From Alexander Ovechkin to David Pastrnak and from Evgeny Kuznetsov to Brad Marchand, the round- robin matchup between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals was fun to watch on NBC Sports Network.
To some hockey aficionados, it may have been a surprise that each of these powerhouses lost their first two games tothe Philadelphia Flyers (1 seed) and Tampa Bay Lightning (2 seed). When the NHL season was put to a halt in mid-March, the Bruins were well on their way to have the best regular season record in the league and to win the coveted President’s Trophy. The Capitals were set to finish at the top of the Metropolitan Division.
Although both teams have struggled throughout the first week in the Toronto NHL Bubble, when the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs began, the Bruins and Caps are forces with whom to be reckoned. The 3rd and 4th seed was up for grabs; a faceoff with the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Islanders awaited.
NBC’s announcers John Forslund and Mike Milbury discussed how special it was for the Flyers that the club went from the 4th seed to the 1st seed after sweeping the round-robin.
After a 2-1 victory for Washington, the Capitals (3 seed) will face the Islanders (7 seed) and the Bruins (4 seed) will battle the Hurricanes (6 seed). The Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off on Tuesday, August 11th.
NBC’s coverage was superb. Forslund and Milbury had the call, and Brian Boucher was present sitting inside the glass between the benches. This trio had the advantage of being present right at Scotiabank Arena where the game was played.
- Before the opening faceoff, Mike Milbury emphasized how important it was for the Bruins to get back on track. After suffering two defeats in the bubble, Milbury claimed that it was imperative for the Bruins to return to their normal groove before being thrown into an intense 16-team Stanley Cup Playoff. Forslund reinforced Milbury’s point insisting that the Bruins offense is getting going. Two goals in three games for this offensive juggernaut is unacceptable. Milbury felt that only the Bruins fourth line was playing with energy. On the other hand, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron are arguably the best offensive line in hockey and had no points during the first two games of the round-robin. On Sunday, Forslund was impressed with the Bruins’ fast-paced start.
- John and Mike discussed how Capitals goaltender Brayden Holtby must carry the load as the club’s netminder. With backup Ilya Samsonov on the injured reserve list, Holtby is the clear choice to be in net for the Caps as the postseason begins.
- Being on site, Forslund and Milbury were able to track the players and puck with ease. There were few, if any mistakes of who had the puck or who took a penalty. There were a minimal number of whistles and stoppages, and the guys in the booth didn’t miss a beat.
- Only a total of eight shots were tallied in the 1st period (Boston 6, Washington 2). The men were right on it. They pointed out how this was the lowest shot total in a single period since the NHL resumed play on August 1st.
- Although Washington got off to a slow start only posting one shot through the course of 19 minutes of action, Forslund and Milbury were impressed with the team’s defensive effort. The Caps prowess on the defensive side of the puck paid off. T.J. Oshie broke the tie with 16 seconds remaining in the 1st period to give his team a 1-0 lead heading into intermission. Following the goal, Forslund and Milbury relayed that they felt as if the Caps had a bit more “juice in their game.”
- Brian Boucher opined that the top line of Boston, known as the “perfection line,” had a strong 1st period. He felt as if Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron were skating and moving the puck well. On that same note, Forslund and Milbury were not impressed with the Bruins’ power-play. Uncharacteristically, the top unit of the perfection line, Torey Krug, and Charlie Coyle were unable to even get a shot on goal.
- In the 2nd period, Forslund and Milbury said that they would like to see more activity and additional physical presence from both the Bruins and Capitals. They underscored how the teams within the Stanley Cup Qualifiers had to give it their all from the start in order to earn a playoff berth. Although the round-robin teams (1st– 4th seeds in each conference) were already guaranteed a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Forslund and Milbury pondered whether these top teams would be a step slower than the lower seeds who’ve fought for their lives in the bubbles from the beginning.
- John and Mike wondered about the reasoning behind head coach Todd Rierden’s decision to change up his lines and to have Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom play together in the 2nd and 3rd. Perhaps Rierden was attempting to get Ovechkin and Backstrom to play to their full potential? Forslund and Milbury complimented Oshie on the way he was buzzing around the ice.
- Forslund and Milbury noticed that veteran teams like Boston and Washington were taking longer to get going than the younger teams who have limited playoff experience. However, the men believe that these veteran teams should be given the benefit of the doubt: “They’ve been here before and know how to turn it on when playoff time comes.”
- Once again, when the game was stopped and segued into a commercial break, the NHL on NBC’s familiar music sometimes sounded choppy.
- Forslund and Mike Milbury contend that players don’t think about their next opponent until the matchup is set in stone. Players focus on scoring and defending; coaches devise lines and strategies.