Caps Should Make Quick Work of Habs

Playoff predictions made

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    No self-respecting hockey expert is going to pick the Montreal Canadiens to beat the Capitals in the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    The Caps have too much firepower, too much confidence and, oh yeah, some guy named Alex Ovechkin.

    While the experts won't pick the Habs, there's always a chance that the impossible can happen. That's why they play the games, right?

    So what could possibly go wrong for the Habs to steal the series? There's always the dreaded case of the Caps looking past Montreal to the second round. Everybody knows that a second-round matchup with the Penguins is possible if the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference advance.

    A Ovechkin-Crosby rematch would be frozen gold for the NHL, and the rivalry has become so intense between the two that you know the superstars are already drooling at the possibility of playing each other in another thrilling seven-game series.

    Caps fans better hope the Habs hold Washington's attention span, however. It's been a long time since the Capitals played a meaningful game. If the Canadiens come out and steal one of the first two games at the Phone Booth and gather some momentum, it would be interesting to see if the Caps are able to find that next gear needed for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Remember last year when the Rangers jumped on a young, inexperienced Capitals squad in the first round and stole the first two games of the season at the Verizon Center? It took some time for the Caps to realize that the intensity level rises in the postseason and they needed to make an adjustment.

    OK, OK... that was last year, and a lesson was learned. The Caps won't be caught off guard again in the first round this year.

    So if the element of surprise won't work for Montreal, what will?

    About the only chance the Canadiens have of winning is if Jaroslav Halak summons the spirit of Dominik Hasek and Grant Fuhr.

    Halak is going to have to stand on his head in this series to survive the barrage of shots Ovechkin and Co. will launch at him. Don't think it can happen? Does anyone remember who the netminder was when Team Slovakia stunned Team Russia in this year's Olympics?

    That's right, it was Halak who stopped 36 of 37 shots in regulation and overtime, and then held his own in a seven-round shootout to lead Slovakia to a shocking 2-1 win.

    Ovechkin scored on just one of three shootout attempts against Halak. Little did we know then it would set up the storyline for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Unfortunately for Habs fans, the first round won't have a happy ending. There's a chance Halak can survive a game or two, but over the course of the series, he will eventually wear down and the Caps will find ways to solve him.

    What does it all mean? It means we're ready for a prediction.

    The Capitals have too many offensive weapons, and the Canadiens don't have a legitimate answer. The Red will be rockin' early and often, making quick work of this series. But because we're feeling generous, Capitals in 5.

    Predictions for the other playoff series:

    Eastern Conference
    (1) Washington vs. (8) Montreal -- Washington in 5
    (2) New Jersey vs. (7) Philadelphia -- New Jersey in 5
    (3) Buffalo vs. (6) Boston -- Buffalo in 6
    (4) Pittsburgh vs. (5) Ottawa -- Pittsburgh in 7

    Western Conference
    (1) San Jose vs. (8) Colorado -- San Jose in 6
    (2) Chicago vs. (7) Nashville -- Chicago in 6
    (3) Vancouver vs. (6) Los Angeles -- Vancouver in 7
    (4) Phoenix vs. (5) Detroit -- Detroit in 5