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It’s Montreal April 11, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

Well, the Blueshirts are out of the playoffs, and I suppose that’s just as well–I’m sure the Rangers would have been licking their proverbial chops to take a second crack at us in the postseason, especially after coming agonizingly close to dispatching us early last spring.

Instead, it’s going to be a playoff date with le bleu, blanc, et rouge, as the Canadiens and Caps collide in the postseason for the first time in history. The only other Eastern member of the Original Six the Caps have yet to cross playoff paths with is Toronto; out West, a playoff date with Chicago would make a fine Stanley Cup Final should that transpire. That one series with Detroit a couple of years back…um, let’s move on, shall we?

The season series with the Habs was about as even as it was possible to get. The teams tied the season pretty much every which way but goal differential: for the entire season series, the Caps finished +1 on goal differential. Only one game was settled by more than one goal, a 4-2 Caps win at the Phone Booth. Two were settled in overtime, both in Montreal, and one win by each team in those. The teams traded regulation wins at the Phone Booth. I just took a quick peek at the Habs’ website, and the poll they have which asks for series predictions says that it’s either the Caps in a short series, or the Habs in a long series. That’s about where I was leaning, as well–my heart thinks the Caps can win this in five: hold serve for the first two games, split two in Montreal, back to the Phone Booth to close it out. My head says Not So Fast. We’ll see–I may even dust off my tarot cards before the series gets underway, but no promises.

The Habs are an enigma. Sure, they only got 39 points out of 88 against all other playoff teams. And they only got 32 out of their 88 against Eastern playoff teams. Looked at another way, only 36% of the Canadiens’ points this year came against potential playoff opponents. When nearly two-thirds of your playoff resume is essentially out of play, how good can your chances be?

Shutouts were another thing that jumped out at me. The Habs were on the wrong end of seven shutouts, and only won three games by shutout. Only one of those three shutout wins came against a playoff team (Philadelphia, a 1-0 affair). Of their seven shutout losses, four of them came at the hands of playoff teams, and only one of those was from the West (Nashville, who beat the Canadiens 2-0). So of the shutouts the Habs have been involved in, they’ve lost as many against Eastern playoff competitors alone than they’ve won against everyone. For that matter, their goal differential for the season is MINUS six. The Caps’ goal differential? +85. While I’m at it, the Capitals have scored ONE HUNDRED AND ONE more goals than the Canadiens have managed this year.

So the Canadiens have less offense, and you can’t help but question their defensive chops when they’ve allowed more goals than they’ve scored all year. Yes, the Caps have allowed a few more goals than the Canadiens have. But they’ve more than made up for that by giving opposing goalies one heck of a sunburn.

Still, any team that makes it in is to be respected, and well-prepared for. The Canadiens have enough tools at their disposal to make royal pests of themselves in the first round, and it would be to the Caps’ advantage to do what even a lot of Canadiens fans expect: end this series early, and not let the Habs hang around. Because the longer this goes, the dicier it’s going to get.

See you at the rink for Game 1, assuming my tickets get here in time–they left Columbus on Saturday morning and have been in transit ever since, if UPS is to be believed.




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