five or more shots, he had 28 goals. Pastrnak has five goals in 15 career games against Washingon, but on the other hand, he has a minus-8 plus-minus rating, second worst against any NHL team he has faced (minus-9 against Vancouver).
- Zdeno Chara. The 22-year veteran had a bit of an odd regular season in 2019-2020. He posted only one goal against the Metropolitan Division this season (against the New York Rangers) and was shut out in points against five of the eight teams, including the Caps. In his case, watch his minutes. In 34 games in which he skated at least 21 minutes, the Bruins were 27-0-7. That’s right, no losses in regulation. He skated 16:57 against Philadelphia and 18:25 against Tampa Bay, both losses.
- Jaroslav Halak. It would not be a surprise if Halak got the call against the Caps. The reason could be that Tuukka Rask is 3-11-5, 3.10, .892 in 20 career regular season appearance against the Caps and has never faced them in the postseason. And, Halak finished the regular season with a 7-0-0, 2.06, .925 record, although he did give up four goals on 29 shots in the 4-1 loss to the Flyers in the round robin. In 13 career postseason games against Washington with Montreal and the New York Islanders, Halak is 7-6, 2.37, .933.
Fun Facts in the Season Series…
- Washington was 1-for-10 on power plays against the Bruins and allowed a shorthanded goal, leaving them with a net power play of 0.0 percent.
- The Caps were outscored, 6-1, in the first periods of games against the Bruins this season, and they allowed the game’s first goal in all three games. They did not hold a lead at the first intermission in any of the three games and did so only once at the second intermission. Nevertheless, the Caps won two of three games.
- The Caps had that rarity against Boston this season, a season win in faceoffs. The Caps won 87 of 166 draws in the three games (52.4 percent) against the seventh-best faceoff team in the league in the regular season (51.0 percent).
- Tom Wilson had 23 penalty minutes in the three games. No other Capital had more than four.
- Garnet Hathaway did that “get under the opponent’s skin” thing, leading the Caps with four penalties drawn in the three games.
- Hathaway and Nic Dowd were the only Caps not to be on-ice for an even strength goal scored by Boston in the series. Every Capital who dressed in the series was on ice for at least one even strength goal scored.
If the Caps win, they get the New York Islanders to open the first round of the playoffs. Lose, and they get the Carolina Hurricanes. There are worse reasons to hope for a win, given the Caps’ frustrations with the Hurricanes, but what Caps fans might want to see here is just a simple, well-played, discipline, productive game at both ends of the ice, something they have not seen in either of the first two round robin games and the sort of game that was all too infrequent down the stretch of the regular season. The Caps have a pair of 3-2 wins against Boston this season. Why not a third?
Capitals 3 – Bruins 2