[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]
Despite a rash of injuries to key contributors, this team continues to win. And while detractors might point out that they've fattened up quite a bit on Southeast Division opponents... the Boston Bruins should not be taken lightly.
What, you thought I was talking about the Caps?
The B's, as it turns out, have played a dozen games against Southeast Division teams (the Caps have only played eight) and have compiled a stellar 11-1-0 record in those matches. That one loss, however, was at the hands of tonight's opponent in their last visit to the VC, just over a month ago.
Since then, Boston has gone 14-2-0, while the Caps have "only" gone 12-4-0, but on at least one front, these teams have been heading in opposite directions - Washington has gotten healthier (that night in December they were without Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov, Tomas Fleischmann, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine, among others), while the Bruins have been bitten by the injury bug (losing Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Milan "I Love" Lucic in the interim).
But the juggernaut that is the 2008-09 Boston Bruins seemingly cannot be stopped. They're second in the League in goals per game and first in goals against average. They're killing it on the power play, penalty kill and five-on-five, and haven't lost on the road since... the last time they came to D.C.
Are the Bruins playing over their collective head? Sure. The only question (and one that won't be answered until the Spring) is by how much?
One area where the B's have shown a relative weakness is in their ability to score goals away from the Hub - their power play drops off more than 15% on the road (to 15.8%), and their goals per game is 1.38 lower (to a still-impressive 2.91). Of course, their penalty kill and goals against numbers are better on the road, which is indicative of a team that knows how to win away from home, a point that their 16-4-3 road record hammers home.
So there you have a few hundred words on tonight's opponent, but I probably could have just gone with this image instead:
As Bruce Boudreau said yesterday, "Our goal is to catch the teams that are ahead of us. Boston happens to be there now. We don't know if it's possible, but you have to have something to shoot for every night."
Fire away, fellas.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Now would be a great time for me to introduce one of SB Nation's newest hockey blogs, Stanley Cup of Chowder. Go for the logo, stay for the content.... Allan Muir thinks the Caps should trade Tomas Fleischmann in a package for Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. Okaaaay.... Why does anyone think this is going to turn out any different than the All-Star voting did? NHL = Lucy; Ovie = Charlie Brown.... Versus dumped a Blue Jackets/Blues match-up in February for Caps/Devils? That instantly ranks in the Top Ten Smartest Things Versus Has Ever Done.... Today's Cap of the Day is a former Bruin and Cap.... Say what you want about Alexandre Giroux as an NHLer, but in the A, he's dominating and scored a pair of goals last night to make it 13 straight games with at least one goal, one game shy of Brett Hull's AHL record.... In case you missed it, Justin Taylor had a hattie the other night for London.... Finally, I'm going to try to hit this pre-game. Who's with Sombrero Guy and me?