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Capitals like their chances

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 14, 2012
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Stay the course.

That’s the strategy the Washington Capitals will employ Saturday when the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bruins goes to Game 2 at TD Garden.

This time of year, when everything is magnified, there are no wholesale changes to make. It’s all about a tweak here and a tweak there.

The Capitals only gave up a single goal - Chris Kelly’s at 1:18 of overtime - but could not find a way to solve the Bruins’ Tim Thomas.

Granted, they only had 17 shots, a testament to Boston’s tight defensive play, but if the visitors are going to get out of Boston with the series tied, they need to get more traffic to the net, stay out of the penalty box (a big problem in Thursday’s second period), and get their big guns going.

“We’ve gone throughout the entire season in a lot of games being outshot,’’ said Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, who logged a team-high 23 minutes 1 second of ice time in Game 1. “For us, we got outshot but we outchanced them and that’s the main thing. We’ll take 10 shots on goal and nine chances to their six chances. It doesn’t always work where we can get a ton of shots. They do a good job of keeping you out of the middle and not letting you get too many second-chance opportunities.

“Power plays is a big thing, too. We didn’t have as many as they did and we could’ve gotten a few more there. It’s just taking what’s given to you and trying to get more once that first shot has been taken.’’

The talk of the night was about the play of 22-year-old goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 29 shots. But Alzner said if Holtby was a revelation to the Bruins, he isn’t a surprise to the Capitals.

“It seems, I think, more remarkable than it is,’’ said Alzner. “We all knew that he was going to play that way and how good he is. We were expecting him to play well and it’s nice to see that he lived up to all of our expectations and he’s proven to everyone he’s a very good goaltender.’’

One aspect of the series the Capitals have embraced is how much the Boston fans are rooting against them. Playing on the road affords the “us against the world’’ mentality.

“We knew that [the Bruins] were going to want to come out and establish some sort of dominance right away,’’ said Alzner. “We knew the fans were going to be on us. One of the things you try to do is be the people everyone wants to hate and does hate and can’t stand.

“By doing that, you try to hit them, you try and get in their face, and you get in their face without saying anything. The fans didn’t like that we weren’t really talking back with them like we might in the regular season. Every game in the playoffs, you want to be an ugly game. You just want to battle it out and find a way to win it.’’

Washington played sound defensively, but will the way the Capitals played Thursday be good enough?

“We know their best players didn’t play their best game,’’ said Alzner. “We know they can play better than that and we expect that. So, we’re going to have to change a little bit and be a little bit tougher. We didn’t forecheck as much as we normally do.

“We can do a better job of hemming them in. We didn’t have a whole lot of sustained pressure. There were flurries here and there. That second period was pretty much nothing for us. We didn’t really do anything in that second period because we were penalty-killing and they had the momentum. So that’s something we want to change.’’

One area in need of improvement is how the Capitals play in the offensive zone.

“We want to establish a forechecking presence and run around in their zone a little bit,’’ said Alzner. “They have a couple of [defensemen] who log a lot of ice and if we can get them in their zone and tire them out, it might not pay off right away in Game 2, but in Games 3 or 4 or however long it goes, that’s when it will help.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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