Prior to Saturday's matinee at Verizon Center, the Boston Bruins were hockey's hottest team, running off a 13-0-1 record over their previous 14 games, a span of games that stretched back to the last time they faced the Caps, coincidentally enough.
Washington, for their part, carried a six-game point streak (4-0-2) into the afternoon's meeting, a span of games that stretched back to the last time they faced that other black-and-gold-clad squad.
On Saturday, "hot" would down "warm," as the Bruins used a second-period blitz and a stubborn refusal to not let the Caps ever touch the puck (at least, that's how it felt) en route to a 4-2 win.
Eight more notes on the game:
- Coming into the game, the Caps had snagged at least a point in each of their eight day games (5-0-3). Not so much any more.
- The Bruins came out of the gates guns a-blazin' (and metaphors a-mixed), and thoroughly dominated the Caps in the first period, outshooting them 15-9 in the frame with an even more decisive edge at even-strength. Braden Holtby made every save, however (including several with high degrees of difficulty), and the game headed to intermission scoreless.
- Washington went to the power play early in the second, but failed to convert. Ten seconds after the power-play expired, Jarome Iginla made it 1-0 B's after the Caps were unable to get the puck deep in the Boston zone, Karl Alzner was unable to corral a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, John Carlson failed to cover for his partner, and Holtby was unable to stop the resultant partial breakaway. That's a lot of "failed" and "unable," no?
- Five minutes later, Boston pushed the lead to 2-0 on the power play (Eric Fehr for hooking) when-
- Sorry for cutting that last bullet short - the Bruins scored another one before I finished it. This one was probably the ugliest (to that point) in terms of the split between the mental and physical mistakes made, with the former bearing the brunt of the blame.
- With twenty seconds left in the second period, Boston had a three-goal lead, an offensive-zone face-off, and Selke-winning-face-off-monster Patrice Bergeron taking the draw against converted-winger Fehr. The latter won the puck (with help from Joel Ward), sending Mike Green rushing the puck down the left wing. He got the puck to the front (off a defenseman's stick), where Jason Chimera deposited it behind Chad Johnson. Once again, it was the third line - the only Caps' line capable of doing anything at even-strength these days - and once again, the Caps had life.
- Speaking of that third line, how about the shift they had to (finally) draw a penalty 6:30 into the third period? An absolute cycling clinic... but were any of the other nine forwards paying attention? Because they sure could learn a lot from that minute-plus.
- Unfortunately, the Caps couldn't convert on any of several high-quality chances with the extra-man, but the Caps had regained momentum... until a questionable (and that's probably a generous-to-the-stripes description) Alex Ovechkin charging penalty took the wind out of the sails and a Bergeron goal on the ensuing power play sunk the ship.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a late goal from a tough angle, so there's that.
Let's be clear about one thing: the Boston Bruins are a super hockey team, easily the best that the East has to offer headed into the playoffs, and a serious threat to win that last hockey game of the season. The Caps? They're... not any of that. And time is running out on their season, which at this point, seems most likely to either end after Game 82... or pit them against this very Boston team for a first-round series. But if that's going to happen, they're going to need to be better from the start than they were on Saturday, and their next chance to be better is Sunday night in Nashville.