Capitals’ offense a major concern

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 12, 2012
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WILMINGTON - Any fan of the National Hockey League can appreciate the gifts of Washington star Alex Ovechkin.

As the Capitals come to town to begin their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at TD Garden Thursday night, the team brings myriad challenges for the Bruins.

There is scoring prowess, which has been aided by the return of center Nicklas Backstrom, who was limited to 42 games in the regular season because of a concussion.

Former Bruin Dennis Wideman is the Capitals’ top-scoring defenseman with 46 points, tied for third overall on the team.

The teams’ four meetings this season were not great for Boston. The Capitals won three, including the last two (March 10 and 29).

One area in which the Capitals may be vulnerable is goal. With veterans Tomas Vokoun (groin) and Michal Neuvirth (leg) sidelined, the Capitals will go with rookie Braden Holtby in Game 1. He has appeared in seven games this season, with a 4-2-1 record, a 2.49 goals-against average, and .922 save percentage.

Nobody on the Bruins is underestimating the 22-year-old netminder.

“He doesn’t have a lot of experience,’’ said center David Krejci. “Their first two goalies are hurt, so we are going to have to put lots of pucks on him and try to make him nervous. Just don’t pass up on any shots and get some traffic, and we should get some chances.’’

Center Chris Kelly said the Bruins were not going to get caught up in which goaltender was in net for the opponent, because that won’t change the way the Bruins play.

“I think the way we’re approaching it is [that he’s] another goalie,’’ said Kelly. “We don’t know much about him, but I’m sure he’s a very, very capable goalie.

“They wouldn’t play him if they didn’t have the confidence in him, so we’re just kind of approaching it that it’s a great team over there and we’ve got to get as many shots on net as we can, like any other goalie.’’

Brad Marchand said there are multiple areas where the Capitals can do damage, and the Bruins need to be mindful of them.

“There’s a lot more than just the goalie to their game,’’ said Marchand. “There’s a lot of aspects to the game we have to worry about besides him. But when we do have the opportunity to bear down, and we get an opportunity to score, we have to make sure we do.’’

Krejci acknowledged that the Capitals seemed to have the Bruins’ number this year.

“They’ve been giving us a hard time,’’ said Krejci. “They’ve got good offense and they’ve got good skilled defensemen as well.

“We’ve just got to play our game, pay attention to little details, and play good defensively. We know if we play good defensively, we’re going to get our chances offensively. That’s our game plan.’’

That, and to take what the Capitals give them.

“We have to create our own chances, obviously,’’ said Krejci. We’ve just got to play good defensively, and if we do that, we’re going to create some turnovers, and we are really good on the rushes, so hopefully we can get that going and get some goals.’’

Preventing goals will be a staunch challenge as well.

“They’ve got a lot of high-end players,’’ said Kelly. “Ovechkin, [Alexander] Semin, Backstrom, [Mike] Green. But they have other guys who can put up points as well. They have a lot of offensive threats you need to notice when you’re out there.’’

The Capitals feast on turnovers, which lead to a good number of their goals. The Bruins say it’s critical to limit them.

“It’s what they do,’’ said Marchand. “They wait for us to turn the puck over at the wrong time and they seem to capitalize on all their opportunities.

“It’s something we’re really going to have to watch, eliminating their chances and make sure we don’t turn pucks over.’’

Most of the Bruins are just eager to get the playoffs started.

“It’s a fun time,’’ said Krejci. “We have to start with a good game and go from there.’’

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