Preview: Bruins at Capitals
Perennial underachievers throughout their history, particularly in the postseason, the Washington Capitals finally shed the label with a stirring run to their first Stanley Cup title. With nearly their entire roster intact and captain Alex Ovechkin showing no signs of slowing down, Washington opens its bid to repeat when they host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
Expectations will remain just as high for the Capitals, who will have one major change when they raise the championship banner Wednesday, with new coach Todd Reirden taking over for Barry Trotz behind the bench. "We've got to realize that everything is going to be tougher to start and all the games are going to be tougher against us," Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We better play our best hockey to start, that's reality." The Bruins were the best team in hockey for a long stretch last season and wound up second in the East with 112 points -- seven more than Washington -- but were ousted by Tampa Bay in five games in the second round of the playoffs. Boston was overly reliant on its No. 1 line last season and made no significant additions to the starting lineup, but learned Monday that Torey Krug, its highest-scoring defenseman in 2017-18, will miss the first few weeks due to an ankle injury.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, TVAS
ABOUT THE BRUINS (2017-18: 50-20-12, 2ND IN ATLANTIC): The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for 99 goals and were the team's top three scorers, but Boston spent the offseason hoping Danton Heinen or Ryan Donato would nail down the right wing spot alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second unit. Heinen was fifth on the team with 47 points while Donato had nine points in the final 12 regular-season games after finishing his career at Harvard. Tuukka Rask, owner of a 21-game point streak last season but inconsistent in the playoffs, will have a new No. 2 netminder in Jaroslav Halak, who spent the last four seasons with the New York Islanders
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (2017-18: 49-26-7, 1ST IN METROPOLITAN): Ovechkin led the league in scoring for the seventh time by netting 49 goals before sparking the run to the Cup with 15 tallies and 27 points in 24 postseason games to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Top-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov notched a career-high 83 points before adding a team-best 32 in the playoffs while rugged winger Tom Wilson rounded out the top line with 14 goals. Backstrom had his eighth 50-assist season while Lars Eller centers the third line and Nic Dowd replaces Jay Beagle on the fourth unit. Braden Holtby had a career-worst 2.99 goals-against average and has a new backup in Pheonix Copley.
1. Krug is expected to be in a boot for at least three weeks and will likely be replaced by rookie Urho Vaakanainen, a 2017 first-round draft pick.
2. Wilson will have an in-person hearing for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis' Oskar Sundqvist.
3. Bergeron, who didn't play in the preseason, practiced fully Monday and is expected to play in the opener.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Bruins 2