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I told you all it was going 7 games. And despite hockey writer after hockey writer picking the Bruins to win in 5 or 6 games, I never backed off that stance. Honestly, I never even was worried about guys who watched 10x's as much hockey as I do all having a similar opinion. I KNEW this was going to be a challenging series and while I may not have envisioned everything that has happened when I made my pre-series pick, the least surprising thing to me was the fact we're struggling with Washington.

Over the last 3 years, if anything should be known by now about the Boston Bruins it is that highly skilled, fast offensive teams can give them problems. It was the #1 reason I didn't want to see the Capitals in the first round and remains the #1 reason I'm weary of Wednesday night. The Capitals simply require less things to "go right" to put the puck in the net than the Bruins do. That's not a knock on the Boston Bruins at all. It is just how the two teams chose to construct their personnel. Frankly, given the track records of the two teams in the playoffs in the last few years, it's hard to argue the Bruins way hasn't been better. But still at the end of the day, there's few if any players on Boston that will score the type of game-winner Alexander Semin did in game 4.

So what have we seen so far in this series? Here's a few things that have stood out the most to me:

1) Holtby has been good, but overrated

I'll give Braden Holtby credit for one thing. In games the Caps HAD TO HAVE, he's been at his best. Game 2 in Boston, he played well. Game 4 he played well again. I expect he'll play fairly well in game 7. One thing I can't stand to hear is comparisons to Ken Dryden in 1971. Breaking news: I wasn't alive in 1971. I can't sit here and compare the two series due to that small tidbit. What I can tell you is Braden Holtby hasn't played nearly well enough to warrant comparisons to a goalie that won the Conn Smythe in the 1971 postseason. Holtby is getting overpraised for two main reasons: 1) He's a rookie. Because he's in his first year, everything is magnified. 2) He's facing the Stanley Cup Champs. If he were having a similar series vs another team, he wouldn't be getting this love. However, because it's the champs, he's getting an unrealistic amount of love for making saves he should. You can probably count the number of GREAT saves Holtby has made on one hand...maybe two. But 90% of his saves this series have been saves any Beer League Goalie could make. The Bruins haven't had consistent quality shots this series and yet when they've gotten quality chances, they've buried many. Look no further than the David Krejci goal that put Boston up 2-1. I'll bet ya Ken Dryden stops that in his sleep.

2) Turnovers have KILLED both teams

While that may get a "no shit" response from some of you, I think it has been magnified in this series even moreso than norm. With both teams giving up very few odd man rushes and trying to keep everything out of the slot, the plays that lead to odd-man breaks have been killers in this series. The Bruins defense has been very sloppy this series in their own end and a couple times already this series, poor icing decisions just short of the red line by the B's have resulted in pucks in their own net. For the Caps it has been turnovers from their forwards that have killed them. Both the 3rd and 4th goals yesterday for the Bruins were a result of bad turnovers by the Caps and Peverley's tying goal in Game 4 was created by an Ovechkin turnover. I expect Game 7 to be played very close to the vest by both teams and there will be extra attention to detail on breakouts and not getting caught too deep on forechecks. One bad decision by either team could be what determines who moves on.

3) The Caps power play chooses ideal times to show up

I'll be honest: The Caps power play scares the living hell out of me. Chara, Bergeron, I don't care how strong some of our penalty killers are. I don't care that the Capitals are 3 for 18 on the Power Play in the series. Every time they're a man up and Ovechkin is out there with Mike Green and others I wait for the worst. The Capitals haven't had a great series by Power Play numbers. With that said two of their three wins have seen the GW goal come on a power play. Game 4 was a beauty from Alex Semin that Thomas may have not even seen. Troy Brouwer followed up with a Game 5 winner that Thomas would like to have back. The killer for the Bruins has been where they are taking their penalties. Bergeron's penalty that led to Semin's winner was an entire sheet of ice away from their net in front of Washington's crease. If you're going to give the Caps power plays, don't be taking them a length of the ice from your net. Washington's weapons are matched by few teams in the NHL. Their Power Play has been relatively quiet but would anyone be all that surprised if it showed up in Game 7? I certainly wouldn't.

