Capitals-Canadiens Preview: Will Montreal Catch Washington Off of Their Game?

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst IFebruary 18, 2009

Make no mistake about it hockey fans.  Coach Bruce Boudreau’s boys are the real deal.

After wrapping up Sunday’s 4-2 victory versus the Florida Panthers, the Washington Capitals (36-16-5) completed a 2-0-1 record for the week.

Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin notched his third hat trick of the season to give him the league-best 41 goals on the season.

Whenever the Capitals need him to deliver, Ovechkin is ready to make a game-changing play.

On Wednesday the Caps lost in a shootout in New York to the Rangers, but easily swept aside the overwhelmed Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-1 on Saturday night.

In that game, defenseman Mike Green accomplished what no other hockey player has ever done in his career.

“Greenie” scored a goal in his eighth straight game to set an all-time NHL record.

Rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth won in his NHL debut, stopping 31 of 32 shots.

Tomorrow starts a five-game home stand for the upstart, good guys in red.

This will be another good test to gauge just how potent the Capitals’ offense has become.

They are the only NHL team to have four players with 50 or more points on the season.

Alexander Ovechkin has 74 total points, followed by Nicklas Backstrom with 60.

Mike Green and Alexander Semin both have 50 points on the season, while missing significant ice time due to injury.

The Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6) or the “Habs” as they are affectionately known as, will be without their main scoring threat.

Team officials have told Alexei Kovalev to take the next two games off, so he can rest his mind and his body.

The Canadiens are currently in second place in the Northeast division, but remain 22 points behind the division-leading Boston Bruins (88 points)

In their last 10 games they have posted a 3-7 record, and now to face the surging Capitals in unfriendly territory, is about as tough as it gets for the reeling westerners.

This season the Canadiens are 13-15-2 on the road, and have dropped seven out of their last eight contests.

These teams are similar in that they both show flashes of brilliance when moving the puck around the dasher, but they make costly defensive turnovers that lead to odd man rushes against their vulnerable netminders.

In fact, Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak fended off 46 shots against the Colorado Avalanche  during Friday night’s 4-2 win.

In his next start however, he turned in a terrible performance.

He allowed four goals on 33 shots against the Vancouver Canucks, and was pulled late in the game in favor of Carey Price.

The price has not exactly been right for the Canadiens either.

Price has lost seven of his last nine starts.

He played against the Canucks, because he is a native of Vancouver.

Approximately 100 family members and friends came to see him play.

Kovalev and Co. are not finding those scoring opportunities easy to come by.

He has registered three assists in his past five games.

Defenseman Andrei Markov is minus nine in his last six games.

Coach Guy Carbonneau wants more production from everyone, and quick.

“We all have to push a little harder,” Carbonneau said.  “It seems like every time we make a mistake, whether it’s a little mistake or a big mistake, the puck ends up in our net.”

The good news is the other teams within their division are struggling as well.

The “Habs” are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, seven points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Capitals are due for a letdown.

This game could turn out to be one of those 2-1 affairs, where both teams rack up a ton of shots, and nothing gets past the respective goalies.

Jose Theodore (21-10-5) is settling into a nice groove, and after receiving a much-needed sabbatical on Saturday night versus the Lightning.

Since backup goalie Brent Johnson has been sidelined due to hip surgery, “Theo” has taken on a heavy workload.

He has improved his goals against average which now stands at 2.87 for the season.

Theodore posted a shutout against the Canadiens in his last start.

He stopped all 28 shots he faced.

Something tells me it is going to be crucial for the Caps to keep all five guys on the ice.

They gave up one goal to Florida on eight power play chances.

You have to stay disciplined as the regular season winds down.

Washington has played beyond expectations, but needs to stay aggressive the whole sixty minutes.

Remember nothing is handed to you on a silver platter.

Lord Stanley is waiting on you, DC to decide if you are playoff worthy.

Well, what is it going to be…contender or pretender?


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