WILMINGTON, Mass. (AP) — At one end of the ice, playoff MVP Tim Thomas will be in goal for the defending champion Boston Bruins. At the other end, Braden Holtby will make his NHL playoff debut in the Washington Capitals' net.
That should give Boston a big advantage in Thursday night's playoff opener.
It also could be a trap if the Bruins are overconfident.
"Timmy's a great goalie," Boston forward Chris Kelly said Wednesday, "but the minute you start thinking you have advantages over teams, I think you're setting yourself up for trouble. ... We need to be at our best in order to have success, regardless of who they have."
The Bruins are seeded second in the Eastern Conference but were just 1-2-1 against the seventh-seeded Capitals this season. Holtby, a veteran of just 21 NHL games, played in none of those four. But he almost certainly will start Thursday night because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun (groin) and Michal Neuvirth (left leg). Vokoun didn't even make the trip to Boston.
The Bruins say they must remain patient and play their game but want to test Holtby early.
"We know he doesn't have a wealth of experience," center David Krejci said. "We're going to put lots of pucks on him and try to make him nervous."
It may not work.
"He's a calm guy," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We just tell him that it's the same game, same as the regular season, and not to worry about it."
Holtby, a fourth-round draft choice by the Capitals in 2008, started five of their last 10 games. He played in seven games this season, going 4-2-1 with a 2.48 goals against average. He made his NHL debut last season, playing 14 games with a 1.79 goals against average.
So he has reason to be confident.
"I'm just ready to go out there and do what I can to be successful," Holtby said. "I'm not here just to wear a jersey. This is my goal to show that I can win games here, especially in the playoffs. And it's unfortunate with the injuries that we've had."
That confidence extends to his teammates.
"I don't think he's too scared of anybody," left wing Jason Chimera said. "He can handle his own."
Holtby is just 21 years old. Thomas turns 38 on Sunday.
But the Bruins goalie hasn't changed much from last season when he had a 2.00 goals-against average and played in all 25 postseason games. He posted a 2.36 clip this season and started 55 games, the same number as last season.
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