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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.