Preview: After winning the Stanley Cup last year, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made a controversial statement when he refused to visit the White House during the team’s traditional visit. Now, Thomas is going to be forced to head to Washington, this time to face the red-hot Capitals in the playoffs.

Team MVP:

Bruins: Zdeno Chara – Thomas may get all the love, but Chara is the glue that holds this team together. He’s awesome offensively. He’s awesome defensively. He towers over everyone else on the ice. Certain athletes are just simply freaks of nature – Shaquille O’Neal, Andre the Giant. You can’t question why there aren’t more of them, you can simply watch in awe as they dominate all those around them.

Capitals: Alex Ovechkin – He didn’t have the best season, in fact many would call it a down year, but this is a team built around Ovechkin as their star player, and nobody else deserves team MVP. He’s always a dangerous player whenever he steps onto the ice, and this year he doesn’t face lofty expectations heading into the playoffs as a top seed. The Capitals are actually criminally underrated coming into the postseason, and Ovechkin may look to thrive on that.

Most Wonderful Surprise:

Bruins: Tyler Seguin – Everyone figured he would be good. But the rest of the league, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs, who traded the draft pick the Bruins used to select Seguin, shake their heads in disappointment watching a 20-year-old wunderkind lead the defending Cup Champions in scoring. When you’ve hoisted the Cup and made it to an All-Star game before you’re legally allowed to drink alcohol, it’s clear you’re a special player.

Capitals: Karl Alzner – Alzner may not put up the flashiest of stats, and I doubt any casual fans of the NHL would recognize his name. But this young kid really solidified himself as the Capitals top defensive defenseman, and I expect he’ll be seeing a lot of icetime in the playoffs as he tries to shut down Boston’s scorers. Always nice to have a guy like Alzner you can rely on to protect your zone in playoff overtime.

Biggest disappointment:

Bruins: Joe Corvo – Signed in the offseason as a free agent, hasn’t really clicked with the Bruins offense. They expected him to be one of their top offensive defenseman and he simply hasn’t produced the stats or been that player for the Bruins. They’ll probably look to move him in the offseason.

Capitals: Alexander Semin & Dennis Wideman – Neither of these players are “disappointing”, however they’re two important pieces to the Capitals and both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. If Washington loses them both and can’t replace their production, they could find themselves as a mediocre team in the Eastern Conference.

Wildcard player:

Bruins: Tukka Rask – Tim Thomas may be the defending playoff MVP, the man who is most responsible for winning Boston the cup last year, but the dirty little secret is that the Bruins backup may be younger, and better. Rask put up better stats than Thomas over the course of the season. Even though he’s been injured for the past month or so, Rask seems ready for the playoffs, even if he may not start. If the Bruins lose a couple games, possibly look for them to make a goalie switch, as they could absolutely win a cup with Rask in net.

Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom – How good is Nicklas Backstrom? After putting up 101 points in 09-10, many anointed Backstrom a superstar. He never came close to matching those numbers, and spent the majority of the season out with concussion issues. However,
in the game he did play, he still managed to be a point-per-game player. Now Backstrom is healthy (for now), but him and Ovechkin need to step up if they want to win this series. If Backstrom is average, the Capitals won’t win.

Injury Concerns:

Bruins: Nathan Horton – After putting up 17 points in last year’s run to the Cup, the former Florida Panther suffered concussion issues and will most likely miss the playoffs. There’s no doubt the Bruins are a better team with him in the lineup.

Capitals: Mike Green – Like Backstrom, Green was thought to be one of the league’s top defenseman after the 09-10 season, where he put up 76 points, but since then he’s been mostly injured. When that first unit powerplay – Green, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin – is healthy, they’re easily one of the most deadly in the NHL. But Ovechkin and company need Green on the ice, so hopefully Green is past the injury troubles that haunted him this season.

Series Prediction:

Bruins in 7. The Capitals put up a good fight but in the end, the Bruins are just too strong
and too deep.