Five thoughts and observations after watching from afar as the Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1 Tuesday night at Verizon Center:
MATCHMAKER: Almost every time the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin stepped onto the ice, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was there to meet him. Boston’s captain completely dominated that matchup as he held Ovechkin to only five shots and a minus-2. Meanwhile, Chara was a plus-1.
BACKSTOPPING THE BRUINS: Tim Thomas does it again. The veteran netminder made 35 saves to help Boston to its third consecutive victory. The last time the Bruins played the Capitals, Thomas thought he had played one of his best games. It was the last regular-season game of last season, and Thomas made 34 saves en route to a 4-3 victory. That was the last game he played as then-rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask played every game in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thomas entered training camp motivated and in good shape following hip surgery, and with Tuesday’s win, he has won all three of his starts this season and has allowed only two goals during this stretch.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said after practice on Monday that since the Bruins have three games this week, he would give both goaltenders playing time. Despite Thomas' three-game winning streak, Julien likely will give Rask the nod in Thursday's home opener. The Bruins don’t want to push Thomas after his surgery.
PICKUP LINE: When the Bruins acquired forward Nathan Horton during the offseason, the expectation was he would become a big-time goal scorer in Boston. Turns out, he’s been a major playmaker. The Bruins’ top line of Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic has combined for 17 points in the first four games of the season. Krejci and Lucic each posted a goal and assist against the Capitals, with Horton providing an assist on Krejci’s goal. Horton has posted at least a point in each of the Bruins’ first four games.
SWEETER THAN HONEY: Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick tallied his first goal of the season at 2:08 of the third period to give Boston a 3-1 advantage. If the Bruins want to be successful, the defensive corps needs to chip in offensively. Hunwick gained control of the puck at the blue line and, with his quick release, put a wrist shot on net. Teammates Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Caron were setting the screen as the puck beat Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
HOME SWEET HOME: The last time the Bruins played at home they left the ice to a stunned TD Garden crowd after the Philadelphia Flyers completed an historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to beat Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last May. The Bruins’ training camp was cut short because of their European trek through Belfast and Prague. Since being back in North America, the Bruins have played two road games, and they finally return home, with a 3-1 record, and host the Capitals on Thursday.