Playoff hockey has been and always will be a completely different animal than the regular season.
|Bruins d-man Zdeno Chara shoves Capitals forward Brooks Laich in front of Tim Thomas' net. (Dave Arnold Photography)|
Intensity gets ratcheted up a number of notches and physicality increases exponentially. And in most cases, teams tend to show a willingness to do things they weren’t exactly known for during the first 82 tilts of the campaign. Such was the case in Thursday’s series opener between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals.
Though their defensive improvements have been well-documented, the Caps unveiled a few new elements of their game that the Bruins will have to prepare for heading into Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
“We have to make adjustments,” coach Claude Julien said. “The one thing that they did well, to their credit, is I thought they did a lot of shot blocking, more than I’ve seen them do in the past. But that’s playoff hockey, right?
“You see guys get out of their comfort zone and do things that they don’t always do during the regular season and I thought they did a great job of that. So, we’ve played teams that enjoy blocking shots and we’ve just got to make sure that we’re capable of getting those shots through and finding those open lanes so they can make it to the net.”
All in all, Washington blocked 22 shots in the first game of the series, a 1-0 overtime win for Boston. The B’s had 15 blocks to their credit. In order to get shots through, they’re going to need their key cogs to step up. Additionally, putting more than one puck past rookie netminder Braden Holtby would also behoove the Bruins.
“Well, that’s probably the proper assessment of that whole thing – we buried it when we had to bury it,” Julien said when asked if burying their chances would keep the B’s from getting frustrated. “Chris Kelly scored a big goal for us and at the end of the day it’s a win and we’re up one in the series and that’s important to start the series with the lead.
“Now it’s up to us to make sure we get better as a team as the series goes along. Both teams are going to make adjustments, I’m sure. When you look at the game tape you see things you want to exploit from the other team, so we have to be ready for their adjustments and hopefully we’ll make adjustments that will make us better as well.”
Still, there were plenty of good things the Bruins did in Game 1 that they’ll hope to carry over into Saturday’s clash.
“A win’s a win and I thought defensively, as you saw, the shots against were down,” said Julien. “Thought we did a pretty good job defensively, didn’t give them a ton of scoring chances despite them having the talent to score goals. Obviously we’d like to maybe be a little bit better offensively and create a little bit more, which I thought we did early in the game. But I thought it kind of faded away so that’s the area that we hope to maybe improve a little bit more on and that will maybe be the offensive part – the goal scoring and being able to finish on our chances.”
The opening faceoff between the Bruins and Capitals is set for 3 o’clock. With a win, the Black and Gold can head down to Washington for Game 3 on Monday night with a 2-0 series lead.