After the Boston Bruins were bounced from the 2020 Stanley Cup bubble playoffs, one of the deficiencies identified was in the physicality department. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s offseason and deadline additions like Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Zach Bogosian added much-needed brawn and grit to a highly skilled team and they bounced Boston in five games.

The way the Bruins addressed the issue was not quite as pronounced as the way the Lightning did. It was by both addition and evolution. But so far it’s worked, allowing them to get into the playoffs in one of the NHL’s toughest divisions.

Free-agent signee Craig Smith may not drive people into the boards, but his brand of tenacious puck-hunting and willingness to go to the hard areas is not something they had last year. Nick Ritchie, who can leave a mark when he lands a hit, dedicated himself to becoming a better player in the offseason and earned a nightly spot in the lineup. His line with center Sean Kuraly and right wing Charlie Coyle may have developed out of different necessities, but it proved to be a good power line in a small sample size.

The addition of grinding fourth-line center Curtis Lazar has allowed the Bruins to utilize Kuraly more fully. Trent Frederic, though not a lock to be in the lineup, has brought intermittent edge. And a healthy Kevan Miller, whose ruggedness often overshadows his mobility, has been a difference-maker.

Whether or not all that is enough will be tested immediately, starting Saturday at Capital One Arena. The Washington Capitals are not only physical, they’re nasty about it, too.

Batting leadoff is, of course, Tom Wilson, who was suspended for seven games for a head shot that concussed Brandon Carlo. That is just one line item on Wilson’s lengthy resume. The Caps’ fourth line of Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin combines sandpaper and speed. T.J. Oshie, if healthy, is deadly in the slot but can also pack a wallop. Anthony Mantha, all 6-foot-5, 235 pounds of him, was added at the deadline. And let’s not forget the Caps’ superstar, Alex Ovechkin, who has been known to throw a borderline hit every now and then.

But Wilson, with 13-20-33 totals in 47 games this year, tends to stick out.

“Rightfully so, he’s a unique player in the league,” said GM Don Sweeney. “Their team does present some challenges, they’re a physical team. If you look at our matches this year, I think we handled that very well — obviously, the Carlo injury aside. I think our team, all teams have to be prepared to play any style any night. You don’t pick your opponents, you just prepare for them as they come and worry about your own game. I think that’s something we’ve tried to do over the course of my time here, is be the best that we can be, and address some areas of need and fill some holes as we go along throughout the season, try to identify them. Be really honest about them if you have some needs, and then go to war. That’s honestly what it comes down to. You’ve got to have everyone in and ready to chip in.”

Team president Cam Neely acknowledged it’s impossible to ignore Wilson, but they can’t let him dictate to them.

“He’s not flying under the radar from our perspective, everyone knows what kind of player he is,” said Neely. “He plays hard and he’ll take the body. We have to expect that, I don’t think that’s going to change. We also need to focus on how we need to play and what we need to do to be successful. We have to be smart. More importantly, we’ve got to be careful with their power play. We’ve got to try to stay out of the box as much as possible.”

Indeed, the Caps’ power play was not fazed by the Bruins’ excellent penalty-killing unit. In the first seven games before Tuesday’s finale, the Bruins took 29 penalties and the Caps gashed them for nine goals for a 31% success rate, well above the 14% season average the Bruins had allowed.

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