The Washington Capitals entered their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins regarded as the heavier, more physical team.
So far, both clubs have thrown their weight around.
Certainly, the Caps stand to benefit from slowing the pace and punching the B’s in the mouth, something Washington has done both literally and figuratively at times throughout the series’ first three games. But the Bruins, for the most part, have held their own physically without compromising their own advantages in terms of finesse and skill.
“I think we have not been intimidated for one second by the physicality of their team,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters Thursday during a video conference. “I didn’t expect us to be going into the series. We’ve had a season series with them where we’ve matched them hit for hit, for the most part. It might not be exact numbers, but I mean in terms of when we were able to put the body on people, we have.
“We’ve tried to stay disciplined doing that. We’ve got a couple of penalties in scrums we’re going to have to be mindful of, but I don’t think we’ve gone to the box for anything — I think (Sean) Kuraly’s hit on (Alex) Ovechkin (on Wednesday night) was the closest thing; that was marginal (and) they called a trip. Other than that, we’re trying to play hard when the situation dictates, be physical against their good players and as the series goes on hopefully you wear them down doing that.”
Now, this doesn’t mean Cassidy’s group has turned back the clock and become the “Big Bad Bruins.” Nor should the Bruins pursue such time travel. Their current identity — a deep, talented, two-way force with solid goaltending — works just fine.
But it’s worth noting that Boston has responded well whenever Washington has looked to assert itself with an overpowering brand of hockey, particularly in the last two games as the Bruins have secured back-to-back overtime wins to take a 2-1 series lead.
“Keep your pace up — I thought we did that (Wednesday) night (in Game 3), got really skating in the overtimes and showed our conditioning level,” Cassidy said. “So we’re trying to blend both and still play our game. The physical part of this, I think, has been there for both teams, within the boundaries of the law. It’s been a good series that way. And I’m sure that’ll continue.”
The Bruins outhit the Capitals 60-57 in Wednesday night’s 3-2, double-OT win in Game 3. They don’t throw parades for such feats, obviously, especially given the questionable value of the metric itself. But it’s a notable development after Washington outhit Boston 87-71 over the first two games.
If nothing else, the Bruins have shown they won’t be shoved around. And so long as that physical pushback comes without any unnecessary trips to the penalty box, it should be viewed as another positive that exemplifies Boston’s overall resilience.