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Why I'm Not Convinced the Bruins Are The Better Team

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I'm still scratching my head.

The Bruins just won, yes. They have a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Washington Capitals. They turned Alex Ovechkin from a scorer to a hitter and nothing more, limiting him to just one shot in 17:34 ice time. They dominated vast stretches of the game, holding the Caps' once-potent offense to just 17 shots and were one ill-timed Zdeno Chara cross-checking penalty on Brooks Laich away from ensuring that Tim Thomas never even broke a sweat. They attempted 62 shots, 30 of them finding Braden Holtby. They didn't allow more than nine shots in a period. They out-hit Washington 40-29


And yet, I feel unfulfilled.

Skating against a guy making his first career playoff start, Boston didn't manage to get much traffic in front of the net. They had 22 shots blocked. Their power play had six consecutive minutes to operate and couldn't do anything with it. They lost 58% of their faceoffs, including 69 percent of the faceoffs in their own zone. In fact, guys not named Patrice Bergeron won just 37.5% of their draws (which might explain why Bergeron took almost two of every five Boston faceoffs).

The scoreboard indicates that they won, but I'm not convinced yet that the Bruins are the better team in this series, a matchup in which their opponent had already won three of four games against them this year.

Maybe it's because the Caps decided to take the Bruins game to them - sure, they didn't outhit Boston, but when they did hit the Bruins, they did an awful lot of damage. Ovechkin led all skaters with seven hits, and not surprisingly, Dennis Seidenberg was just behind him with six.

But Boston will take Ovechkin playing the role of a fourth liner anyday; after all, if he's hitting, he's not playing the puck, and if he's not playing the puck, he's not shooting. That one in the shot column is indicative of that.

Statistical struggles aside, Boston struggled entering the Washington zone most of the night - even when they were getting shots on Holtby, they were coming from the wing, the wall or the point, because the Capitals did a great job pushing Boston away from the center of the ice. Hell, even the Kelly goal game from the left wing at the top of the face-off circle.

So what can Boston do to sell me (and everyone else) on their odds in this series? Twelve months ago, I'd have said they just need to win Game Two..but we all know now that 0-2 series deficits are meaningless.

Focusing their physical game on the attacking zone instead of the neutral zone and the blue line would be a start. Get bodies to the net and push the smaller Capitals around; put a man in front of Holtby (or Vokoun or Neuvirth) and make them work to see the puck, much less to stop it.

Perhaps more importantly even than that, fix the breakouts. There is no Tomas Kaberle on this team, but that's okay - Kaberle's style of play, we've learned, isn't something that the Bruins necessarily benefit from (I say that in case Joe Corvo is reading - we don't need him getting any crazy ideas about doing things with the puck). But Rich Peverley skating figure 8s with the puck behind the Boston net is not how this team should be breaking out - if Ovechkin goes back to attack mode, he'll emaciate the Bruins if they keep that up.

The breakout will effect a lot of things, but the power play will need to be one of them. I'm not saying they need to go 3-for-3 in their next game, or even that they need to score at all, but guys need to be moving around more, finding open passing and shooting lanes, and using them. And if the Bruins are still busy dumping and chasing with a man advantage, they're that much more likely to get their feet stuck in the mud.

But there are resolutions for guys who don't throw on the black and gold sweaters, too - and I'm not talking about Julien rolling out the Campbell line (an 0-fer in the faceoff circle) and Corvo late in a scoreless game. The ice at TD Garden last night was terrible - pucks bouncing, guys falling, ruts everywhere. Yes, the Celtics played Wednesday night. No, they don't play on Friday. That will help. But it's not Tampa, it's not Phoenix; the Garden is one of the coldest arenas in North American pro sports - ask the NBA players who whine about it all the time if you don't think so - and there shouldn't be that many problems with the ice.

If all that goes down, there's reason to believe I'll be singing a different song in 48 hours. But that's a lot to ask of one off day. Some of it? Sure, but all of it?

It's a long post-season, we hope. There will be lots of time to get everything right. But there's still a long, long way to go.