Staggered start times once again mean hockey all day with the NHL Playoffs on Sunday May 23. We’ve got a lot to look forward to on the ice, as a couple of series could come to a close. Colorado is up 3-0 on St. Louis and Boston is up 3-1 on Washington. That Bruins/Capitals game will actually be the one in the spotlight with this preview, as Washington looks to avoid elimination.
The Bruins are favored in the -130 range at BetOnline Sportsbook with a total of 5.5 for Game 5 on Sunday. Washington will be in the cornered rat spot of staring down the barrel of the offseason. A loss will send Washington to the golf course and send Boston on to the second round. Will that be enough for the Capitals to play at their best and extend the series?
Let’s take a look at this one and see which side or which part of the total to take.
The Bruins were simply dominant in Game 4. They had 1.93 xGF at 5-v-5 to just 0.67 xGF for Washington. Even though Boston only won the game 1-0 at full strength and had to rely on special teams goals for the 4-1 victory, the Bruins were clearly and decidedly the better team at the most common game state.
Boston had nine high-danger scoring chances to just one for Washington. One of the concerns for the Capitals after the first two games of the series was how they would do on the road because Boston had the last line change and got the preferred matchups. In Game 3, it wasn’t as big of a deal and Washington took the game to overtime before losing in overtime.
In Game 4, however, Boston completely controlled the play. It was a dominant performance and one where Samsonov actually kept Washington in the game for as long as possible. The Capitals just didn’t reciprocate. Boston goes into Game 4 holding all of the cards. The high hit on Kevan Miller from Dmitry Orlov did leave Boston a defenseman short, but also felt like a turning point in the series.
The Capitals were more about trying to get revenge and push around the Bruins than scoring goals. The game got chippy. The game got physical. That’s what Boston wants. Washington is more of a finesse team. If the Bruins can make Game 5 play out in a similar way, they should be able to finish off the series.
It doesn’t hurt to have Tuukka Rask as the last line of defense. Rask has allowed just nine goals in four games in this series with a 1.99 GAA and a .930 SV%. The Bruins had no questions in net coming intot he season and it has been evident thus far.
The Capitals will go down swinging. The question is whether it happens on the scoreboard or with their style of play. Boston got under Washington’s skin in a big way in Game 4. Hits were being thrown all over the place and the Capitals seemed more focused on inflicting punishment than getting even in the series. A three-goal third from Boston sealed a home sweep for the Bruins and now the Capitals go back home one game from elimination.
The Capitals simply have to find a way to generate more offense. Washington trails by 20 in high-danger scoring chances, which is not what you would expect to see from a team that ranked 13th in that department during the regular season. Washington was actually +53 in high-danger chance differential. Boston was only +7, but the Bruins allowed the sixth-fewest high-danger chances.
Washington has to get more pucks to the net from high-percentage scoring areas, which is easier said than done. A fundamental change needs to take place in Game 5, otherwise Washington will see the season end. Maybe we should have seen this coming, as for all of Washington’s talent, ranking 19th in scoring chances at 5-v-5 isn’t good enough.
It does sting that Washington has already played three goaltenders in this series. Vitek Vanacek only made it 13 minutes and 10 seconds into Game 1 before leaving hurt. Craig Anderson started Game 2 and stopped 44 of 48 shots. He stopped 21 of 22 in Game 1. Anderson did not start Game 3 and that put Ilya Samsonov into the fire. Samsonov has allowed seven goals on 80 shots, so he hasn’t been the problem, but with how Washington has played offensively, his margin for error is limited.
Capitals vs. Bruins Free Pick
In this one, you have to give the edge to the Bruins until proven otherwise. Washington has done very little at 5-v-5 in this series. The Capitals are only 3-for-17 on the power play. That won’t get it done. Special teams have failed Washington as much as the 5-v-5 play. Boston is on the doorstep with the better goaltender and the better performance in this series thus far.
Pick: Boston Bruins