Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Caps vs. Montreal

As the Caps and Habs prepare to do battle in the NHL postseason for the first time ever, it's worth reflecting on the often unnoticed intertwined sports history between the two cities:

1) Even by expansion team standards, the 1974 Washington Capitals were atrocious. The squad won only 8 games, and that was without playing the Habs, who were the dominant dynastic team in hockey at that time. From the mid 1970s into the early 1980s, the tilts between the Habs and Caps were one sided, with Montreal winning nearly every contest. During that stretch, the Habs won three contests by a combined score of 33-2.

2) In light of #1, it is most ironic that in many ways, the Caps have the Habs to thank for finally turning the corner and becoming a legitimately competitive squad. In 1982, the Caps and Habs were involved in a 6 player trade that resulted in Doug Jarvis and Rod Langway coming to DC. This trade put the Caps on solid footing that would last for most of the next decade. The Caps made the playoffs for the first time in their history that season. And beginning with this season, the 'rivalry' between the Caps and Habs began to level out and was no longer one sided.

3) In more recent times, the Washington Nationals MLB team was the team that was formerly the Montreal Expos.

The Montreal Canadiens are NHL royalty. Their 24 Stanley Cups are rivaled only by the 27 World Series championships held by the New York Yankees. The Habs have always been the only game in town in Montreal, which was the main reason why the Expos ended up in DC. Montreal is a hockey town through and through.

The Caps, by contrast, reside in a football town through and through. Every sports team in DC plays second fiddle or worse to the Redskins. Even with the Caps selling out every game this year while amassing the best record in hockey, they were a sideshow just last week to the Donovan McNabb trade. Offseason Redskins news still trumps any news about the best team in hockey on the eve of their playoff run.

Most every prediction I've seen about this playoff series has the Caps winning in 4 or 5. I think the series will be closer than that. The Caps players know how tough it will be to win a game in Montreal. And if the Caps don't stay out of the penalty box, they are unlikely to neutralize the Hab power play which could make the difference in a series filled with close games. The Habs will provide a good test of whether this year's Caps squad is the juggernaut people like me hope they are. I do think the Caps will win the series, but I'm guessing it will take at least 6 games to do it.


At 8:25 PM, April 18, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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