The National Hockey League is back. It has been a slow few months for ice hockey fans but it is now time to turn attention to the 2017-18 NHL season; and the Montreal Canadiens will be confident of getting off to a good start against the Washington Capitals this weekend. In theory, both sides could go on to enjoy very successful seasons – and both should be looking at the playoffs.
Starting from a clean slate is never easy and Washington will be grateful to return with what is a fairly similar-looking side. The Capitals will fancy their chances this year after their usual playoff woes but something has to change in the mindset during the postseason. During the regular campaign, they are absolutely fine but Washington do tend to collapse in the race for the Stanley Cup.
In their opening fixture on Thursday night, the Capitals ran out 5-4 winners over the Ottawa Senators – largely thanks to Alexander Ovechkin’s efforts. The Russian, arguably one of the best attacking options in the National Hockey League, bagged a hat-trick to inspire his side to an early victory and Ovechkin will be central to Washington’s aspirations, both during the regular season and beyond.
KEY MAN: Alexander Ovechkin. This man needs no introduction. Taken by the Capitals with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin has now scored 561 goals in 922 career games – an incredible feat to say the least. He is Washington’s leader on the ice but Capitals head coach Barry Trotz has also praised the 32-year-old for his conduct off the rink.
Last season, Ovechkin scored 33 goals in 82 regular season appearances; a sub-par tally for someone so gifted. He will be determined to get back to his brilliant best as the season goes on and his fast start should give Washington confidence. Write Ovechkin off at your peril, he has the talent to take the NHL by force.
Could this be Montreal’s year at 19/1 with 888Sport for the Stanley Cup? The Canadian outfit last won the Stanley Cup back in 1993 and it would be fair to state that they are due a showpiece success. Bell Centre was once a fortress and Montreal need to ensure that their home form is solid once again this year – too many slipups could be detrimental to their title hopes.
KEY MAN: Carey Price. The Montreal goalie will be busy this weekend and he will need to be reliable between the posts for his side to stand any chance of victory. When you play against the Capitals, you know that they are almost certainly going to be up for it on offense and the difference maker could be Price.
The Canadiens will look to edge what they hope will be a relatively low scoring contest. Price was a key figure in Montreal’s win over the Buffalo Sabres and an impressive performance here would be welcomed by Canadian fans. Watch this space, a shutout effort could be on the cards if Price gets going early on.
These early season games are always difficult to predict but the Capitals are probably better placed to start quickly. Montreal may need some time to adjust after tweaking a few of their lines and Washington looked sharp offensively on Thursday night against Ottawa. That being said, this one won’t be a straightforward win for either side, it could even go the distance.
CAPITALS 4-3 CANADIENS