Some Stanley Cup playoff series this spring have featured dozens of goals, WWE-level wrestling complete with hair pulling and enough bile to fill a swimming pool. And that's just the bare-knuckled brawl going on between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Capitals and Boston Bruins have taken a different approach to their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Instead, the two teams have imitated late 1990s-style games with tight checking and limited scoring chances in which not even 60 minutes of hockey have been enough to determine a winner. The goaltending has been superb, the hitting intense and the theatrics -- for the most part -- kept to a minimum as they prepare for Game 3 on Monday night at Verizon Center.
"I'm sure [reporters] want to see more goals or the fans [do]," Washington defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. "But a win is a win. We don't care if it's a 5-0 or 1-0."
|Bruins at Capitals|
|When » Monday, 7:30 p.m.|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » CSN|
That's good because 5-0 seems exceedingly unlikely with Boston's brilliant Tim Thomas at one end of the ice and Holtby doing his best Jaroslav Halak impersonation at the other. Halak, of course, was the then relatively unknown goalie who dominated the Caps in the 2010 playoffs as No. 8 seed Montreal pulled a shocking upset. Holtby so far has stopped 72 of 74 Boston shots with both games going into overtime.
"You just have to look at the blocked shot totals," Holtby said of the help he has received from his teammates. "When you see the odd-man rushes, there haven't been any. That's usually contributed to the forwards coming back, high pressure and giving our defensemen time to gap up. It's been outstanding."
The Caps have blocked 49 Boston shots so far. Of course, the Bruins haven't been too bad themselves in the defensive zone. Washington lost 1-0 in Game 1 and scored just twice in a Game 2 victory at TD Garden, with center Nicklas Backstrom notching the game-winning goal in double overtime. The Caps managed just 17 shots against Thomas on Thursday, and even when they had a quality scoring chance he was there to stop it. He played at a similar level in Saturday's loss and has stopped 54 of 56 shots on goal.
"They play tight game, and all the time they have three guys back," Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin said. "We have three guys back, so it's who will score first probably win the game. Again, Thomas play well [Saturday]. We just have to find a way to get more scoring chance and score goals."
The key for Boston is not just hitting the Caps -- though they have plenty of players up and down the lineup who can generate a ferocious forecheck and force the turnovers that lead directly to goals. It's also about when and where on the ice those plays occur.
"Physically, we got outmuscled [Saturday] in front of their net and even along the walls, so we've got to be better physically in those areas as well," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's not just about hitting but about winning those battles in those crucial areas."