1. The Old Man and the Zee
Zdeno Chara has played 1,608 NHL regular-season games and another 195 playoff matches. The entire Bruins blueline that is expected to skate in Saturday night’s Game 1 of the Caps/Bruins first-round series has played 1,480 games in the regular-season and 169 more in the playoffs. And, of course, Big Zee played 1,023/150 of those games in Boston’s black and gold.
Apparently that’s a storyline.
Zdeno Chara was Boston’s leader. As the Caps’ Cup pursuit begins, he must face his former team.— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 13, 2021
⁰“At no point has he disappointed us in what he has delivered for us this year.” https://t.co/yi98WzMfqB
Practice wraps with PP work. Lots of reps going through Nick Ritchie as the right-side goal-line guy.— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) May 13, 2021
That's where Zdeno Chara will be waiting. https://t.co/jX7ET7Ozgr
"Our team got better the day he walked into our room. I'm a real believer that people who have the tremendous integrity and work ethic, it's a learned thing, and it's something that they pass on to other people." #Caps https://t.co/yKj73BBAF4— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) May 14, 2021
But what does it mean on the ice? Via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir:
“He knows when we’re doing certain plays,” Marchand told reporters in Boston. “Obviously, teams will do video and stuff like that, but he knows all the code names that we use and typically the situations that we like to use them in. So even when we played them this season, we could see him talking to guys about the plays that we were going to do. So it could definitely cause some challenges at times. But it’s playoffs, you’ve got to work through that there.”
Laviolette acknowledged that he’s already downloaded some useful information from Chara and will continue to do so.
“You’re right about his knowledge of the Bruins,” Laviolette said, “and possibly some systems. And possibly some player detail. You often talk to players who played for a team that you’re facing in the playoffs for a little more information. He should be a good resource for us.”
Expounding upon that, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa:
Nobody knows the Bruins’ tendencies, especially on the power play, better than Chara. As the Bruins’ penalty-killing ace, Chara always practiced against the No. 1 unit. He knows all their plays: David Pastrnak’s left-elbow screamer, Bergeron’s bumper one-timer, Brad Marchand’s up-high rotation.
“I think this is truly one of the reasons they signed Z,” Cassidy said. “For this time of the year coming up. His impact probably hasn’t even been truly felt yet. We’re going to be the first ones to find out what it is.”
As John Carlson put it...
Carlson on Chara's impact this season: "He's just a special dude." #Caps— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) May 13, 2021
Hopefully this intriguing story has a happy ending for Caps fans.
2. Mystery Goalie
Ah, the games coaches play come playoff time:
As far as the Capitals' plan for their goaltenders in the playoffs, specifically Game 1 starter on Saturday vs BOS, Peter Laviolette said the team is keeping that internal.— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 13, 2021
What intrigue! Will the Caps go with the guy who started 36 games for them this year, including six of the last eight, led all rookies in wins, and posted a decent-if-unspectacular 4-3-0/.905/2.86 mark against Boston this year? Or the guy who’s still on the COVID list (who was 0-1-0/.872/3.66 against the B’s anyway) and has played once since April 25? Or maybe the guy who will be 40 in a week, who has played two games since February? Hell, what about the AHL’s goals-against average leader?
Capitals practice appears to be an optional.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) May 14, 2021
Vitek Vanecek was out early with Craig Anderson and Pheonix Copley working with goalie coach Scott Murray, but left when the regular drills began.
Maybe tells you something about who the Game 1 starting goalie will be tomorrow.
I’m pretty sure we all know who’s going to be between the pipes tomorrow night, and he’s earned it (Vitek Vanecek, for those of you who are real slow on the uptake). Where they go from there should he falter, however, is another question...
3. Injury Updates
The Caps, of course, ended the season with some lingering (and new) injuries to key players, so let’s get an update on them:
Caps D John Carlson said he'll be ready to play Game 1 on Saturday.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) May 13, 2021
Laviolette said they're still working through T.J. Oshie's status for Game 1.
Oshie sat out the regular season finale vs. Boston with a lower-body injury, but skated before and at the start of practice today.
T.J. Oshie (lower-body) is on the ice ahead of Capitals practice, though he still remains out, per team.— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 14, 2021
Michal Kempny is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Schultz all played in the season finale and also appear to be good-to-go for Game 1.
Alex Ovechkin: “Right now, I’m 100 percent. I didn’t feel any soreness. I feel comfortable. That’s the most important thing. This time of year, you have to be smart and you have to think about the future, not only regular season.”— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 12, 2021
Then, of course, there are the two... other guys:
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov remain on the NHL's covid-19 protocols list, per team. This is Day 11.— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 14, 2021
So it looks like the Caps will start the series missing one or two of its top-six forwards. A tough task just got tougher...