A little jam was on the pregame menu
WASHINGTON - The Capitals’ strategy heading into Thursday night’s Game 4 was to put more pressure on Boston goaltender Tim Thomas.
The players acknowledged it was going to be more difficult without center Nicklas Backstrom, who was serving a one-game suspension for hitting Rich Peverley in the head with his stick at the end of Game 3. However, they played 40 games without Backstrom while he was recovering from a concussion he suffered Jan. 3.
“We’ve had to overcome that obstacle quite a bit this season, when he was out with his head injury,’’ said right wing Troy Brouwer, who had a goal in the Capitals’ 2-1 victory in Game 2.
There was much discussion during the two off days between games about whether the Bruins were targeting Backstrom. Boston coach Claude Julien called the accusation ridiculous and ludicrous.
“There are a few instances where we feel that they’ve been going high at his head because of his situation,’’ said Brouwer. “It’s playoffs, he’s trying to protect himself out there, and he doesn’t want to put himself in a situation where he could get injured again.
“You can’t dwell too much on it. It’s playoff hockey and they make decisions not on [the] past but on what’s going on there in the game. He is playing hard and he’s playing tough and he’s doing what he needs to do to play his game.’’
There has been an abundance of mayhem in the first round, leading to multiple suspensions handed out by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
“There are a few ones that have been suspended that were very deserving, and then there are a couple of calls he’s going to make that are difficult calls,’’ said Brouwer.
Without Backstrom, scoring chances were expected to be harder to come by for Washington.
“We’ve got to keep it simple,’’ said Brouwer. “When Nicky has the puck, he controls the play. He slows it down and sees the ice very well. Without a player like that, you’ve got to find other ways to keep possession of the puck. Whether it’s getting it in and getting a cycle or other guys making sure you’re not just throwing pucks away, you’ve got to kind of compensate for him being out.’’
Despite being down in the series and missing Backstrom, the Capitals remained upbeat about their chances.
“You can’t get down on yourself,’’ said Brouwer. “We were down one game going into Game 2 and we were able to win that one as well. All the games have been close.
“You’ve got to be excited, you’ve got to have fun playing hockey, especially this time of the year. It’s so exciting and you’ve got to love playing hockey.
“We’ve got to get more second opportunities around the net. We got our shot count up quite a bit in the last two games, but we have to make sure we’re going for rebounds.
“On any goalie, he doesn’t like traffic, and some guys give up some pretty good rebounds. We’ve just got to be around the net, making sure we’re making it tough on [Thomas] to make those second and third saves.
“He is a good enough goalie where he’s going to make the first save every time if he sees the puck, but if there’s traffic, if there are second rebounds, every goalie has trouble with second and third opportunities, especially if they are in tight and there is so much traffic.’’
Block it out
The Capitals went into last night ranked second in the NHL in blocked shots during the playoffs with 64. Defenseman Karl Alzner was third among players with 11 and defenseman Roman Hamrlik was tied for fourth (10) . . . Goaltender Braden Holtby had a 1.77 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage although he was sporting a 1-2 postseason record . . . Capitals forward Alexander Semin scored his 13th career playoff goal in Game 3, his first of the 2012 postseason. That tied him for 12th all-time in franchise history . . . Washington’s penalty kill had been very effective through three games, erasing all 11 of Boston’s power plays and 38 of 40 (95 percent) overall dating to March 16. They had allowed two power-play goals in the last 15 games.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.