Before the Boston Bruins (33-15-7) and Washington Capitals (35-15-5) begin their first-round playoff series on Saturday, they will play one final regular-season game against each other on Tuesday night. The Bruins secured their spot as the three-seed with an overtime win versus the Islanders on Monday, while the Capitals secured home ice for this series thanks to three wins in their last four games.
If this playoff series is anything like what we’ve seen between these teams this season, fans will be in for a treat. In their seven matchups, Boston has won four of them, with two of Washington’s three victories needing extra time to decide.
In reality, it will be hard to know how much or how little of their game plan each team will feel comfortable revealing on Tuesday, especially with their seeds already locked up. There is a favorite, though, with Washington listed at -118 at home to win and Boston as +100 underdogs.
By the Numbers
On offense, both teams have advantages in certain areas. For the Capitals, that includes their 3.38 goals per game and 25 percent power play rate, each of which ranks third in the NHL. The Bruins, meanwhile, are 13th and 9th in those same stats but rank third with 33.5 shots per game, about four more than Washington’s average.
Defensively, Boston has a more clear advantage. The B’s are fourth with 2.4 goals allowed and second with 27 shots allowed and a penalty kill percentage just below 86 percent. On the other hand, the Caps also have a top-five penalty kill at just under 84 percent but sit 17th with 2.91 goals allowed per game on around 29 shots.
Who to Watch
Beginning with the Bruins, left wing Brad Marchand is always someone capable of putting up points. The pesky veteran leads the team with 29 goals and 40 assists and has three straight two-point games entering Tuesday.
Behind Marchand, fellow linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are tied with 48 points. The center Bergeron recently put up a four-game goal streak that ended on Monday, while the right wing Pastrnak has put up points in his last four games.
Center David Krejci and left wing Taylor Hall are a pair of players who have also been putting up some excellent numbers heading into the season’s final game. Krejci’s three-assist night on Monday gives up seven assists in the last week, while Hall’s two goals on Monday, including the overtime winner, give him 14 points in the 16 games he has played with Boston.
As for the Capitals, there’s a chance they may be missing all four of their top point leaders. Center Nicklas Backstrom has the most points with 53, but he missed Saturday’s game, and his status for Tuesday is in doubt. The same goes for right wingers T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin, as well as defenseman John Carlson, but only Oshie did not hit the ice for practice on Monday.
Beyond that group, other role players have been stepping up for Washington. Center Nic Dowd has points in three of his last four games, while center Lars Eller has points in back-to-back outings after going through a six-game point drought.
One x-factor is right wing Tom Wilson. The controversial goal-scorer was on the wrong end of another incident back on May 3rd against the Rangers but was able to avoid suspension. Wilson has 33 points for the year, but none in his last three games.
With Tuukka Rask starting on Monday, it will be rookie Jeremy Swayman who starts on Tuesday in the season finale. Swayman has been dominant in his short time with Boston, going 7-2-0 with a 1.44 GAA and .946 save percentage, along with two shutouts.
For the Capitals, they will likely turn back to Vitek Vanecek to man the crease for their last game before the playoffs. Vanecek has been the primary starter, with Ilya Samsonov missing much of the year, going 20-10-4 with a 2.74 GAA and .907 save percentage, earning two shutouts as well.
As mentioned earlier, both coaches may elect to rest certain players in order to stay healthy for when the playoffs begin. Right now, Washington seems to need that a lot, with all four of their top scorers currently day-to-day. Boston, on the other hand, has a more clean bill of health.
With the Bruins having health on their side, a hotter goalie, and a track record of success against the Caps this year, I’m taking the B’s to close out the season with a win before this exciting playoff series starts on Saturday.
Pick: Bruins +100
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