As expected, Zdeno Chara wasn’t giving much away before Game 1.
Asked what it meant to him that he was about to do battle with the Bruins, the big man looked beyond the question.
“It’s playoff hockey,” said Chara, who averaged 18:26 of ice time in seven games this season against his former club (1-1—2, plus-1). The Bruins were the only team he went penalty-free against.
He kept that streak going Saturday night in Washington’s 3-2 overtime win in Game 1, and logged a game-high 5:06 on the Capitals’ penalty kill (3 for 4).
“The matchups are the matchups. It’s an exciting part of the year. We all battle hard to get to the playoffs, so now it’s the time.”
Did he feel this was personal, given that the Bruins opted to move on from their 14-year captain some five months ago?
“No,” he said. “It’s all about the team. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way it worked out. That’s the way it is.”
Chara said that when he signed with Washington, a temporary East Division rival, it didn’t cross his mind that he might one day face Boston in the postseason. He also didn’t feel he could offer much Black-and-Gold insight. His coaches, he reasoned, had collected more than enough over eight meetings during the regular season.
Chara was game-day serious, but not dour. He grinned when a reporter inquired about his playoff superstitions.
“Just let my beard grow,” he said, a coating of gray stubble crowding his features. “In the playoffs, in hockey, in general, we don’t shave.”
Wilson will be ready
Tom Wilson entered this series planning to be Tom Wilson — which means he is going to skate right up to the line.
“Playoffs is an emotional time,” the Capitals agitator said before puck drop. “They obviously have some guys that have that in their game. You’ve seen it in years past, but that’s the way it works. It’s going to be a two-way street.”
It’s unclear to which Bruins Wilson, who scored the opening goal Saturday night, was referring. Perhaps he was thinking of Trent Frederic (club-high 65 penalty minutes), who was out of the lineup for Game 1. He might have meant Brad Marchand (second with 46) or Kevan Miller. He probably didn’t mean Brandon Carlo, who opposed Wilson for the first time since being sidelined 10 games by a hit to the head from Wilson. It cost Wilson a seven-game suspension and more than $300,000 in pay.
“You can control what you can control,” Wilson said. “I think we need to remain focused on our goal, and that’s winning games, winning Game 1, and go from there.
“But there’s going to be ups and downs, they’re going to try to get under our skin, we’re going to try to get under their skin. That’s playoffs. It’ll be fun.”
Lining it up
The Bruins opened with the same lineup they deployed down the stretch. Charlie Coyle (upper body) returned to the No. 3 right wing on Sean Kuraly’s line, and Chris Wagner manned the No. 4 right wing for Curtis Lazar. … The Capitals weren’t as fortunate. They didn’t have second-line center Evgeni Kuznetsov for Game 1. The Russian spent the final five games of the regular season on the COVID list along with goaltender Ilya Samsonov. … Coach Peter Laviolette, setting a trend for the series, made Chara look loquacious with his pregame comments. The favorite son of Franklin wouldn’t talk about either of his missing players (“I think we’ll answer those questions tomorrow”) or name his starting goalie (it was Vitek Vanecek). He would prefer, he said, to “keep things a little closer to the vest.” … Marchand, whose first playoff game was 122 games ago (April 14, 2011 against Montreal), copped to being “excited and nervous” when he woke up Saturday. “Almost giddy” … Three Bruins — Wagner (8), Jeremy Lauzon (8), and Kuraly (6) — combined for more than half of the Bruins’ hits (22 of 41) ... Boston won 60 percent of the faceoffs, including the one that led to Jake DeBrusk’s goal. Patrice Bergeron went 14 for 22 at the dot (64 percent) ... Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly, after 259 regular-season games, played his first playoff game … Bergeron tied Chara (150 playoff games, 30 behind Ray Bourque) for second in Bruins’ history. David Krejci (146) moved into fourth on the list … T.J. Oshie (lower body) returned after missing the final game of the season, played center in Kuznetsov’s absence, and set up the OT winner … Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were banged up as well, both having missed time of late with lower-body injuries. Ovechkin played four of the Caps’ final 11 (0-0--0), while Backstrom missed one.
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.