Game 7 on Wednesday:

One game at home. Winner advances to Round 2. Regardless of what you thought of this series coming in, anyone would have signed up for one game at the Garden against the 7 seed to advance to the 2nd round. If the Bruins cant win two games out of four at home in a playoff series do not complain about the refs. Teams that want to win a Stanley Cup win big games at home and the 2011 Bruins did that. They won a Game 5 vs Montreal at home when the series was 2-2. They won game 7 at home vs Montreal. They won a Game 2 they had to have vs TB. They won another game 5 vs TB at home in a 2-2 series and won 1-0 in Game 7 to go to the Cup. We all know they needed each and every home win in the Finals. Simply put, when push came to shove in the 2011 playoffs, the Bruins won big home games.

Same thing sits in front of them now. Beat an inferior team at home on Wednesday night and you move on to a Eastern Conference second round that may be setting up VERY NICELY for the winner of this series. The Bruins could be looking at 8-seed Ottawa in round 2 if they advance. The Bruins outplayed the Caps in Games 1 and 2 at home. Game 5 was a poor performance all around and yet they still had a chance to win. The Garden has become a very big momentum boost for the Bruins in recent years and it will be rocking Wednesday. Taking advantage of that energy is huge. Getting the first goal is paramount for both teams.

So what's the Wednesday pick? I took Boston in 7 before the series. I see absolutely no reason to change now after a clutch game 6 win. After Saturday I said if the Bruins lost it would likely be on Sunday in a quick turnaround on the road. They survived that tussle and desperately needed the two day rest that is coming. Final score Wednesday: Bruins 3, Capitals 1. Yup, no one-goal game in the finale. The Bruins win by two and there's 3 key reasons for the pick.

1) I'm a MASSIVE HOMER. Lets get that one out of the way. Last time I picked against a Boston team in an elimination game was the 04 ALCS Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. Yea, I know...I'm a douche.

2) When was the last big game this Capitals team won? Ovechkin has failed time and time again in the playoffs. Despite having the top seed  in recent years, they've never even made a conference finals with him. The Caps are notorious for losing these games. Put that against a proven group that went 4-0 in elimination games last year and just won one on Sunday when they were clearly the more tired team and I'll trust the ones who have done it before.

3) Timmy Thomas STILL hasn't had a standout game. While one could argue he was great in a game 1 shutout, I would say the Bruins simply dominated the majority of that game and got the deserved win. Yes, he absolutely made some big saves in the 3rd period, his blocker save on Ovechkin being one key one, but all in all the Bruins took it to Washington and controlled the majority of the game. Thomas is now 9-2 in elimination games and has constantly saved his best for the Bruins' biggest games. Two game 7 shutouts last year vs Tampa Bay and Vancouver show that more than anything. This moment won't get to him. He's shown us when we need big saves in big games he'll make them. At the other end is a rookie goalie who has been told how "great" he's been all series and just got deked out of his shorts by Tyler Seguin on the game-winner yesterday. What happens if the Bruins score first? I think Thomas has one gem in him this series and SPOILER ALERT!!!! There's no Game 8 so that means I'm expecting it on Wednesday.

A lot of people were getting pumped up after the Capitals Game 5 win on Saturday and when Ovechkin tied it Sunday, people were ready to pop champagne. But as we learned in Rocky (yea, I went there), you better knock the champ out cold, because Ivan Drago learned better than anyone, you let him stay on his feet and he'll probably make you pay.

Washington had the champs on the ropes and had a chance to knock them out. They didn't land the last blow and the Bruins responded with a haymaker to the Caps chin.

My money says Wednesday night the champs knock them the $^&% out.


One Response so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    okay then..... that was a bit bold. Interesting piece though.

Bryan Doherty 4/23/2012 09:57:00 AM Edit

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