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Habs' power play will be big against Capitals

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- Jaroslav Halak's play since the Olympics has drawn rave reviews outside the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room and earned the young Slovak goalie the trust of every player wearing le bleu, blanc et rouge.

"We build our confidence with him," Canadiens defenseman Jaroslav Spacek told Thursday morning from Verizon Center, where the Habs had one final tune-up before Game 1 against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS).

While Halak may be the most important factor for the Canadiens to stun the hockey world and knock off the Capitals, special teams, and in particular Montreal's power play, may be the biggest key to gaining an early advantage in the series.

Washington had the best power play in the NHL this season (25.2 percent), but the Canadiens were No. 2 at 21.8 percent. The Canadiens' were 5-for-14 against the Capitals this season and accounted for at least one goal in each of the four games they played.

Montreal and Washington split the season series, each taking home five points. New Jersey, Ottawa and Carolina were the only other teams that earned at least five points against the Capitals this season.

"We'll find out, but I think the special teams' battle should play a significant role in how the series goes," Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri said. "Sometimes it doesn't happen, but if it doesn't happen that's kind of the anomaly instead of the norm."

Cammalleri scored one of the Canadiens' 5 power-play goals against Washington this season, but he's been in a prolonged slump since returning from his knee injury. He hasn't scored in nine games since coming back and 12 games overall.

Cammalleri's last goal came on Jan. 23 against the Rangers.

"Yeah, I feel ready. I do, definitely," Cammalleri said of his ability to breakout in this series. "For me, personally, it's been one of the longest slumps of my career. I haven't hated my games, but the puck hasn't gone in. I look forward to burying some for sure."

Cammalleri's production, or lack thereof, aside, Montreal coach Jacques Martin believes the Canadiens' power play was successful against the Capitals this season because they moved the puck, got good support, put the puck on net and won the positional battles.

What he failed to mention was how good the top of the Habs' power play was.

Andrei Markov, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Spacek and Josh Gorges all have good shots from the points. Bergeron, who probably has the best shot of them all, said shooting as much as they can from the circles and above will make the power play a factor in this series.

"The power play now, the way teams are defending, guys are good at being in the lanes and guys are good at reading the plays so you need shooters," Bergeron said. "You can't always do those fancy plays. When you find a lane you get an open shot and when you have good shooters the puck has a chance to go in."

If the Habs can capitalize on some of those shots, and avoid giving Washington similar opportunities, maybe an upset in this series isn't such a farfetched idea.

"It's a good chance to get momentum on the power play even if we don't score a goal," Bergeron said, "and we're sure going to need some momentum in this series because it's a very good team to play against."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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