The Hockey Gods apparently don’t like the Capitals.
Their guys are dropping like flies, and when good players aren’t injured, they’re making mistakes. This was always a winnable series, even if not enough people were taking the Capitals seriously. Now, with the first round knotted at a game apiece, the expectation should be that Boston snaps out of its early series malaise and handles the Capitals.
Lars Eller leaving the second period of Game 2 was the latest injury to hit the Capitals, and it was the most meaningful. The center’s absence due to a lower-body injury set up Boston’s victory, culminating in Brad Marchand’s overtime goal after an ill-advised Carl Hagelin line change with the puck in the defensive zone.
Game 2 observations: Taylor Hall makes huge impact in B's win
Eller’s line with Conor Sheary and Michael Raffl was tasked with matching Boston’s top trio, also known as “The Perfect Boys.” That is definitely their name and everyone calls them that. Anyway, in 4:01 of ice time (his most against any line), Eller’s group held the Bergeron trio to a 35.71 Corsi For percentage in Game 2. Away from Eller, the line had a staggering 94 Corsi For %. That means the Eller line greatly limited puck possession for Bergeron and Co., and that Eller’s absence allowed Boston’s top line to dominate.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is working towards a return for Washington, but he would not be a suitable replacement for what Washington needs. Washington needs to keep Boston’s best players quiet, which they were managing to do. Left unchecked, the Bergeron line can easily sway the series in Boston’s favor.
This obviously follows the Capitals already being on their fourth-string goalie in Craig Anderson as a result of Vitek Vanacek’s Game 1 injury.
Anderson was dreadful to start Game 2, but eventually settled in. Boston hitting the first intermission tied was reminiscent of the early going of Game 7 against the Blues in 2019, when the Bruins didn’t have a lead to show for Jordan Binnington’s early game struggles. The stakes were bigger and the Bruins were actually trailing after a period in that game, but you get the idea.
The Capitals, by the way, should just stick with Anderson. He was really bad in that first period — especially on Jake DeBrusk’s goal, when Charlie Coyle’s wraparound inspired him to basically leave the arena — but he settled in for the second and played well the rest of the way.
Brad Marchand overcomes poor performance to play Game 2 hero
After Kevan Miller’s third-period pinch set up Washington’s go-ahead goal in the third period, the Bruins were at risk of being down two games to none despite Washington not having goaltending or its two middle-six centers. It’s a reminder that even though the Bruins have momentum right now, they’re not exactly killing it.
But they are getting the breaks. Hagelin getting off the ice with the puck in the Washington end made it so the game wouldn’t be left to chance, as can be the case in overtime games. The B’s got out of Washington with a win and the series tied.
Now, we’ll await updates on Eller, because if he’s out, even for another game, the Bruins have to take advantage. They have to learn from Games 1 and 2 that even if things break in your favor, you still need to execute. This series is becoming increasingly winnable.