Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The battle of the red, white and blue

Tonight, the Caps travel north of the border to take on the Montreal Canadiens. The teams have split the season series so far, with Mike Green tallying the winner in a 5-4 win and Guillaume "Mr. 3 syllable" Latendresse netting the winner for Montreal in the second. Both teams come into the game scorching hot, winning 7 of their last 10.

To win this game, the Caps need to play to the Canadiens weaknesses, the most glaring of which is lack of physical players. Aside from Mike "I eat people for fun" Komisarek, there is not a Canadiens defenseman who Caps players need to fear in the offensive zone. Likewise, only 2 of Montreal's forwards are listed at 6'2" or taller. More importantly, none of them play like they're even that big. In order to keep the Canadiens 3 Ks (Koivu, Kovalev, and Kostitsyn) off the boards, the Caps need to play a rough and tumble physical game to keep them off balance.

For a blueprint, they should look to Pittsburgh's 2-0 victory over the Habs before the all-star break. Without Secondary Sid (and playing with a shortened bench), the Pens played a puck possesion game in the offensive zone, using their size advantage to keep the smaller Canadiens players at bay. The Habs skill could not get into a rythm on offense because they could not disposess Pittsburgh's forwards, and the end result was a win for the Penguins. In particular, enforcer Georges Laroque could have held the puck all night, and he's got about half the skillset of Caps tough guy Donald Brashear.

If the Caps can reproduce that kind of physical effort, they should be able to rely on their snipers to get at least a couple pucks past the rejuvinated Cristobel "I'm French, not French Canadien" Huet and escape with a win. If not, viewers may be in for a more enjoyable run and gun game, but the prospects of a Caps win drop to about 50-50.

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