Yes, stranger things have happened – notably in 1971, when the Bruins were even scarier than the Capitals.
And there was the Miracle on Ice, when a guy in plaid bell-bottoms coached the U.S. to an Olympic win over a whole team of Alexander Ovechkins.
In his superb Daily Hab-it blog, my man Arpon Basu outlines some advantages the Canadiens have in this series: playoff experience, the PK, goaltending.
The Canadiens have a puncher’s chance, a term used in boxing to describe the possibility that a hopelessly outclassed fighter will land a punch hard enough to KO the superior combatant.
The comparison to boxing raises the issue that I think will doom the Canadiens in this series: Size.
Washington is WAY bigger. Apart from Ovechkin, who’s a moose, consider these bruisers:
Jason Chimera, 6’4″, 214
Eric Fehr, 6’4″ 212
Mike Knuble, 6’3″, 223
Brooks Laich, 6’2″, 200
David Steckel, 6’5″, 217
At the trade deadline, Washington general manager George McPhee landed Scott Walker, who’s only 5’10”, 196 but punches above his weight … ask Aaron Ward.
The smallest Washington defencman is Jow Corvo at 6′, 204. Jeff Schultz is the biggest at 6’6″ 230.
Is size the absolute determinant in hockey?
Not necessarily. But it’s important in the playoffs, when the preponderance of goals are scored in the dirty areas, where all but Brian Gionta fear to tread.
A good big team will beat a good small team every time out.
What a good big team will do to a mediocre small team might not be pretty to watch.
I think Bruce Boudreau will try to set a tone for the series by having his guys come out thumpin’.
The Washington coach will get a matchup that pits his big boppers against the defence pairing of Marc-André Bergeron and Andrei Markov. Josh Gorges will take a pounding. So will Jaro Spacek.
(Boudreau will be less concerned by forward match-ups. He won’t tell Ovechkin “If you see Mathieu Darche, get off the ice.”)
Wearing down the Canadiens’ D will open it up for Washington’s skill guys. And then things could get really ugly.
The stat that jumps out at me is 5-on-5 goals: Washington had 213 this season. That’s 81 more – one per game – than the Canadiens scored 5-on-5. In fact, it’s more than the Canadiens’ TOTAL 210 goals.
Maybe the key to victory will be coincident minors. In 4-on-4 hockey, the Canadiens outscored Washington 11-5 this season.
Enough doom and gllom
Upsets happen. That’s why they play the games.
I think Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez will play well.
I’m less confident about Tomas Plekanec. The president of the José Theodore fan club played alot of minutes tis season, and the workload took its toll – as it did with Roman Hamrlik – down the stretch.
Mike Cammaleri will have to recapture his mojo.
Benoit Pouliot will have to elevate his game and rekindle hope that this highly-skilled but underachieving kid can become an impact player in Montreal.
Andrei Kostitsyn … ah, what can I say about my favourite whipping boy? AK46 was seventh on the team in scoring. MAB, for heaven’s sake, was sixth.
Then there’s Jaro.
If he gets the call for Game 1 – and I expect he will – Halak will be making his 44th start. That’s 10 more than last season.
Make no mistake: Jaro is the reason the Canadiens are in the playoffs.
But let’s not kid ourselves: in three games the Canadiens had to win, Halak was fair-to-crap.
One more sleep.
Prediction: Washington in five.