Game preview #6: Canadiens-Capitals
(Washington leads best-of-seven series, 3-2)
Big Story -- There weren't too many people predicting we'd be back in Montreal for Game 6, but the Canadiens earned this chance by playing their most complete game of the series in Game 5 on Friday. Jaroslav Halak was splendid in stopping 37 shots, including 12 in the third period and 11 on the power play. Michael Cammalleri and Travis Moen scored before the game was 10 minutes old and all Washington could muster was Alex Ovechkin's fifth of the playoffs early in the second period. The only prediction we'll make about Monday's game is the Bell Centre crowd will definitely be rocking.
Capitals -- Something has to give on the power play or the Capitals will be stuck in the mud and eventually stall out in these playoffs. It might not happen in this round, but if the power play doesn't cash in soon the Capitals will not reach their full potential. Part of the reason they were the best team in the NHL during the regular season was because they had the League's No. 1 power play. Well, it's 1-for-24 through five games against the Canadiens and was a costly 0-for-5 in Game 5.
Similarly, Washington won't go deep in these playoffs if Alexander Semin doesn't get off the schneid. The mysterious Russian right wing has gone 12 straight playoff games without a goal. He has just one assist in this series, and some say that was by accident. Tomas Fleischmann could find himself up in the press box as a healthy scratch because he's been invisible in this series with one assist and just six shots on goal. Even with all that, the Capitals can close out this series Monday with a strong effort.
"Montreal has done a good job on him, but he is increasingly becoming the most dangerous player on the ice the longer he goes without a goal," left wing Brooks Laich said of Semin. "Good players you can't hold back forever."
Canadiens -- Jacques Martin said the fact that Moen, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta have their names on the Stanley Cup a combined four times had nothing to do with his decision to play them together in Game 5. Martin was looking to add some toughness to help out Gomez and Gionta, so he moved Benoit Pouliot down in the lineup and brought Moen up. The trio cashed in for the game-winning goal Friday night and should again be together Monday.
Pouliot played only sparingly. Sergei Kostitsyn played even less. Montreal is confident now after forcing a Game 6, but the fact remains it still hasn't gotten much from its bottom-six forwards. Now that Moen is up in the top six, Dominic Moore remains the only bottom-six forward with a goal, and that was in garbage time at the end of Game 4. The Canadiens could get away with the limited contributions from their bottom six if Halak plays the way he did in Game 5 and the penalty kill continues to be so effective.
"If they're getting frustrated (on the power play) it's just because we're doing our jobs," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "They just have so many weapons for us to be worried about. We still have to be wary of that and play a disciplined game, which means stay out of the box."
Who's Hot -- For the Caps, Ovechkin has goals in each of the last four games and five in the series. … For the Habs, Cammalleri now has three goals and four assists in the series.
Injury Report -- Washington defenseman Shaone Morrisonn has missed the last two games with an unspecified injury, but he's due back for Game 6. … Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek missed the last two games with an illness and he could also play Monday.
Stat Pack -- The Canadiens have trailed 3-1 in a seven-game series 16 times and have come back to win only once (2004 against the Boston Bruins). They haven't won a home playoff game since Game 1 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia. They are 4-10 in home playoff games since the work stoppage. The Capitals are 2-7 in Game 5 when they have a chance to clinch a series. The road team has scored the first goal in each of the five games during this series.
Puck Drop -- "They have high expectations. They're supposed to win the Stanley Cup, supposed to beat us," Cammalleri said. "That's sometimes a bit of a burden. For us, it's the opposite. We do believe we can win, and we don't think anybody expects us to. That's OK with us."
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Caps #6
One at a time
See you Monday!