- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As good as the Washington Capitals were in the regular season, one aspect of their game could spell big trouble against the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens: the penalty-kill.

Something that has irked Caps coach Bruce Boudreau during the campaign is some of the needless penalties his team has taken. While the Caps are ranked in the bottom 10 in penalty minutes per game, they have been called for 339 minors over 82 games, just over an average of four minors per game, which is near the league average.

Although Washington boasts the league’s best power play, Montreal was in second — and led the league for much of the season before a 11-for-72 performance after the Olympic break dropped them out of the lead — and poses a potential equalizer in the first-round playoff series.

“[Montreal has] killed us on it,” Boudreau told reporters earlier this week. “They move the puck, they shoot, and they go to the net. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stay out of the box.”

“[The Canadiens] work together, and they have a lot of good skill,” Capitals forward Boyd Gordon said after practice Wednesday. “Our penalty kill is going to have to be better. I think it is going to be important for us to stay out of the box, as well.”

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That’s a big reason the Canadiens spent time at their suburban Montreal practice facility working with the extra man before heading south to open the series Thursday.

“Sometimes simple is best,” Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov told the Montreal Gazette. “We have to shoot the puck to the net and get people in front.”

“I like our chances when we’re out there on the power play,” Montreal forward Michael Cammalleri added. “I think we have enough personnel to get the job done; it’s a matter of us figuring out how we’re going to do it.”

To put it this way, Montreal scored 57 goals with the extra man this season, compared with just 132 tallies at 5-on-5 — the worst even-strength output of any team in the league.

In their four meetings, the Caps’ penalty kill went just 9-for-14 (64 percent) against the Canadiens, a big reason the Habs got five points in those meetings (2-1-1) and kept all the games close, as five of their 14 total goals against Washington were scored with the extra man.

Being the playoffs, the officiating will come under more scrutiny. While some referees tend to let infractions that would be called in the regular season go, others continue to call games. However, Montreal has made the most with their limited opportunities. Despite getting the fewest chances in the league with the extra-man advantage, they finished with the second-best percentage in the National Hockey League.

“They got a couple of guys that can bring it [from the point],” Gordon said. “As a unit we have to do a better job of blocking shots, getting sticks in lanes, so it is important to keep them to the outside as much as possible and limit their chances.”

Game 1: April 15 at Washington, 7 p.m. ET, CSN, Versus
Game 2: April 17 at Washington, 7 p.m. ET, CSN, Versus
Game 3: April 19 at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET, CSN
Game 4: April 21 at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET, CSN
Game 5*: April 23 at Washington, 7 p.m. ET, CSN
Game 6*: April 26 at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET, CSN
Game 7*: April 28 at Washington, 7 p.m., CSN
* = if necessary

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