Game 5 = Game 1Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
With the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between Washington and Boston all even at two games apiece, the series is now a best of three with the Bruins still owning home ice advantage. In effect, today’s contest is like a Game 1. Both teams will be seeking to stamp their imprimatur on the contest from the opening puck drop. “I think that’s been our goal the whole season, to get out to a good start,” says Caps defenseman John Carlson. ”I think we’ve had way more success when we do so. That’s probably both teams’ key every night. Those first 10 minutes are a battle always.” Washington has Nicklas Backstrom back in its lineup after the center served his one-game suspension in Game 4. As a result, Mathieu Perreault will be sitting this one out as a healthy scratch for the first time since Jan. 17. Frustrated over his team’s difficulty at creating offense in this series, Boston coach Claude Julien has made wholesale changes to his forward lines for Saturday’s Game 4. “Making line changes, that’s a part of trying to find solutions and it’s as simple as that,” said Julien after Friday’s off-day practice. “You’ve got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that we’d like to. So, you’re trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game.” Both teams have scored seven goals and allowed seven goals. Seventy-one percent of the series has been played with the score tied, and no team has led by more than a goal at any point in the first four games. Regardless of which players are skating on which lines, the Caps need to keep doing what they’ve been doing for the most part. Washington has been effective at keeping the Bruins to the outside, and keeping Boston’s shot bids from a distance. Nineteen of the Bruins’ 45 shots in Game 4 came from blueliners. “Just keep them out of the middle,” says Carlson. “They’re such highly skilled players. They have great shots. They’re going to make us pay if we’re giving them a lot of chances in the slot. If – as best we can do – we keep them to the outside, it’s going to help us and our goalie. That was our game plan from Game 1 and it’s still the same.” Boston scored two of its four Game 3 goals on rebounds generated from point shots, but the Caps were able to keep the front of the clear for rebound chances. “Just be in good position,” says Carlson. “If they’re going to have to skate around you, then it’s going to interrupt what they’re doing, and you can concentrate on what you’re doing, whether it’s to clear them out or to get a block in front of them. Either or, we need to pay the price and do what we need to do to have our goalie see the shot or block it ourselves.” When the Caps’ skilled players forged a 2-1 lead late in the second period of Game 4, it marked the fourth time in a span of two games that Washington owned a one-goal lead. Caps coach Dale Hunter made sure that fourth lead would be protected, unlike the first three. He drastically limited the ice time of his skilled players and relied heavily on his defensive-minded players to close out the contest. It worked. “I think we’re just working hard and trying to do our best against two really skilled lines and three lines that are offensive,” says Caps checking center Jay Beagle. “We’re just trying to work our hardest and play in their end as much as we can. We’ve been talking the last couple of days and we’d like to play a little more in their end and make it harder on them to get any offense.” With games in back-to-back afternoons looming this weekend, the Caps have a rested and motivated Backstrom and a rested and motivated Alex Ovechkin. It should be interesting to see what each of them brings to the table in Games 5 and 6.
With Pittsburgh and Detroit eliminated and with Chicago trailing its series with Phoenix, it’s possible that the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs could get underway without a single post-lockout Cup winner remaining in the field of eight. Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver has also