Game 1 observations: Bruins need more offense from top line


The Boston Bruins didn't play particularly well in Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Washington Capitals, and yet the game was there to be won in overtime.

But the Bruins couldn't cash in during the extra period and lost 3-2 when Nic Dowd scored the winning goal for the Capitals at 4:41 in OT.

Boston was hit with some bad luck, too. A Charlie McAvoy broken stick in the opening period aided a Capitals rush into the attacking zone that led to the game's first goal. The other two Washington goals came off deflections. 

The Capitals were still the deserving winner, though. They played with more energy than the B's and executed at a higher level in all three zones.

Here are three observations from Game 1 (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1) Bruins must hit the net more

The Bruins made it way too easy for Capitals goalie Craig Anderson after he replaced starter Vitek Vanecek in the first period. Boston tallied 63 shot attempts in all situations (52 at 5-on-5) but only 26 were on target (21 at 5-on-5). The B's also had 21 missed shots.

Anderson only played in four games during the regular season, so even though he has 18 years of experience, he hasn't been tested much in 2021. He also looked a little shaky with his rebound control in Game 1, but the Bruins didn't hit the net enough to make those rebound issues a real problem for the Capitals.


The Bruins will have to play with a little more speed and move the puck a bit quicker to open up shooting lanes and make Anderson work harder than he did Saturday night.

2) Alexander Ovechkin was everywhere

Ovechkin came out with a ton of energy right from the opening faceoff and set a physical tone for his team with a massive hit on B's center David Krejci early in the first period. 

The Capitals captain finished with an assist and four shots on net in 18:26 of ice time. He was originally credited with the Caps' second goal, but it was later given to Brenden Dillon. Regardless, Ovechkin was putting himself right into the middle of the action and the results were positive for his team.

Washington also drove puck possession at a high rate with Ovechkin on the ice. The Capitals held a 20-12 edge in shot attempts, a 8-4 lead in shots on net, a 12-4 advantage in scoring chances and a 1-0 goal differential at 5-on-5 with Ovechkin on the ice.

Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller spent the most 5-on-5 ice time against Ovechkin of any B's pairing and the Capitals heavily tilted the ice in their favor in this matchup. Washington had a 9-2 scoring chance edge at 5-on-5 when Ovechkin was on the ice against Lauzon and Miller.

Lauzon also went a little too far by taking a cross checking penalty against Ovechkin in the second period after the Caps forward hit Miller. You always like to see teammates sticking up for each other, but the Bruins cannot afford to take bad penalties and give the Capitals power play (the third-best unit in the league) extra opportunities.

Without the benefit of the last line change as the road team, it wasn't as easy for Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to get his shutdown lines and pairings on the ice versus Ovechkin as he would've liked. And, to Ovechkin's credit, he's a superstar player capable of dominating against any opposition. 

Still, the Bruins have to do a better job matching Ovechkin's intensity and taking away his time and space with the puck if they're going to limit the scoring chances the Capitals generate when he's on the ice.

3) Bruins need more from top line

You won't find many lines in the NHL better than Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Unfortunately for the Bruins, this trio did not live up to its reputation in Game 1.

"Our top guys didn't seem to have it," Cassidy told reporters after the game. "Couldn't find ice. Give Washington credit. Couldn't escape pressure on the power play and find the open guy. I just think a lot of those guys who have been doing a lot of scoring for us weren't able to get to their game tonight, or get the puck to cooperate, or support each other well enough to generate enough offense.


"Not really typical of what we've seen lately from that group, so hopefully in Game 2 they're a little sharper."

This line was scoreless during 5-on-5 action. The only one of the group to get on the scoresheet was Pastrnak, who picked up a secondary assist on Nick Ritchie's second-period power play goal. 

Bergeron attempted seven shots, but none were on target. Two of them were blocked and five missed the net. Marchand had three shot attempts with only one hitting the target. Pastrnak led the B's with six shots on net and three high-danger shot attempts and still couldn't score.

The good news for the Bruins is their secondary scoring actually showed up. Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk provided the B's with two goals from the bottom-six. But for the Bruins to beat a Capitals team loaded with high-end skill up front, the top players -- most notably the Bergeron line -- must be consistently productive.