WASHINGTON CAPITALS (1st Southeast, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall)
How They Got Here:
The Capitals, making their third consecutive playoff appearance, set a single-season record for victories (54) by surpassing last season's 50. Following the promotion of Alex Ovechkin
to the Capitals' captaincy on Jan. 5, the team went 30-4-7.
Triple Runner Up:
Only Sidney Crosby
and Steven Stamkos
(51) scored more than Ovechkin's 50 goals; only Henrik Sedin
(112) recorded more than Ovechkin's 109 points and only teammate Jeff Schultz
(+50) finished higher in plus-minus than Ovechkin's +45.
100/40 Club: Alex Ovechkin
(109) and Nicklas Backstrom
(101) are the Capitals' first set of teammates ever to reach 100 points in the same season. Ovechkin and Alexander Semin
are also the first Caps' duo to record 40-goal seasons since 1988-89, when Dino Ciccarelli
(44), Geoff Courtnall
(42) and Mike Ridley
(41) all surpassed the mark.
The Capitals have 31 points (on a 13-2-5 record) since the Olympic break, second only to the Red Wings' 34.
You Don't Have To Turn On The Red Light:
G Jose Theodore
posted a record of 20-0-3, a 2.58 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage since Jan. 13. The 23 consecutive decisions without a regulation loss were the most in Capitals history.
Down Two, Never Too Down:
The Capitals have a League-leading nine victories in games they trailed by two or more goals. Three of those victories came in regulation time and four of them came in overtime; the two others came in shootouts. The 23 games in which the Capitals trailed by two or more goals tied Chicago and Calgary for the fewest such games by any team in the NHL this season.
The Capitals led the League in goals (318) for the first time in franchise history with the top single-season output by any NHL team since the Pittsburgh Penguins
scored 362 in 1995-96. In addition to the firepower of Alex Ovechkin
, Alexander Semin
and Nicklas Backstrom
, D Mike Green
led all NHL defensemen in goals (19), assists (57) and points (76).
MONTREAL CANADIENS (4th Northeast Division, 8th Eastern Conference)
The Canadiens have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third consecutive season and an NHL-record 78th time.
Twelve of the 20 players who dressed for the Canadiens' playoff opener in 2009 are no longer with the club. Newcomers to the Canadiens' roster this season are Scott Gomez
, Mike Cammalleri
, Brian Gionta
, Benoit Pouliot
, Dominic Moore
, Travis Moen
, Mathieu Darche
and Tom Pyatt
plus defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron
, Jaroslav Spacek
, Hal Gill
and Paul Mara
New Faces II:
C Scott Gomez
, acquired from the New York Rangers
in a major off-season trade, had a slow start to the season with his new club, tallying 11 points in his first 23 games through Dec. 1. Since then, he has 48 points in 55 contests. Fellow newcomers Brian Gionta
and Michael Cammalleri
led the club in goals with 28 and 26, respectively, despite each missing significant time due to injury. Gionta was out 21 games (foot), Cammalleri for 17 (knee). Gomez (New Jersey, 2000 and 2003) and Gionta (New Jersey, 2003) are among four players on the Canadiens roster with a Stanley Cup ring, joining Hal Gill
(Pittsburgh 2009) and Travis Moen
Between The Pipes:
Goaltenders Carey Price
and Jaroslav Halak
both have made in excess of 40 appearances this season, but Halak has shouldered most of the workload recently. The 24-year-old Bratislava, Slovakia native shone for his country in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, posting a 2.14 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in six games as the Slovaks advanced to the semifinal round for the first time before losing heartbreakers to Canada and Finland, respectively, for a fourth-place finish. Halak has backstopped the Canadiens' march toward an Eastern Conference playoff since then, posting a 9-3-3 record with a 2.07 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 15 appearances following the Olympic break. The only NHL goaltender with a lower goals-against average in that span is Boston's Tuukka Rask
(1.77 in 15 games).
The Canadiens suffered a devastating blow on the opening night of the season when All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov
went down with a lower body injury that sidelined him for 35 games. He made an inspirational return by scoring two goals, including the game-winner, in his first game back Dec. 19 on Long Island in what turned out to be the first of a seven-game point streak (3-8--11). Markov led the Canadiens in average ice time per game (23:48) and plus-minus (+11), and ranked fifth among NHL defensemen in points-per-game (6-28--34 in 45 games, .76).
LW Benoit Pouliot
, acquired from Minnesota for Guillaume Latendresse
in November, has discovered his scoring touch in a Canadiens uniform. The fourth overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft behind Sidney Crosby
, Bobby Ryan
and Jack Johnson
, Pouliot has broken out for 15 goals in 39 games with his new club after tallying nine goals in 65 career games with Minnesota.
The Canadiens had the #2-ranked power-play in the League (behind Washington), converting at 21.8% (57 for 261). The leading scorer on the power-play unit is C Tomas Plekanec
(3-21--24), who also has reached 70 points overall for the first time in his five-year NHL career (25-45--70). A pair of unlikely names join Plekanec among the team leaders with the man advantage; C Glen Metropolit
tallied a club-leading 10 goals (tied with Gionta), while D Marc-Andre Bergeron
ranked second in assists (15) and points (22).