By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
The Boston Bruins will eliminate the Washington Capitals in no more than six games.
This isn’t the offense juggernaut from DC that tore apart the league, racking up 318 goals and only 15 regulation losses in 2009-2010. And even if it were, we all know it’s a different Washington team once the frost starts to thaw and Spring rolls around.
This year’s Capitals fought so hard to form an identity that it nearly cost them their season. After ousting Bruce Boudreau for attempting to institue a formula that could lead to post-season success, Washington brought in Dale Hunter to whip the boys back in shape.
Instead, the move seemed to do little beyond proving that coaching isn’t always the reason behind a team’s struggles.
So what happens when you are a high-flying offensive team, filled with lingering doubt from recent post-season failure, with an untested coach and ever-present questionable goaltending? Well, you squeeze into the playoffs with 92 points (Washington’s worst since 2006-2007).
On the opposite end of the ice will be the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who enter the 2012 playoffs with a ton of confidence, a fairly healthy roster, and an urge to become the first repeat-champions since the 1997-1998 Detroit Red Wings.
A couple of stats stand out right away:
-Boston’s top scorer was second-year forward Tyler Seguin, who scored 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points. Washington’s top scorer was Alex Ovechkin, who had 38 goals and 27 assists for 65 points this season. Seguin sits at #2 in the NHL with a plus/minus differential of +34. Ovechkin is a -8.
-Speaking of +/-, Washington’s leaders were Karl Alzner and Joel Ward, both of whom have +12 rating. Boston’s much maligned defenseman (and former Capital) Joe Corvo is +10, which is pretty impressive for saying he was god-awful at times this season.
Those citing speed and offense as points of leverage for Washington may be forgetting that the Bruins were able to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in a seven game series less than a year ago. With all due respect to the Caps, few would argue that Washington lacks the depth Vancouver presents at most every position.
It’s tempting to describe Washington as Vancouver-Lite.
Boston was able to open up the offense this year as well, ranking second overall with 269 goals, and a otherworldly +67 goal differential. Washington ranked 15th (222 goals, -8 Diff.).
Perhaps I’m missing something, but it’s just hard to see a single area in which Washington matches or beats Boston’s depth.
Boston can own the physical game, Boston could set the tempo offensively, Boston has experience from last season’s run, Boston has Zdeno Chara fronting a stingy defensive group, Boston has Tim Thomas in net. Washington has…Alex Ovechkin, and a whole lot of Regular Season Championship banners hanging high above the Verizon Center ice.