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Five Keys to the Game : Habs-Caps #1

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
The President’s Trophy

The only photo an NHL team wants to take involving the commissioner and a trophy at the end of the year involves bushy playoff beards and a large silver Cup. Capturing the President’s Trophy with 121 points, the Capitals became the seventh team from the Eastern /Prince of Wales Conference since 1988 to finish the year as the league’s best regular season team. So how many of those seven have gone on to win the Stanley Cup after steamrolling their opponents in the regular season? One. The New York Rangers in 1994. 

Looking for win No. 1
When the opening puck drops in Washington on Thursday night, Jacques Martin will call on Jaroslav Halak to protect the Habs’ crease, while Bruce Boudreau is putting his faith in former Canadien Jose Theodore. In the series between the two squads this season, neither goalie recorded a win against the other team and both will be searching for that first victory in Game 1.  

Stay out of the box
Anytime a referee raises his hand during the series, there’s a good chance someone’s going to pay for it. The Capitals finished first in the league with the man advantage with a 25.2% efficiency, but the Habs weren’t too shabby in that department themselves, ranking second at 21.8%. Montreal flexed some major power play muscle against Washington in particular this year, making good on five of 14 chances against the Caps in 2009-10.

On any given night…
Since the inception of the conference system in 1994, every year has seen at least one lower seed upset a top contender. The Habs have played David to the league’s Goliaths three times since then, while the Caps have seen their season snapped short by an underdog on three occasions.  

Home ice dis-advantage
The first game will set the tone for any series. Home ice advantage hasn’t been kind to the Caps in the past, winning just five of 15 Game 1s at home in the history of the franchise. For their part, the Habs have stolen 12 of 21 opening games on the road in the club’s history.

See also:
Win and learn
Game preview: Canadiens-Capitals 
Time to “Capitalize”  
Angering Alex 
The art of the upset 
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