Capitals-Canadiens Preview

A series between No.1 and No. 8 seeded teams is always a lopsided
matchup based on numbers. And the first round Eastern Conference playoffs
between the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens is no different.

The Capitals are coming off a stellar season clinching the Eastern Conference, the
Southeast Division (third consecutive season), the President’s Trophy with 121 points and the league’s top scoring offense with 318 goals. Moreover, the Caps have seven players with 20 or more goals and four players who
tallied more than 70 points this season.

With all of the Capitals achievements, superstars and a
33-point difference between the two teams in the standings, it would seem
absurd to bet against Washington. But the matchups between the two teams this season has
proved the Canadiens can keep a beat with D.C.’s finest. In four, close battles
this season the Habs were able to come away with a 2-1-1 record against the
Capitals, including a victory in the last meeting between the two teams in
February. 

In order to bring down a team such as the Capitals who look to devastate their opponents offensively,
the Habs will have to answer with strong defense and points of their own. The
core of the Habs offense consists of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Michael
Cammalleri, who are the only three players to have surpassed the 20-goal mark
this season. They will need to be a presence on the ice, along with Scott Gomez,
who has been collecting assists, but hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games. The more the Habs pressure the Caps defense, the better
chance they have to come away with a win.

If the all-mighty Washington Capitals
have an Achilles Heel, it is their goaltending. Although both Seymon Varlamov
and Jose Theodore – who will likely get the start in game one -have been
strong, they have struggled during certain points of the season and have lower save
percentages than the Habs goaltending duo of Jaroslav
Halak and Carey Price.

With the top-notch season the Caps have had, it would be
unbearable for them to fall out the first round of the post-season. And after
falling short to the Penguins in the conference semifinals last year, the Caps
are looking to redeem themselves. The team’s power, strength and versatility make
the Caps the ones to beat, and the team that will continue on to the second
round.

(Prediction: Capitals in five)

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