Canadiens vs. Capitals: Can Montreal Cap Comeback Against Washington?

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Canadiens vs. Capitals: Can Montreal Cap Comeback Against Washington?
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Stressed?

 

Anxious?

 

Does your stomach feel more than a little upset?

 

Yeah, me too.

 

But that's what it is to be a hockey fan in the playoffs.

 

Moreover, that's what it is to be counting the hours—as of this post, there are about ten left—till the Montreal Canadiens take on the Washington Capitals, in Washington, for all the marbles.

 

Winner takes all. Last man standing. King of the hill.

 

After 82 regular season and six amazingly entertaining playoff games, the Canadiens-Capitals series is poised to come to an end tonight and there is no shortage of storylines.

 

The Habs, who went down 3-1 in this series—and who most pundits picked to lose in four or five games—have somehow, miraculously, come back to tie the series on the back of a stupendous performance by Jaroslav Halak.

 

Just so you know, Halak's 53 save performance was the most saves in any post-expansion NHL playoff regulation time game by any goaltender, in a winning effort, ever.

 

One for the ages indeed.

 

Now the stage turns back to the city of Washington with the Habs seemingly grabbing the momentum in the series. More important than momentum is pressure.

 

Do the Habs really have none and the Caps a truckload?

 

It would seem that all the pressure in the world now lies squarely on the shoulders of the Washington Capitals, while the Habs have nothing to lose—except for Game Seven.

 

As I said yesterday, if the Caps lose tonight, their season will be considered a disaster. If the Habs lose, however, they will go home as heroes as they have already done so much more than was expected of them.

 

While the Caps played the "war of words" a lot during the first five games of this series, they seem to have abandoned that strategy since the Habs tied things up.

 

And as much as the Canadiens have stayed away from the trash talk, yesterday there was a gem of a quote from Habs' Michael Cammalleri, which looks like a shot across the bow of the Capitals team.

 

When asked about tonight's game, Cammalleri said that all the pressure is on the Capitals because they are supposed to win the Stanley Cup, and they are supposed to beat the Habs in order to do so.

 

Subtle, but a comment that will no doubt resonate through the Caps dressing room. Not that they need additional pressure, as I am sure that every single player on the Caps team knows exactly how much is at stake tonight.

 

So, with about half a day to go before game time, questions start to rise about tonight's contest.

 

Questions about whether or not Halak has started to get into the Capitals players' heads. Whether the loss of Tom Poti—the Caps best five-on-five defenseman in the series with a plus-nine rating—will weaken an already porous Caps D-line.

 

Can Alexander Semin—who has zero goals in this series—wake up and finally score? Can the Caps power play that was first overall in the league during the season wake up—the Caps PP is 1-for-30 in the playoffs—and take advantage of the myriad power plays that the Habs are giving up?

 

For the Habs, the questions are less numerous and more to the point: Can they complete the comeback? Can they really take three in a row from the Capitals? Can they win for a third time in this series, in Washington? Can Halak shutdown the Caps offense one more time this season?

 

No one knows the answers to these questions and, like an episode of Soap , you'll have to tune in later to find out.

 

But suffice it to say that I am expecting a full-bore effort from both teams as they both desperately want to win tonight's game and the series.

 

The Caps need to win it and the Habs want to.

 

The motivation may be different for each team but both will see a loss tonight as a failure. In a back and forth, up and down series, I expect both teams to come out like lions and fight to the death, or rather, to the next round of the playoffs.

 

So, whether you are a Habs or a Caps fan, I say let that sick feeling in your stomach build into a crescendo. Don't fight it. Let that nervous energy carry you till tonight's 7:05 pm faceoff.

 

And why the heck not? It shows that you care just as much about your team winning as the individual players do. So enjoy the game, as it's sure to be the final cherry on what has been a supremely entertaining series so far.


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