The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals kick off the 2021 NHL playoffs this upcoming Saturday, May 13. The Bruins, the No. 3 seed in the East division, went 4-2-2 against the Capitals this season, who finished as the No. 2 seed.
Their only two regulation losses have slight asterisks to them, as the Capitals drubbed a shorthanded Boston team 8-1 in mid-April, and just recently, the Capitals took the season finale 2-1 in a game that had most of the Black and Gold regulars out of the lineup.
The two teams last met in the playoffs in 2012 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Bruins fans will remember that as the devastating 2-1 loss in Game 7 in overtime at the hands of Joel Ward.
The winner of these two will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Penguins and No. 4 New York Islanders. But let’s not get too far ahead. Let’s dive in and see how the Bruins and the Capitals match up against each other.
Who has the edge on offense?
Both offenses are quite similar, where each has a knack for skill and speed, mixed with physicality down low. There’s no denying just how good the Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak line is, but the Capitals have a handful of a first line themselves with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and newly-acquired Anthony Mantha.
Speaking of Mantha, for as good as Taylor Hall has been for the Bruins after getting trading at the deadline, how about Mantha. Eight points in 14 games since getting traded from the Detroit Red Wings to the Capitals, including scoring a goal in his first four games as a Cap.
He went cold to end the season, but he’s been a great pickup. He’s been no Taylor Hall (14 points in 16 games as a Bruin), but key deadline acquisitions from both teams will play a crucial role in this series.
It really is going to come down to depth. It’s been an issue with the Bruins all year, and the trade deadline has seemed to fix it a bit. But can Jake DeBrusk make some more postseason magic happen? Will Charlie Coyle finally snap out his slump now that he’s on the wing? What kind of role will Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner play?
Unless the Bruins just completely ice the top Capitals players, they will need their third and fourth lines to contribute practically every game. The Capitals enjoy depth players like Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd, and Carl Hagelin, who have consistently been one of the better fourth lines this season.
The Bruins’ offense has averaged 2.93 goals per game, while the Capitals’ is tied for fourth-best with 3.36. The consistency has just been there a bit more for Washington and while I give the edge of top line to the Bruins, the rest of the lineup needs to find a groove if they want to outplay the Caps’ forwards.