Braden Holtby: A Superstar in the Making?

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Braden Holtby. He was simply incredible against the Bruins Thursday night — the only reason why the Caps aren’t down 3-1 heading into Boston. The 22-year-old netminder made 44 saves while allowing a single goal (on a 2-on-1) as the Caps squeaked out a 2-1 victory.

“That’s playoff hockey,” Holtby said after the game. “That’s why it’s so fun — the close games, the close battles. I hope it doesn’t change and I hope that we’re on the high end of it every time.”

After struggling somewhat Monday night (though not as much as the defense) in the Capitals 4-3 loss, this was a hell of a way to bounce back. Throughout the game Holtby was continuously peppered with shots but made save after save.

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Holtby Superior! Caps beat Bruins 2-1

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

After two noisy days without a game, the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins finally got into it again. After the feisty mess that was Game Three, the Capitals had something prove for the hometown crowd– and they had to do it without Nick Backstrom.

Brooks Laich set up Marcus Johansson for an odd-man rush to score in the first ninety seconds of the game. With Dennis Wideman overcommitted on offense, Rich Peverley had an easy time tying it up with an odd-man rush. Alex Semin beat Thomas with a surgical strike on a power play late in the second to give the Caps the lead. Caps beat Bruins 2-1.

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Prescriptions for Game Four: Win It For Nicky Signs

Photo: Chris Gordon. Guy on TweetDeck: Adam Vingan

The Washington Capitals had only a 38% win percentage on the road this season, so getting the W Thursday night is crucial; they just can’t depend on victory away from Verizon Center. But Monday’s home loss to the Bruins was an ugly affair, and the once well composed team fell to shambles. To win Game Four, the Caps are gonna have to dig deep.

I have compiled a series of modest steps the Capitals should take to make it happen. And then we threw in the secret weapon. (Okay, we’ll tell you: more posters.)

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Though we often take shots at NBC coverage of Caps games, it’s playful ribbing of a shared suffering that all hockey fans endure sometimes. We are fully aware that there are worse fates, like being stuck watching on NESN with Jack Edwards commenting.

While Bruins fans seem to like him well enough, that’s not as much the case among fans of other teams, or those who value commentating that reflects what is actually happening on the ice. Case in point: Edwards’ radio appearance with WEEI after Game 3, wherein he describes a game and a series clearly occupying a reality separate from our own.

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Credit: welshhockeyfan.tumblr.com

Because this is apparently A Thing now, and because our comments are inundated with semi-literate Boston fans, here’s an animated GIF of Karl Alzner taunting Milan Lucic.

As an antidote, Beccah at Japers Rink wrote a very smart article about how playing the pest won’t work against the Bruins. And there’s a special treat behind the jump for The Alz-Stars (which is our new name for Karl’s fan club).

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10:23 p.m. was not a good time for the Washington Capitals on Monday. That’s when the clock hit zero, putting the Caps down 2-1 in their best of seven quarterfinal matchup with the Bruins. But it was also what happened after the whistle that could haunt the team’s postseason chances.

As the final seconds ticked off and the Caps dropped the game 4-3, Boston’s Rich Peverley and Alex Ovechkin got into a scuffle. Coming to the aid of his buddy, Nicklas Backstrom delivered a cross-check up high on the Bruins forward. That’s when the inconsistent officiating of this series — and these playoffs as a whole — once again reared its head. For his infraction — the third called against him in the game — Backstrom was assessed a match penalty.

The video is after the jump.

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Photo credit: Stephanie Hakim

We almost feel like we’re watching some kind of bizarre social experiment in this series, as we observe Bruins forward Milan Lucic‘s temper simmer, simmer, and boil over more and more frequently as his line continues to be rather ineffective versus the Caps. These bursts of temper saw Lucic collecting 8 PIMs by the end of the night, though– puzzlingly- the refs seemed to think that it was always necessary to tack a Washington penalty on top, perhaps so Lucic wouldn’t get so lonely in the box. The refs have seen this behavior — he’s acting out for attention– and should know better.

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Bruins beat Caps 4-3, Big Letdown on Home Ice

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Game Three: The Washington Capitals treated the Boston Bruins to a quiet night of conversation and sport. And then all these damn rowdy Caps fans showed up and spoiled what could have been a pleasant night. It was ugly, it was loose, it was the opposite of those first two games, and it ended tragically.

With Brooks Laich screening up front, Alex Semin converted a first period penalty play while Chara was in the box. Rich Peverly tied it up, but who cares because Alex Ovechkin scored 13 seconds later. Daniel Paille was left all alone in front of Holtby, tying the game at two. Brian Rolston exploited some bad Caps D early in the third and gave the Bruins their first lead of the night. Nick Backstom set Brooks Laich loose for a breakaway to beat Tim Thomas and tie it with six minutes left.

On a late-game 4-on-4, Zdeno Chara’s slapshot caught a little bit of Hamrlik and got past Holtby. Bruins beat Caps 4-3.

UPDATE 10:45 pm: Nick Backstrom’s high hit after the final buzzer earned him a match penalty. He is automatically suspended from Game Four, but that may be waived later tomorrow.

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Timmy and the Obama signs on NBCSN. (Photo credit: @levnaginsky)

On Sunday we posted some highly scientific analysis about the Tim Thomas – Barack Obama connection, as well as two printable posters and an Obama mask that could be cut out and worn all over your pretty face. The response was enthusiastic and varied. It is truly an honor to appear on Bruins blogs and Glenn Beck’s site in the same day.

We were flanked in our effort to psyche out Timmy by our friends at Sick Unbelievable, Brooks Laichyear, and Homer McFanboy. Whatever you make of the political dimension of the campaign or its impact on the game, at least we got to see how tight this Caps fan community is. It’s large-scale silliness and public mayhem for a good cause.

We’ve got all kinds of meta-coverage below the jump, so please follow along.

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After the first two games of the quarterfinal round, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is sporting a .964 save percentage, having stopped 54 of the 56 shots he has faced. Last season’s Vezina and Conn Smythe winner, Thomas has already had a successful follow-up campaign, earning a 35-19-1 record during the regular season. He is the calm core of Boston’s defense and a reliable presence to backstop the league’s third best offense.

But Thomas’s composure came somewhat unspooled on Saturday night. After a whistle, he punched the previously concussed Nick Backstrom, who ended up scoring the game-winner in double overtime. While Thomas escaped without the match penalty recommended in rule 51.3 for goalies who use a blocker pad to punch a skater, he has not escaped the attention and ire of the Washington Capitals and their fans.

Games Three and Four of the series will be played in DC, and we just figured out precisely how we will troll.

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