Monday, March 29, 2010

Pros & Cons: Caps' Potential 1st Round Opponents

The Eastern Conference locked up and the President's Trophy within arm's reach, let's take a look at each of the five teams that might be slotted in that 8-spot come playoff time.

Montreal Canadiens (37-31-8, 82 points)


Pros: The Canadiens don't have the firepower to keep pace with the Caps. They're 24th in the NHL in goals per game (2.59) and don't have one scorer above 70 points on the year. Should-be starting goalie Jaroslav Halak has only started one game in the postseason in his career. Also, a matchup of the most decorated franchise in NHL history against the most decorated player currently in the NHL would have ESPN TSN and the rest of the hockey world salivating.

Cons: The Caps have been absolutely abysmal against Canadian teams this season - for their standards, that is (6-5-3). Against Montreal, they are 1-1-2. Something about that 2nd ranked Montreal PP against our 25th ranked PK just doesn't sit right in my stomach, either.

Philadelphia Flyers (38-32-6, 82 points)

Pros: Where to start? Their goaltender is Brian Boucher/Michael Leighton. I could end there but I'll keep going. Jeff Carter may not be back for the playoffs. Claude Giroux has one goal in his last 15 games. Danny Briere is still a pussy. Caps are 3-0-1 against them this year.

Cons: Where to start? The Caps have a strange habit of making journeyman netminders look like studs (see: Niittymaki, Antero; Biron, Martin; etc.). With a healthy Carter the Flyers have an impressive group of talented forwards. Daniel Carcillo is a clown and I could totally see him getting to a guy like Mike Green all series long. I would have to listen to my asinine friend Daniel say "Chris Pronger is nastttttttyyyyyyy" at least 23 times during each game. Chris Pronger may also still be nasty enough to neutralize Ovechkin (probably not, though). There's also this, but you don't really need to watch that again.
 
Boston Bruins (34-28-12, 80 points)

Pros: They are the most offensively inept team in the entire league (2.42 goals per game). Their best offensive player, Marc Savard, is out for God knowns how long. Zdeno Chara has really taken a step back from his Norris Trophy winning efforts last season. Caps are 2-0-0 against Boston this year, winning 4-1 on both occasions.

Cons: Both wins have come against Tim Thomas and not Tuukka Rask, the Finnish phenom (18-11-4, 2.11, .927) pictured above. I am absolutely terriffied of his ability to steal a playoff series. Thomas is no slouch, either, but Rask is a guy I'd rather not have to face. The duo has given up the least amount of goals in the league (177) this season. In a matchup with the Caps, something would have to give.

Atlanta Thrashers (33-30-12, 78 points)

Pros: They have never won a playoff game. Their all-time best player and one of the best current players in the NHL, Ilya Kovalchuk, was traded to New Jersey. They are 26th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.07). Caps are 4-0-0 against the Thrashers this year, the last two being 8-1 and 5-2 drubbings.

Cons: Potential playoff starter Johan Hedberg absolutely tortured the Caps in the 2001 playoffs (10 goals against in 6 games). The Thrashers may actually have the firepower to keep up with us, 7th in the NHL at 2.92 goals per game. Not really a lot to dislike about this matchup from a Caps fan's perspective, though.

New York Rangers (33-32-10, 76 points)

Pros: Rank 25th in the NHL in goals per game (2.59). They have only two 40-point scorers and one 20-goal scorer on the year; the Caps have eight and seven, respectively. Caps are 3-1-0 on the year against the Rangers and have proven themselves in a seven game series against these guys last year. Ovechkin in Madison Square Garden is always fun.

Cons: Marion Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist. Gaborik can be a game changer as he proved against us on October 8 (game-tying and game-winning goal in a 2:33 span in the third period). They rank 11th in the NHL in goals against per game (2.67). Lundqvist is more than capable of stealing a series.

***

No matter what, one of these teams will fall into that 8th spot having played playoff intensity hockey for several weeks prior. The Caps, on the other hand, have been on cruise control for quite some time now. Whatever the matchup, Bruce Boudreau will have to find a way to motivate the boys to elevate their play to the level we all know they are capable of reaching.

Each of these teams presents problems for the Caps, but don't forget that the Caps pose a lot more problems for them. I'd love to see the Thrashers in the first round, but honestly, the Caps shouldn't have any issue finishing any of these teams off in 5 games or less. They are that good.

And yes, I jinx-proofed this post before publishing it.

5 comments:

  1. Most afraid of Bruins because of Rask.

    Least afraid of Thrashers because we own them.

    Would love to beat the Flyers the most.

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  2. Would be happy to see any of them except Montreal. Their pp could make us sore, Tiger Woods style. Would particularly like to see Thrashers/Flyers.

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  3. The Habs are the scariest team only because whenever we play them we seem to forget how to play defense, and that PP of theirs, led by the Mighty Glen Metropolit (who might be injured) is scary for a team as weak on the PK as the Caps.

    Tuukka Rask seems like a bit of an irrational fear. I'd much rather face him than Halak or Lundqvist.

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  4. Tuukka Rask is almost certainly an irrational fear. We'll probably face him twice in these last 7 games though, so I guess we'll see.

    Montreal to me is the scariest team, no doubt about it. They don't have one player I fear - it's that nightmare special teams matchup. That and the fact that we inexplicably suck against Canadian teams.

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  5. Bushwood BushwhackerMarch 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Carter is a huge piece for the Flyers. If he's out of the picture, I'd love to see them in the first round for every reason.

    Fuck Philly. So hard.

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