Teammates swarm Joel Ward after he scored the Game 7 OT-winner to send his Washington Capitals through to the second round. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.
We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.
Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.
BRUINS/CAPITALS, GAME 7: CAPITALS 2, BRUINS 1 (OT) (CAPITALS WIN SERIES 4-3)
THN’s Take: Only the Pittsburgh Penguins scored more regular season goals than the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately for the defending Stanley Cup champions, the offense ran dry against Capitals rookie goalie Braden Holtby and it became their downfall again in a Game 7, a 2-1 overtime and series loss to Washington.
In four games of the best-of-seven first round matchup – the tightest series in NHL history, with all seven games decided by a single goal – the unheralded Holtby and his Caps teammates held the Bruins offense to a single goal. Incredibly, Boston won the first of those four games 1-0, but as the series extended on, the frustration that plagued Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron (no goals and two points in seven games), Milan Lucic (no goals and three assists) and Brad Marchand (one goal and two points) was palpable.
Meanwhile, the Capitals, who squeezed out goals like they were passing kidney stones, found just enough offense to get by as Holtby starred in net. In front of an unfriendly crowd in Boston, they played it safe and boring and got offense from lesser lights Matt Hendricks and, with the overtime winner, Joel Ward. It is beyond astonishing to think they eliminated the Bruins with virtually no contribution from superstar Alex Ovechkin, but that’s exactly how Game 7 played out: Ovechkin played just 16:25 and had 23 shifts; by comparison, Jay Beagle played 16:39 and had 25 shifts, while Troy Brouwer played 19:13 and had 27 shifts.
But nobody is complaining in Washington, at least not for now. No, the time for immediate introspection has arrived in Boston, where the future of Tim Thomas – who played decently at times, but wasn’t consistently spectacular – will be in question, as will the lack of depth exposed in the absence of the injured Nathan Horton. If the Bruins showed anything this post-season, it’s how next-to-impossible it really is to repeat as champs.
1. Braden Holtby – The 22-year-old netminder was unflappable yet again, turning aside 31 of 32 Bruins shots and giving his team enough treading-water time until the Bruins made an error. He finishes the series with a dazzling .940 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average and in many ways is the only reason the Capitals weren’t golfing after Game 5.
2. Karl Alzner – Also a youngster at age 23, Alzner played like a post-season veteran, logging 30 shifts – only teammate John Carlson (31) and Bruins cornerstone Zdeno Chara (33) had more – and 24:41. He also deflected a Bergeron shot wide of an open net shortly into overtime to save the Caps’ season. He had just one point in the series, but that’s not why he’s on the ice.
3. Joel Ward – The overtime hero got that way by making the right decision – cutting to the middle of the ice as he trailed a shot on a 2-on-1 with teammate Mike Knuble – and scoring his first of the playoffs. Ward played only 10:44 (only Knuble saw less time for the Caps, logging 9:33), but stepped up when the opportunity arose. That’s what the playoffs are all about.
Who do you think was the first star?
The Black Hole: David Krejci led the Bruins in their 2010-11 championship run in goals (12) and points (23). In this series, he had one goal and three points. In Game 7, he was held pointless, managed just a single shot on net and got annihilated in the faceoff circle, winning only five of 15 draws. Krejci did have a panel of heavy rink-board glass accidentally fall on him after Game 1, so perhaps he was injured. If he wasn’t, he was underwhelming to say the least.