Washington Capitals at. Boston Bruins
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 7
The two most exciting words in sports: Game Seven.
That's what we have Wednesday night in Boston when the Washington Capitals face-off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.
After six games of hotly-contested, energized hockey that were all decided by one goal, the Caps and Bruins lace them up one more time for a shot at advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
This series has been excitingly close. Three of the games went to overtime and it's the first time ever that the first six games of a series have been decided by one goal.
Here is what Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said of the looming decisive game, according to
"Game 7 is a grinding kind of game," Hunter said. "We're used to playing it. Every game here has been [a] tough game. Both sides are, I imagine, a little bit banged up. But little bruises, they'll forget about them come Game 7."
If the first six games were any indication of what's to come Wednesday at TD Garden, goaltending will be key.
The Emergence of Holtby
Capitals newbie goaltender Braden Holtby has stolen the headlines thus far from last year's Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. But that was before Thomas came through, and in a big way (36 saves), to help the Bruins stave off elimination with a 4-3 overtime victory Sunday afternoon in D.C.
Both goalies have been sensational for their respective teams and have one more game to win the duel.
Will it be Holtby, the 22-year-old who played in just seven games this season before the series began, or will it be the two-time Vezina Trophy winner Thomas?
Washington GP W L GAA SO SV%
Braden Holtby 6 3 3 2.17 0 .935
Boston GP W L GAA SO SV%
Tim Thomas 6 3 3 2.18 1 .922
Battle of the Stars
Game 7's are the time for star players to step up and take over. In D.C., that status belongs to the Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.
The Great 8 has 26 shots on goal this series with only two getting past Thomas. He's added three assists as well. The Caps will need a vintage performance from Ovechkin in Game 7 in order to take down the Bruins.
For the Bruins it's the usual suspects: Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara. But the boys in Boston can beat teams many different ways with their loaded roster. See: Rich Peverley, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
The Capitals will need a big night from their defensemen, beginning with Mike Green.
Despite scoring the game-tying goal in Game 6, Ovechkin has been spending the majority of third-periods on the Capitals' bench. It came to an apex with Ovechkin sporting a 15:34 Time On Ice stat line in Game 5.
Hunter has opted to sit Ovechkin come crunch time for defensive purposes, and rightfully so. The Capitals captain has made some costly turnovers for his team. How much ice time will the Great 8 see come the third?
The hearts of Capitals fans await a prime-time performance from their beloved "Ovie" Wednesday night.
The Power Play
This game may come down to which team makes the crucial mistake.
After putting up an 0-for on power plays throughout the first four games, the Bruins have tallied a power play goal in each of the last two.
The Capitals penalty kill has been phenomenal with a 90 percent kill rate. That's in large part to the more than 10 minutes on average Capitals players have spent in the penalty box this series.
The Capitals can ill-afford any unnecessary penalties. And in Game 7, they're all considered unnecessary (unless it's for a cheap shot on Marchand). The Capitals need their skillful center Nicklas Backstrom (16 penalty minutes) on the ice as much as possible and not in the sinbin - I had to get a Joe Beninati reference in here at some point.
Game 7 is not the time to lose your composure. The Capitals must play a disciplined, mistake-free game to overcome the momentum the Bruins seized on Sunday.
The Take doesn't make predictions on Game 7's, but you know where his heart will be. As my buddy Joe Cantreva puts it - It's Game 7, all you can do is hope and pray that the bounces go your way.
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Bring it home Caps.