Compared with some other playoff bound teams around the league we re looking

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 Another edition of the Stanley Cup playoffs, another edition of the Washington Capitals entering the playoffs looking strong as ever and maybe, just maybe, this ll be the year when they break through and win the sport s ultimate prize. But before we plan the parade route through the Illuminati engineered Markus Nutivaara Jersey  streets of D.C., Alex Ovechkin Co. must get by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Capitals closed out the season on an 8 2 0 run to finish at 49 26 7, with a goal differential of plus 20. Ovechkin added another Rocket Richard trophy to his collection, though he was one goal shy of notching 50 for the eighth time in his career.

Kirk Herbstreit s favorite team certainly looks like the early winner in the Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad trade from last summer, as the Bread Man led the Blue Jackets in points with a career high 82. Panarin adds a dynamic scoring element to a franchise that has been renowned for grit, toughness and other intangibles that sometimes serve as a polite way to say lack of elite scorers.

First line. Pierre Luc Dubois, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2016 draft, will not soon be confused for the two players taken before him Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine . After an up and down 2016 17 campaign, however, Dubois came into his own this season, anchoring the Blue Jackets top line along with Panarin and either Josh Anderson or Cam Atkinson. The trio including Anderson was particularly effective, with a 5 on 5 Corsi for percentage of 59.0, and a 5 on 5 goals for percentage of 59.3. The Caps top unit of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom sometimes Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson posted similar rates, but there s something about having a 49 goal scorer on the ice that tilts things a bit. Advantage Capitals.

Depth. The trade deadline addition of winger Thomas Vanek was a game changer for the Blue Jackets, as he scored 15 points in 19 games, 14 of which came at even strength, finding quick chemistry with Boone Jenner 32 points and Alexander Wennberg 35 . Capitals coach Barry Trotz can counter with a second line that includes Kuznetsov or Backstrom with T.J. Oshie 47 points, Andre Burakovsky 25 or Jakub Vrana 27 . Advantage Capitals.

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Defense. When considering the critical components to building a championship contender, three parts are essential a No. 1 center, a No. 1 defenseman and a workhorse goaltender. Well, the Blue Jackets happen to have two No. 1 defensemen, in Seth Jones 57 points, 24 36 in ice time per game and Zach Werenski 37, 22 35 . Not to be outdone, Washington s John Carlson led all defensemen in scoring this season, with 68 points, and skated 24 47 per game. We ll go with the team that has two No. 1s, thank you very much. Advantage Blue Jackets.

Goaltending. The 2017 18 season will go down as one to forget for Capitals backstop Braden Holtby, as his .907 save percentage was the worst mark of his career, and that came after the worst postseason of his career, as he finished the 2017 playoff run at .909. Backup Philipp Grubauer had better numbers this season, but has just 78 34 of playoff experience; the team has announced he ll be the Game 1 starter. At the other end, Sergei Bobrovsky had another solid campaign, including a .921 save percentage and five shutouts, though he has tended to fall apart in the postseason, with.908 and .882 save percentages the past two times the Jackets made the playoffs. We ll give the slight edge to Bob here. Advantage Blue Jackets.

Special teams. For years, Ovechkin has set up camp at a spot in the faceoff circle to the opposing goaltender s right and proceeded to score an obscene number of goals thanks to his rapid release. Every opponent knows it. Every fan watching knows it. Heck, even the cotton candy vendor knows it. No one has been able to stop it, however, and that release is particularly dangerous on the Caps seventh ranked power play 22.5 percent . The Blue Jackets lack bite with the man advantage themselves 17.2 percent, No. 25 , and at 76.2 percent, finished No. 26 on the penalty kill. This could be trouble. Advantage Capitals.

Coaching. Capitals coach Barry Trotz has assembled one of the NHL s most accomplished regular season coaching staffs, including goalie whisperer Mitch Korn. John Tortorella s staff in Columbus is a bit less renowned, though Torts himself does have his name on the Stanley Cup. Then again, that was back in 2004, and neither coach has been great in the postseason recently. Advantage Even.

Health. Compared with some other playoff bound teams around the league we re looking at you, Minnesota Wild the Blue Jackets and Capitals enter this series relatively healthy. Columbus captain Nick Foligno has been out since March 26 with a lower body injury, and his availability is in question, along with defenseman Markus Nutivaara s and center Lukas Sedlak s. Capitals energy forward Jay Beagle has missed the past three games with an upper body injury, and remains day to day. Advantage Capitals.

Series pick Capitals in six.

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