#8 Montreal Canadians
(39-33-10, 88 pts)
#1 Washington Capitals
(54-15-13, 121 pts)
How They Got Here: The only team more upset than the Rangers about New York’s shootout loss on the final day of the regular season was Montreal, which went from the #7 down to the #8 seed in the playoffs. However, the Habs shouldn’t complain, as they are one of the few teams in the NHL playoffs that scored fewer goals (217) than they allowed (223) this year.
Player To Watch: There aren’t many Canadiens with more playoff experience that C Scott Gomez has from all of his years with the Devils. This is a man that knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. He led the team in assists with 47 this year, and Gomez is going to have to step it up even more so if Montreal is pulling off the colossal upset.
Goalie Outlook: The decision whether to play G Jaroslav Halak or G Carey Price is going to be an interesting one. Neither had great numbers this year, as Halak had a 2.40 GAA while Price had a 2.77 GAA, and Halak has allowed 11 goals in his L/3 starts. Either way, the task at hand of stopping the Capitals is nearly impossible.
Key To Victory: Pray you catch the Caps sleeping four times? There really doesn’t seem to be any other way that Montreal is going to be able to knock off Washington, especially at the Verizon Center. Either Halak or Price is going to have to have the series of their lives to advance.
How They Got Here: The Caps had the best record in the NHL for the majority of the season, and it’s thanks to an offense that is just a lot of fun to watch. Washington was averaging over 4.0 goals per game around the Olympic break, and finished the year easily as the top scoring team at 3.8 goals per game.
Player To Watch: LW Alexander Ovechkin had every right in the world to be called the Richard Trophy winner this year even though he only scored 50 goals, one shy of both Pittsburgh’s C Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s C Steven Stamkos. Why? Ovie pulled off the stunt in just 72 games. He’ll be the focal point as always for a deep Caps run into the playoffs.
Goalie Outlook: Does it really matter who is between the pipes for Washington with an offense this good? G Jose Theodore may have a 2.81 GAA this year, but he did win 30 of his 47 appearances, which is a tremendous ratio.
Key To Victory: Just keep doing what you’re doing. There’s no reason for Washington to struggle with Montreal. It’s hard to see how anyone is going to find a way to knock a team out of the playoffs that tallied 121 points in the regular season as long as they don’t press the self-destruct button at any point.
The Final Word: This is just a David vs. Goliath matchup. Yes, playing in Montreal could be difficult, and Washington may drop a game north of the border, but in all likelihood, this won’t ever be a contest.
Capitals in 4