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Cullen: Capitals head to second round after bouncing Bruins

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Scott Cullen
4/25/2012 11:46:56 PM
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There will be a new Stanley Cup winner in June, after the Washington Capitals upset the Boston Bruins, 2-1, thanks to Joel Ward's overtime goal in Game Seven.

Ward, who had a strong playoff for Nashville last season (scoring seven goals and 13 points in 12 games), isn't playing as much for Washington this year, playing 9:35 per game, but contributed a couple of assists along with that series-winning goal.

Of course, this Capitals team still boasts big-time scorers, yet their only other goal in the deciding game was a deflection by Matt Hendricks, who had four goals and nine points in 78 games this season. More typically, Hendricks finished with a game-high six hits.

Boston got the equalizer in the second period when Tyler Seguin scored for the second straight game, diving on a loose puck in the crease after Holtby whiffed in an attempt to clear the puck from harm's way.

It was the only misstep of the game for Holtby, the rookie goaltender who stopped 31 of 32 Boston shots in Game Seven and stopped 208 of 224 (.929 save percentage) throughout the series.

An underlying subtext to the Washington win, though, was that LW Alexander Ovechkin played 15:23 in regulation (16:26 overall); he played less than 15:23 once in the last two years. If Ovechkin isn't injured then Capitals coach Dale Hunter is taking an odd approach with Ovechkin's ice time. He played 15:34 in Game Five, 22:34 in Game Six and then back down to 16:25 in Game Seven.

With the Capitals getting through to the second round, it all seems justified, but this situation bears watching in the second round and, potentially, beyond. It's also worth noting that Ovechkin led the Capitals with five points and 28 shots on goal in the series.

Washington's defence pairing of Mike Green and Roman Hamrlik was plus-5 in the series, a refreshing positive for Green, considering his recent playoff struggles.

Seguin led all shooters with seven shots on goal in Game Seven and 31 shots on goal in the series. His plus-3 was tied with D Joe Corvo for best on the Bruins.

This was the first series in NHL history in which all seven games were decided by one goal. The closeness of the games meant that contributions from role players could have a definite impact. Boston's top two scorers in the series were C/RW Rich Peverley (five points) and D Andrew Ference (four points). The Bruins could have used a single goal from LW Milan Lucic or C Patrice Bergeron (who was playing hurt).

After years of underachieving in the postseason, the Capitals entered this year's playoffs as a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, so reaching the second round already counts as a success.

With a young goaltender inspiring confidence, Washington has a chance to keep their playoff run going. Now they'll await the winners of Thursday's Game Sevens to find out who their opposition will be in Round Two.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Capitals celebrate (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)
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