Though the Boston Bruins haven’t forgotten that Washington ended their 2011 Stanley Cup title defense prematurely in last season’s playoffs, they’re simply more focused on how to stop the surging Capitals on Tuesday night.
The last time these two teams played, seventh-seeded Washington celebrated Joel Ward’s overtime goal that gave it a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series to send the defending champions home.
“I didn’t think we played our best hockey, obviously, in that series,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Boston (14-3-2), though, isn’t dwelling on the past heading to D.C. for the first meeting since that defeat, but instead looking to slow down a Capitals team that has won six of nine since starting the season 2-8-1.
“They may have had a rough start, but they’ve been a really good team,” Julien said. “I don’t think we’re facing a team that’s underachieving right now. They might’ve underachieved a little (but) I think they’re finding their way right now.”
Boston is coming off a 4-3 loss to rival Montreal on Sunday that snapped its six-game winning streak, and Julien said he’s looking for his team to bounce back on the road, where it has won four straight and is 8-1-1 overall.
“It’s not the end of the world that you lose a game,” Julien said. “We need to be thinking about Washington, who’s slowly, but surely, getting better.
“We want to make sure we stay in the winning column, more than the losing one.”
Alexander Ovechkin, who has three goals and three assists over the Capitals’ last four games, doesn’t believe Boston will be using last year’s playoffs as extra motivation.
He doesn’t think Washington will, either.
“It’s going to be a very important game for us,” said Ovechkin, who had two goals and three assists in the series. “We’re not going to think about that we beat them in the playoffs and they’re going to be mad at us and those kinds of stupid things.”
The Capitals (8-11-1) have shut out two of their last three opponents, including Saturday’s 3-0 win at Winnipeg. Braden Holtby made 35 saves in his latest shutout after giving up four goals on only 18 shots in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Philadelphia.
“Goalies usually get too much credit for the good and too much blame for the bad,” Holtby said. “It’s not a shutout for myself, that’s a shutout for the team.”
Julien, though, knows better than to sell Holtby short after he posted a 2.00 goals-against average while starting each game in the playoff series - his only career starts versus Boston.
“He played with a lot of confidence (in the playoff series),” Julien said. “I think he’s a real difference maker for them. He’s playing well right now.
Washington coach Adam Oates said Holtby will be in net versus the Bruins, who could counter with Tuukka Rask Before giving up four goals to Montreal, he had gone 7-0-1 with a 1.35 GAA over his previous eight starts.
Rask is 0-2-1 with a 3.45 GAA in two starts and one relief appearance versus the Capitals.
“We need to play good hockey and get our two points,” Oates said. “That’s what our focus is about.”