To beat the Boston Bruins once at home was nice for the Washington Capitals, a game Mathieu Perreault dominated in just before the All-Star break. To beat the Bruins in Boston earlier this month was all that much more impressive.
March 10’s matchup at TD Garden wasn’t a game most expected the Caps to win.
“Maybe they underestimated us a little bit, which is good for us in this case, and we went in knowing it’s a really good team,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We’ve got to prove ourselves against teams like that and [we] took them by surprise and played a hard game. We really like those games, we see that we usually, I think, play better against the good teams than the teams that are near us or below us in the standings.”
Asked if that kind of inconsistency was frustrated, the usually chatty Alzner answered with a smile and “Yes.” That the Caps faltered in games at the Carolina Hurricanes and, much earlier, at the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, but managed to get up for the Bruins is hard to explain.
The Caps are 15-6-5 against teams currently out of playoff position and 10-16-3 against teams in playoff spots.
“That’s the frustrating thing,” Alzner added. “The games that we say that are games we should be winning we’re not winning enough it’s one of those things you look back and you ask yourself why.”
All the Caps are asking themselves now is how, as in how they can go back into TD Garden and pick up a big victory that would go a long way toward helping their playoff hopes. With five games left, the general consensus is that they need to win four to make it.
Coach Dale Hunter said the attitude the team’s taking is to let go of the embarrassing Verizon Center loss to the Sabres and focusing on the Bruins.
“We have to be at our best to beat Boston because they’re a good team,” Hunter said. “We all know that they’re solid so we have to be at our best. We can’t give them chances like we did [against the Sabres Tuesday] night, or it will be in the back of our net.”
There is a good chance of that. The Bruins feature five 20-goal scorers (Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) and have another (Chris Kelly) on the doorstep with 19.
Boston just needs to not collapse to wind up with the Northeast Division title and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a good hockey team,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “I think when we play the way we’re capable of playing we can beat them and we’ve shown that. We know what’s on the line going up there, we know where we sit in the standings and it is going to be a desperate hockey team.”