Despite the recent resurgence of both franchises, the Washington Capitals and Bruins still haven’t met in a playoff series since 1998.
And with the current NHL schedule scenario, inter-divisional foes from the Eastern Conference meet just four times a season.
There should be more venom between these two teams than there is.
But that might’ve started to change in the 2010 preseason. Boston and Washington met up twice during exhibition play. In the first game in D.C., superstar Caps forward Alexander Ovechkin took exception to a hit along the wall by Bruins center Gregory Campbell. The next night at TD Garden, former Bruins farmhand Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with Campbell right off the opening faceoff.
Campbell said he can only guess that Hendricks challenged him in response to the run-in with Ovechkin. Whether the bad blood will carry over into the regular season will be revealed tonight at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. puck drop).
Unlike most of his Bruins teammates, Campbell is used to playing Ovechkin & Co. six times a year (eight in the first couple years after the lockout) from his days in the Southeast Division with Florida. The Bruins grinding center said he hasn’t had too many 1-on-1 showdowns with Ovechkin, but knows that playing against the “Great 8″ means there’ll be a lot of body contact.
“He plays hard,” said Campbell before departing with his team for D.C. “He’s going to be physical and he’s one of those guys where if you’re going to hit him, you have to be as prepared as if he’s going to hit you because he always throws those counter hits.”
Last season, the Bruins beat the Caps in the meaningless regular-season finale but picked up just one standings point in the other three meetings. In those three Washington wins, the Caps outscored Boston, 11-4.
Tim Thomas is scheduled to be the man charged with slowing down the Washington attack, as the former Vezina winner makes his third straight start. The last time Thomas made three straight starts was last February, when he actually started four games in a row and compiled a 2-1-1 record. Ovechkin has been on fire with four goals and eight points during a season-opening five-game point streak.
Uncharacteristically, the Caps are a perfect 21-for-21 on the penalty kill, which should provide a steep challenge to Boston’s slow-starting power play (1-for-11).
Regardless of how the special teams fare, or how Thomas handles the threat of each Ovechkin attack, hopefully these teams build up enough bad blood that’s worthy of two of the conference’s premier teams knocking heads.