The Capitals moved up the playoff ladder a notch on the last game of the regular season to face the Northeast division and reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.  Let’s see how the Game 1 matchup shapes up.

The Boston Bruins are on the hunt again as they enter this year's NHL playoff race with a first round series against the Washington Capitals. The Bruins have the home ice advantage and plenty of playoff experince to go along with it. 

That being said, NHL odds makers have opened the Bruins as -176 favorites, with the NHL betting total set at 5. The Bruins can be found slightly higher at some NHL betting shops, where lines of -178 are being offered.

Washington Capitals (42-32-8)

Capitals vs. BruinsThe Washington Capitals took advantage of a late season swoon by the Senators to capture the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference standings and a date with the Boston Bruins instead of the conference leading New York Rangers. On the surface it looks like a favorable matchup for the Capitals who split their season series with New York but held a 3-1 series advantage against Boston.

Washington won their final regular season contest by defeating the Rangers 4-1 in hostile territory as Alex Ovechkin and Mathieu Perreault scored within the opening minutes to hush the Garden crowd while John Carlson lit the lamp late in the first period on a power play goal. Washington would go on to score four goals but the star of the game was 22 year old netminder Braden Holtby who was called up from their AHL affiliate in Hershey. Holtby was recalled due to injuries to both Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and Tomas Vokoun (groin).

The performance of Holtby and the injuries to Neuvirth and the veteran Vokoun are both notable because it appears Holtby will be in net for Game 1 and perhaps the entire series. The Caps are hoping they can ride the lightning and that Holtby’s most recent display is a good omen for things to come against Boston.

Boston Bruins (49-29-4)

The Boston Bruins have apparently shaken off their mid-season blues to return to form by winning four of their last five games and ended the season with a 4-3 victory over Buffalo without veteran blueliners Adam McQuaid (head injury) and Johnny Boychuck (sprained left knee). Patrice Bergeron did what he does best and contributed with 3 assists while the B’s boy wonder, Tyler Seguin, notched two goals to give him a team leading 29 goals and 67 points for the season.

Boston has had another strong campaign and despite a few hiccups defensively, have regrouped and wound up 6th in goals allowed (2.4 per game) and 2nd in goals scored (3.2 per game) in the NHL. The hallmarks of this team offensively are three strong lines of attack and a fourth line that is adept at shutting down even the most talented trios in the league. 

Capitals vs. BruinsDefensively, Boston is led by the Big Z, Zdeno Chara and a goaltender in Tim Thomas who can single-handedly steal a game all by himself. These Bruins are not a superstar oriented club like Vancouver but rather a balanced, unselfish group who can beat you on both ends of the ice and punish you physically when the gloves drop. However, it should be noted that backup goalie Tuukka Rask will miss this series and perhaps the entire postseason with a groin injury so Thomas must stay injury free if the Bruins want to avoid a Plan C and use their minor league backup, Anton Khudobin who had a similarly sparkling debut as did his counterpart in Washington, Braden Holtby.

Analysis:

Washington defeated the Bruins by scores of 5-3, 4-3 and most recently a 3-2 shootout victory in Boston on March 29th. The Bruins only win against the Caps this season occurred on February 5th in Washington when Boston skated to a 4-1 victory.

Factor in too that both clubs are rolling at the right time winning 4 of their last 5 so it’s difficult to lay the heavy lumber on a Boston team that has clearly had problems with the speedy Capitals. Conversely, the Capitals will have a rookie goaltender manning the pipes and that may be all the veteran Bruins need to jump out on top in Game 1. 

Play the Bruins -180 but tread cautiously.