The Boston Bruins began their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
Here are some takeaways, thoughts and analysis from Game 1.
— One of the big on-ice storylines going into the series was the impact that physicality would have.
It should be no surprise that the Capitals came out taking the body every time they could to begin the game. But, truthfully, that style of play isn’t sustainable across 60 minutes every night of a best-of-seven series. Alex Ovechkin isn’t going to be able to line up David Krejci like he did seconds after opening puck drop every single time, and so on.
There undoubtedly will be clamoring for the Bruins to go big and physical in the ensuing games. For now, that might not be the answer. The Capitals are built so uniquely that the Bruins — nor any of the other teams in the NHL — can match physicality the way Washington uses it. Also, turning the series into a gong show won’t fix some of the things that sank the Bruins on Saturday, like getting jammed up in the neutral zone.
The best thing Boston can do is just try to get to it’s game, and not get sucked into playing the way the Capitals want the B’s to play. Easier said than done obviously, but the Bruins absolutely can out-skill the Capitals.
But there is something to be said about the way the Bruins attacked Anderson. He’s played in five games this season, and was entering Saturday’s game cold after the injury to Vitek Vanecek. It would have made a lot of sense if the Bruins decided to go buckwild with shots: Clappers from the point, one-timers from the dot, traffic in front of the net. All that good stuff.
Credit to the Capitals, they did a good job getting into shooting lanes and making that tough on Boston. Regardless, getting Anderson in the middle of the game probably will be the best situation any team gets with an opposing goalie.
— He’s certainly not the first young player to go through this, but Jake DeBrusk’s defensive game visibly comes with his offense at times.
Whenever Cassidy has scratched DeBrusk this season, he’s said that his main gripe is DeBrusk isn’t impacting the game enough in ways other than scoring. It’s more forgivable if you can’t get on the scoresheet if you’re forechecking hard and playing reliable defense.
But DeBrusk looked like he was shot out of a cannon after scoring in the first period. His backcheck on John Carlson that forced an awful shot on a Capitals odd-man rush was a work of art. He seemed tighter on the forecheck.
However long DeBrusk is able to ride this high is a good thing for the Bruins. Lately it’s seemed like he’s been able to find his game, and it’s clear how beneficial that can be for Boston.
— One has to think that the Bruins won’t be so unlucky every game this series.
It was wild, actually, how snakebitten the Bruins were Saturday night.
The Tom Wilson first-period goal came off a rush that developed because Charlie McAvoy’s stick snapped. Brenden Dillon scored from the point in the second period because his shot got a piece of Jeremy Lauzon’s stick after he did a good job defending Alex Ovechkin in front of the net. Even Nic Dowd’s game-winner came because he got a piece of the puck on a T.J. Oshie shot from the point that probably was going over the net.
Make no mistake, the Bruins have to be better on offense, but it was not a bad defensive effort in Game 1. If one or two breaks goes the Bruins’ way, they’re up 1-0 in the series right now.
— It ended up being a moot point, but the Jeremy Lauzon cross-checking penalty in the second period raises an interesting debate.
Clearly, he didn’t like Ovechkin’s cross-check on Kevan Miller, which went uncalled. Further, the two had been having their own private battle throughout the night.
There’s no issue with Lauzon going after Ovechkin. Mixing things up is part of the Caps star’s game, too. But one thing young players always have to learn is where the line is, a line that does have a tendency to move in the postseason.
The Capitals have a dynamite power-play. Lauzon was right to engage Ovechkin and stick up for his teammate, but after one or two cross-checks, he has to be sure that Ovechkin will engage him back. As Lauzon kept hitting the winger, it became clear that the Bruins defenseman would seem like the aggressor and Ovechkin the victim. That likely is why Lauzon got two minutes and Ovechkin nothing.
Again, it ended up not mattering because the Bruins killed the penalty. But those are the types of plays the Capitals want to get the Bruins to commit. Boston’s job then becomes finding a way to respond, while also, in a way, taking the high road.
— Game 2 of Bruins-Capitals will be Monday on NESN at 7:30 p.m. ET. Pregame coverage begins on NESN at 6:30.