Talk about two different ways of getting into the playoffs. Washington had their playoff berth virtually wrapped up before the Olympic break, and finished the year with best record in the entire league. Montreal snuck into the 8th spot in the East with an overtime loss to the Leafs. Not that it will matter much, as the Capitals should make short work of the Habs in the first round.
*Offense’: Considering that the Capitals will have the edge over just about any team they face throughout the playoffs, Montreal will more than have their hands full. Washington scored 101 more goals than the Canadiens this year. Forget Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin for a second. Defenseman Mike Green had more points than anyone on the Montreal roster. Mike Knuble, the 6th leading point scorer on the Caps, had more goals than any Canadien. Advantage: Washington’'’Defense’’’: Montreal allowed 10 goals less than the Capitals, and their blueline gets a lot less credit than they deserve. The Canadiens have some blueliners that can score in Andrei Markov, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Roman Hamrlik; none come close to Green in terms of being a scoring threat, but the vets are a bit more responsible in their own end. The Caps’ blueline will be a focal point in the playoffs, as a lot of people, myself included, think that their juggernaut offense hid any potential defensive problems. Jeff Schultz was the team leader in +/- with an impressive +50 rating, but it remains to be seen whether or not those numbers will hold up in the playoffs. For as much as it’s worth, Montreal may be a bit deeper on the blueline than Washington. Whether you believe Washington’s defensive numbers are inflated because of their offense or not, the fact that the only Canadiens’ defensemen with positive +/- ratings are Jaroslav Spacek and Andrei Markov doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances.Advantage: WashingtonGoaltending: Oh so many storylines for the pundits to run with here. Both Washington and Montreal have goalies that could make a pretty convincing argument that they should be the starter. Jose Theodore will get the start for the Caps in Game 1, and his play this season should have earned him a much longer leash than last year, when he was yanked after the Caps’ first loss and never got another shot. Same story on the other bench. Jaroslav Halak will be the starter for Montreal, but Price will be waiting in the wings. The Slovak netminder was a big reason his nation did so well at the Olympics, and if the Canadiens want to even have a chance in the playoffs, he’ll have to be just as good as he was in Vancouver. Throw in the fact that Theodore was considered to be the franchise goalie in Montreal before the lockout, and you get the feeling that the pressure will be highest on the guys between the pipes in this series.Advantage: Even’'’Special Teams’’’: Mindblowing as it may seem, it would definitely be in the best interests of both Washington and Montreal to stay out of the penalty box. The Caps have a ridiculously lethal powerplay, and scored 79 powerplay goals this year. The addition of Joe Corvo gives them two quality powerplay quarterbacks on the blueline, and giving the bst offense in the league even more time and space just isn’t a smart way of doing business. On the other hand, Montreal had the 2nd best powerplay in the league, while Washington’s kill had the lowest efficiency of any playoff team except the Nashville Predators. Advantage: EvenAll the stats in the world won’t change anything in this playoff series. Washington is too big, too fast and too talented for Montreal. The Canadiens should be happy if they even win a single game in this series.*My pick: Washington in 4’