A 3-2 win on Wednesday, Dec. 11 proved one thing about the Washington Capitals; they own the Boston Bruins. T.J. Oshie danced around defenders, scoring two dazzling goals, and John Carlson added another with a rocket of a one-timer. The fact that Carlson is a native of Natick, Massachusetts adds insult to injury.
The Bruins competed for 60 minutes, but ultimately seemed tired and outworked. They were unable to keep up with the speed and finesse of the Capitals as they were outskated throughout the matchup, allowing many odd-man rushes and fast-break opportunities.
Lopsided Recent History
The truth of the matter is that this matchup hasn’t just been lopsided this season. This dominance by the Capitals has gone on for quite a while and dates back years.
The Bruins have won just five of their 27 matchups against the Capitals going back to the 2011-12 season and have lost many in frustrating fashion. Throughout this stretch of games, the two teams have gone to overtime only seven times, and have gotten to a shootout in only three. Zero of those matchups ended in a Bruins win. This shows the Capitals’ ability to not only beat the Bruins, but to beat them at any point in a game. Matchups between these two teams have the feeling of a playoff matchup and the Capitals always seem up to the task. They play their best hockey against the Bruins.
A prime example came in a first-round playoff matchup, in which the Capitals broke the hearts of Bruins fans in Game 7 overtime. The Bruins were eliminated on a Joel Ward goal; subduing any chance of a Stanley Cup repeat. Braden Holtby, debuting as a rookie in this series, shocked the Bruins. It was apparently an omen of things to come. The goaltender now has an 18-3-0 record against them, and has lost just one game since the 2013-14 season. That one loss, a 1-0 deficit at T.D. Garden last February.
While most of these matchups have been close and competitive, there have also been some embarrassments from the Bruins. Their 7-0 loss on opening night at Capital One Arena sticks out as one of them. While the Bruins finally got a big win late last season, they have followed that up with two consecutive losses to the Capitals in this campaign, and now have just one win in their last 17 matchups.
This Season’s Matchup
Both matchups between the Bruins and Capitals in 2019-20 have ended 3-2 with the first concluding in a shootout, and the second in regulation. In the first matchup, the Bruins seemed to get outplayed for the majority of gameplay but were able to take advantage of scoring opportunities on two chances. In doing so they took both 1-0 and 2-1 leads. However, in typical frustrating fashion for the Bruins, Oshie tied the score for the Capitals with less than one minute to go. The Capitals went on to win on a Datstyukian level, deke and goal by Jakub Vrana in the shootout.
But again, the Bruins seemed to get outskated Wednesday night, and no matter how much they fought back into the game, specifically with a tying goal from Torey Krug, it would not be enough. Frustrations continue to be evident among key Bruins players, and if they continue to fester it could mean doom come the Eastern Conference Final, should the two teams meet in that game.
Things don’t look great for the Bruins seeing that the Capitals are likely their greatest competition in the Eastern Conference. The way the playoff bracket is set up, the matchup between the teams could only be as early as the Eastern Conference Final, as of now. However, this is a Bruins team with high expectations and a desire to get back to the Stanley Cup Final after losing to the St. Louis Blues this past season. They may finally ease these demons come playoff time.
Obviously, things can change in the NHL over a long season, and into the playoffs. However, this has been a sustained struggle for Boston they must figure out in order to have a true shot to make it back to the Cup Final. Another concern is that Jaroslav Halak has started both games against the Capitals this season keeping the starter, Tuukka Rask, from seeing a team he may have to face come playoff time. Again, a troubling look for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
The Bruins and Capitals have one remaining matchup this season on Dec. 23, at 7 p.m. at the T.D. Garden, this could be another telling game as to what a playoff matchup may look like. If the Bruins can stifle their woes against the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions, it could lead to playoff success as well.
My name is Tim Kearns and I am a sophomore journalism major at The University of Maryland. I have previously written for the Maryland Baseball Network and a blog style website called “What The Sports.” I am from just outside of Boston and am a diehard Red Sox, Bruins, and Patriots fan. I have always had a passion for hockey and I’m incredibly thankful to cover the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers.