By Kirk Luedeke
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Boston Bruins have a chance to take a big lead in their best-of-seven series against the Washington Capitals when the teams meet up for Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Thursday.
|Zdeno Chara had two assists and scored the game-winning goal in Boston's 4-3 victory over the Capitals in Game 3. (Getty Images)|
After pointed commentary on both sides about the stickwork through the first three games, the time for talk is over and the Caps will be playing for a chance to draw even before traveling back north to Boston. Some nastiness emerged when the two teams last met, so it will be interesting to see whether the intensity goes up a notch in Game 4.
“The more you play the same team over and over I think the intensity creeps up and the physicality creeps up at the same time,” said veteran Patrice Bergeron after the morning skate. “It’s part of the playoff mentality and playoff and I think we’re expecting that tonight and expecting a great game.”
If the saying familiarity breeds contempt holds true, then expect the next tilt between the two to be a rough-and-tumble affair between the two clubs whose last encounter nearly reached a boiling point. The Capitals are bringing veteran Jon Erskine into lineup to try and counter Boston’s physicality, while Mike Knuble will get his first chance at the 2012 playoffs because another key Washington player will be sitting out.
Center Nicklas Backstrom won’t play because he is serving a one-game suspension for a stick to the face of B’s forward Rich Peverley at the end of a 4-3 loss to Boston Mon.
“I think we’ve played them this year without (Backstrom),”Bergeron said. “They’re a great team. They have a lot of depth and a lot of skills up front and we’re expecting some more of the same game. A hard, game a tough game and that’s what they gave us for the first three games.”
Peverley scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 3, but even with the victory, talked about needing to get better in all facets of the game.
“We gotta be better than we were last game,” said Peverley. “They’re going to bring their A-game. We’re looking at it as a game-by-game process, and this is a big game tonight. We’re either tied or going up 3-1. We need to bring it even more and our intensity needs to be there.”
Boston’s hard-nosed play helped the team win the Stanley Cup a year ago and has provided the Black and Gold with an early edge in the series over Washington.
“It’s been the identity of this team,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “That’s the way the playoffs are and everybody is picking up their physical play.”
To underscore the point, one of Chara’s assistant captains echoed the sentiment about the Bruins not getting away from what has worked for them.
“We’re a team that needs to be physical in order to have success and play our game, play hard and be first on the puck,” he said. “Tonight is obviously no different. We need to bring that.”
Putting the ‘P’ in power play
As was the case in 2011, Boston’s postseason power play has not been able to get much going.
Patrice Bergeron knows that the team must get better with the man advantage. Although a strong power play isn’t a prerequisite for a champion, expecting to repeat in 2012 without strong special teams play could be a significant vulnerability for the B’s.
“It’s important, especially this time of year,” said Bergeron. “To create some momentum or also create some scoring out of it. We need to find a way.”
The Bruins have gone 0-for-11 in the first three games. They did not score a single power play goal in their seven game series against Montreal in 2011.
Peverley on intensity of first round
Until he joined the Boston Bruins at last season’s trade deadline, Rich Peverley had just six games of playoff experience with Nashville (2008) under his belt. He added 25 games and a Stanley Cup ring last spring, taking note of the varying environments of each round.
“I think that there is a different intensity,” Peverley said. “The first round is incredibly intense. It’s usually the hardest and you have to be able to get through it. I saw in the second round it dies down a bit, so it’s just getting through that first round. But we’re not looking at that, we’re just looking at the next game.”