We are taught at a young age that the best way to disarm a bully is to ignore him. Nothing bothers a bully more than not eliciting any sort of reaction from his victim.
The Washington Capitals were doing just that through the first two games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, even standing up from themselves when the antagonizing Bruins attempted to get under their skin. In a 4-3 win Monday, however, the Bruins got exactly what they wanted: they got a rise out of the Caps. Cooler heads far from prevailed and Washington’s lack of composure left it susceptible to being preyed upon.
After turning the other cheek for 11 periods, the Caps could no longer resist and gave into the Bruins’ antics. Milan Lucic pushed, shoved and punched his way into drawing Washington into three offsetting minors, the final one – a double-minor for roughing – setting up the 4-on-4 play that ultimately led to Zdeno Chara’s game-winning goal. Brad Marchand goaded Jason Chimera into spearing him in the groin, knocking Chimera out of the game for two minutes and the Caps off their game in general.
The normally mild-mannered Caps were backed into a corner and responded uncharacteristically, letting emotion overtake reason; Karl Alzner, one of the most even-keeled Caps, pantomimed crying towards Lucic, while Nicklas Backstrom, who could rival Alzner for the aforementioned title, took three separate cross-checking penalties, including a shot to Rich Peverly’s face that earned him a match penalty and a possible suspension.
Everybody has a breaking point and the Bruins pushed the Caps to theirs Monday. Boston’s seedy play got underneath Washington’s skin and the latter could no longer disregard the former’s actions. The Bruins flourish when they can bully their opponent and the Caps finally became an eager victim.