The Boston Bruins enter Wednesday night’s road game against the Washington Capitals in almost a must-win situation. They are tied with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference wild-card playoff race with 95 points and this is Boston’s game in hand over Ottawa.
Making matters more difficult for Boston is Wednesday’s opposing goaltender. Capitals netminder Braden Holtby, who’s expected to start, has been a thorn in the Bruins’ side since he played the key role in Washington eliminating Boston in Round 1 of the 2012 playoffs.
Holtby has a 6-2-0 record, a 1.80 goals against average and a .948 save percentage in his career versus the Bruins. That includes two shutouts this season, most recently a 2-0 win March 15.
“He’s good,” Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said of Holtby. “Their goalie coach there had done a great job in the few years he’s been there. (Holtby is) a big guy, moves well and is always in the right position. So, it’s tough to get those first shots by him, and even second shots for that matter. He probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but I don’t think he’s the only guy.”
Holtby has been a workhorse for Washington with an NHL-leading 71 games played. He needs only one more win to tie Olaf Kolzig for the franchise record in a single season and also has posted a .922 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA. His name certainly isn’t being thrown into the Vezina Trophy conversation enough.
Despite already clinching a playoff spot, the Capitals still have something to play for. They can finish as high as second in the Metropolitan Division and secure home-ice advantage as a result. Washington also could drop as far as one of the wild card spots.
With what both teams have at stake, there will be a playoff-like atmosphere at the Verizon Center.
“They’re big, they’re physical,” Julien said of the Capitals. “They’re a heavy team this year. They’ve got some skill. They’ve got a real good balance this year. They’ve done a good job of filling in some holes they thought needed to be filled. They’ve had a good year. I know where they are right now is probably not indicative of their team because I think they’re a well-balanced team.
“We’re not here feeling overconfident. We haven’t scored on them yet in two games. We need to better tomorrow and a find a way to get past their goaltender.”
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images
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