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Montreal Canadiens  at Washington
Capitals – Thursday, April 15th, 2010.

Eastern Quarterfinal – Game 1 – Series Tied

The playoffs begin tonight for the Montreal
Canadiens as they visit the Washington Capitals for Game One of the Eastern
Conference Quarterfinals.  The Canadiens enter the series as the definite
underdogs, as their paltry 88 points were barely enough to qualify for the
post-season, and compare dismally to the Capitals league-leading 121 points. 
Through 82 games, the Capitals recorded 15 more wins and scored 101 more goals
than the Canadiens.  Nevertheless, the season-series played out fairly
evenly, as both teams ended with a 2-1-1 record against the other. 

Montreal beat the Capitals 3-2 in regulation on November 20th and 6-5 in OT game
on February 10th, while Washington beat Montreal 4-3 in a shootout on November
28th and 4-2 in regulation on January 5th.  The Capitals enter the series
having earned points in 9 of their last 10 games while Montreal has only won 3
of 10, despite taking 3 other games to OT.  This series marks the first
time these two teams have ever met in the post-season.

Montreal’s starting goaltender is Jaroslav Halak,
(26-13-5, 2.40 GAA, .924 SV%), who in an interesting quirk of fate, hasn’t faced
the Capitals at all this year.  Carey Price (13-20-5, 2.77 GAA, .912 SV%)
faced Washington in all 4 games, but will at least start the series on the
bench.  Washington’s head coach, Bruce Boudreau, has designated ex-Hab José
Theodore (30-7-7, 2.81 GAA, .911 SV%) as the starter for tonight, but look for
last year’s playoff sensation, Semyon Varlamov (15-4-6, 2.55 GAA, .909 SV%), to
get some playing time if Theodore falters.  Theodore will likely be looking
to haunt his old team, considering that Tomas Plekanec called out the Capitals
goaltending, and especially since Theodore was awful against the Habs this year,

playing only part of one game and coming out with a 6.49 GAA.

Washington holds a significant edge when it comes to scoring
goals.  The production of Tomas Plekanec (25G, 45A), Scott Gomez (12G,
47A), Mike Cammalleri (26G, 24A) and Brian Gionta (28G, 18A) all pale in
comparison to the Capitals, due in part to key injuries throughout the year. 
Nevertheless, the Capitals top-4 scorers, Alexander Ovechkin (50G, 59A), Nicklas
Backstrom (33G, 68A), Alex Semin (40G, 44A) and Mike Green (19G, 57A) all
tallied more points than any one Montreal Canadien.

It is absolutely no surprise that with that
kind of firepower, the Capitals score significantly more goals per game than the
Habs (3.82 vs. 2.56).  The two teams fare similarly with allowed goals per
game, with Montreal emerging slightly superior to the Caps (2.66 vs. 2.77). 
This series features the top-2 powerplay units, with the Capitals converting
25.2% of their powerplay opportunity to the Habs’ 21.8%.  Seemingly, the
only area for improvement for Washington is their penalty-killing, as the Habs
were clearly superior to the Capitals in this department during the regular
season (83.0% vs. 78.8%).  In the four games played, Montreal went 5 for 14
(38.5%) with the man advantage, while the Capitals went 3 for 17 (17.6%).

Montreal is expected to be without Glen
Metropolit (shoulder) and Paul Mara (shoulder surgery).   Metropolit
has been practicing with the Canadiens, but hasn’t been cleared for contact. 
Although Jacques Martin hasn’t divulged anything official, it appears that Ryan
O’Byrne and Ben Maxwell will be healthy scratches for Game 1. Milan Jurcina
(hernia) is out for Washington, while Tyler Sloan (upper body) and Nicklas
Backstrom (illness) are questionable for tonight’s tilt.

The game can be seen on RDS, TSN and VERSUS. 
Game-time is 7:00pm EST.

This preview was written by Matt