By Jenny Masters
The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off with the Boston Bruins visiting the Caps.
The Bruins were 4-2-2 against the Caps while the Capitals went 4-4-0 in the season series. Boston lost the final meeting of the year on Tuesday, however the Bruins sat many of their regular starters for that game. Washington opened as the favorite for Game 1s, but the line quickly moved in Boston’s favor.
The game opened with the Capitals as favorites at -128 but the line has now shifted to favor the Bruins in the -117 to -130 range depending on the sportsbook. The total opened at 5.5 and is locked in at that number with the UNDER now favored between -117 and -132.
The Bruins enter the series in almost perfect health as the only regular potentially missing from the lineup is center Charlie Coyle, who is questionable for Game 1 with an upper-body injury.
The Bruins head into the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NHL – scoring at a torrid pace for the last month. Only Minnesota had more even-strength goals than Boston’s 40 over the last month of hockey. The Bruins are first in the league in that span in goals-for percentage (GF%) as they only gave up 20 goals, the seventh-fewest, in the last four weeks.
The scoring was not fluky or fueled by some lucky goals either as the Bruins rank third in the league over the last month in expected goals for percentage (xGF%). Boston also had the most overall scoring chances and third-most high danger scoring chances in that span.
Long-time starter Tuukka Rask will start between the pipes for the Bruins and rookie Jeremy Swayman, who started just ten games this season, will serve as the backup.
As good as the Bruins were over the last month, the Capitals were arguably just as good. Washington is one of just two teams with a better xGF% since April 16 with only the Colorado Avalanche putting up a better number. The Caps were also right behind the Bruins in both overall scoring chances and high danger chances ranking eighth and seventh, respectively.
The big difference between the Caps and Bruins is health. As the Bruins enter fully healthy, Washington could be dealing with a couple of major injuries early in round one.
Alex Ovechkin has played in just three games since April 18 but says he feels “100 percent” while top defenseman John Carlson, center Nicklas Backstrom and winger T.J. Oshie all missed games in the last week. Backstrom is not listed on the injury report while Carlson is listed as probable and Oshie is questionable for Saturday.
Add those question marks to forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and starting goalie Ilya Samsonov, who are both in the league’s COVID-19 protocol and are out indefinitely.
The Capitals should have most of their top players back from injury but are still dealing with a couple of key injuries. They will be starting a rookie goalie in net and despite being so hot offensively they are taking on a top defensive team. Boston is the no-brainer bet at a rather good number.