The Washington Capitals and defenseman Zdeno Chara, right, will face Boston and Brad Marchand in the first round of the playoffs starting Saturday. Nick Wass/Associated Press

BOSTON — Brad Marchand saw this coming.

From the beginning of the season, he had a feeling that the Bruins were destined to play former Boston captain Zdeno Chara and the Washington Capitals in the playoffs. Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders turned that hunch into a reality.

The No. 3-seeded Bruins will face No. 2 Washington, Saturday at 7:15 p.m in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series. Chara joined the Bruins in 2006 with seven-year, $37.5 million deal. Over his 14 seasons in Boston – all as captain – he was an All-Star five times. He signed with Washington before this season.

“If you looked back at the start of the year, you probably could have guessed this was going to play out this way. Obviously, it adds another storyline to the game and the series,” Marchand said Monday. “They’re a very dominant team, big, physical. They gain a lot of emotion and energy from that. They’re built to be heavy. They’re built for the playoffs.”

The Bruins were 4-1-2 against the Capitals during the regular season. They’ll play each other in a meaningless regular-season finale on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“They have a great top six, big bodies. Their coach (Peter Laviolette) has been there many times. They’re going to be ready to go. Playing Z, I’m sure will become a storyline,” Bruce Cassidy said. “A team we’ve played well against this year. Looking forward to the matchup.”

Cassidy said Chara’s knowledge of the Bruins could impact the series.

“He knows (Patrice Bergeron) better than anybody and (Marchand). They played together for years. I imagine he will give whatever information is necessary,” Cassidy said. “We’ll break down Z like we would any other player. We know a lot of his tendencies. Maybe that will help us in certain situations. At the end of the day, he’s a competitor. We have a lot of competitors in our room. I’m looking forward to the matchup.”

Marchand thinks the Bruins have a team capable of making a deep run in the postseason, but he said they’re not alone.

“I love our group. I think we have all the makings to be a good contending team. We’re deep all the way through,” he said. “But the problem this year is that there are four in the East. Every team in the East is a very competitive team.”

He was eager to get started.

“It’s going to be a tough series. We have our work cut out for us. We’re excited for the challenge,” Marchand said. “This is what we play all year for. The season kind of drags on at the end because you want the playoffs to be here so bad. It’s why you play hockey, for a chance to win a Cup. We’re excited for that opportunity.”

KEVAN MILLER HONORED: When the Bruins signed Kevan Miller to a one-year extension worth $1.25 million, it seemed like wishful thinking at best to believe the rugged defenseman would play a significant role in the club’s evolving defensive group.

Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask, Michael McLeod

Boston defenseman Kevan Miller defends the crease along with goaltender Tuukka Rask. Kathy Willens/Associated Press

He had undergone four different surgeries to fix his shattered knee cap that he first suffered in April 2019 and then wiped out his entire 2019-20 season.

But here we are on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs and Miller has indeed made himself an essential part of the Bruins back end, bringing a physicality that the Bruins needed with the loss of former captain Zdeno Chara.

And so for those obvious reasons Miller was a unanimous selection as the Boston nominee for the Masterton Trophy by the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The award is to give to the player that best exemplifies the attributes of dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship.

“I’m very grateful and I’ve had a lot of help to get to where I’m at now. Just to be playing again now and competing and playing the sport I love is awesome. It’s been a long road and I’m happy to be where I’m at now,” said Miller.

There was one rather major hiccup during his comeback season. After a strong first month, Miller’s knee started acting up. After the Feb. 18 game in New Jersey, he skipped the long trip to Lake Tahoe with the idea that would be all the maintenance he would need.
He did not play again until April 6.

Since returning, he’s been more cautious about his time on the ice. He hasn’t practiced or participated in game-day morning skates. In back-to-back situations, Miller has only played one of the two games. If that arises in the playoffs, he “fully intends” to play in both ends of the back-to-back.

“It’s just that we came to an agreement that what we’re doing now is probably best for load management,” said Miller. “It’s still healing, to be honest with you. It just takes some time.”

ONDREJ KASE was just starting comeback path on Monday. Out four months with a concussion, Kase returned to the lineup Monday for the first time since the second game of the season. Unfortunately, Kase did not make it through the game.

After flashing his speed and puck-hunting ability, landing a couple of shots on net, his night was done after 6:49 of icetime and nine shifts. After the second period, the Bruins announced he would not return because of an “upper-body” injury.

Before the game, he talked a bit about his trials in trying to return.

“It was up and down a lot, mostly only up,” said the Czech native. “I felt like a month ago, I’m almost there. Two days later, it was like ‘Oh no, I can’t do it. Lots of ups and downs. Every week was a little bit better.”

CHARLIE COYLE (upper body) did not participate in the morning skate and remained out, but Coach Bruce Cassidy said on Sunday that he expects him to be back for the start of the playoffs. Chris Wagner was back into the lineup Monday in what is expected to be Coyle’s spot on the right wing with Sean Kuraly and Nick Ritchie.

Cassidy said that there are still some question marks that could affect the makeup of the bottom six, but he did like the look of the Ritchie-Kuraly-Coyle line before Coyle got hurt.

“‘They were a handful,” said Cassidy.

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