Plekanec Fuels the Playoff Fire?

As if we weren't anxious enough for the playoffs as it is...

Adding proverbial fuel to the fire, Tomas Plekanec has ensured that everyone will be watching game 1 of the first round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens.

In an interview with Montreal newspaper La Presse, Plekanec made certain remarks that won't be taken lightly by the Washington Capitals, especially Jose Theodore, who was announced as the Capitals starting goaltender this morning by coach Bruce Boudreau.

"It's not as though we are facing (Martin) Brodeur or (Ryan) Miller," Plekanec said in his interview. "They don't have a dominant goaltender. When you look at the goaltending matchup in this series it favours our team. I just believe that our goaltending is more solid than theirs. I'm not saying their goalies are bad. I'm just saying our goalies are better."

To say that Theodore took what Plekanec said to heart is an understatement. "Tomas who? Jagr? Oh, Plekanec. OK. I thought you meant Jagr," said Theodore, obviously taking a pot shot as the Canadiens' center. "No, I'm not Miller ou Brodeur," he continued. "Those are two of the best goaltenders in the league. I'm just lucky to find myself on a good team."

TSN was quick to put the story up on their main page, quickly pointing out the alleged flaws in what they called Plekanec's ''argument'', even going as far as attempting to compare Jose Theodore's playoff experience from 8 years ago to Halak's non-experience as a 24 year old.

Forget for a second how unprofessional and condescending TSN's ''article'' was - honestly it sounded more like a blog. What exactly what wrong with Plekanec's comments? He didn't come out and say that the Capitals goaltending sucks, or that Jose Theodore doesn't belong in the NHL, or shouldn't be making $4.5 million to Halak's $750,000. He simply stated that while he thought that Jose Theodore and, presumably, Varlamov as the back-up, were good goaltenders, the tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price were better.

Whether he's right or not clearly remains to be seen, as the games that matter are to come starting on Thursday. But this isn't the dumbest comment in the history of comments, as certain people are quick to imply. Of course he thinks they have the edge in goaltending, it's his own damn team. He's not going to come out and say that the Capitals have better goaltending and that he thinks the Canadiens are going to lose to him. He's going to have confidence in his own goaltending, and he's going to tell people what he thinks when he's asked.

Some people are already saying that comments such as these are only going to fuel Jose Theodore and the Capitals. Yet, if they weren't motivated enough to beat the Canadiens in the first meeting of the two organizations in the post-season, if Theodore wasn't motivated enough facing his former team, then maybe Jaroslav Halak is a better goaltender than he is.

None of this should even matter. This was already a highly anticipated series when it was determined that these two teams would be facing each other. Thursday night's game 1 was going to be exciting whether Plekanec said anything or not. The only difference is that I maybe be watching this series on RDS instead of TSN, after the unprofessional display on their website earlier today.

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Many questions remain for the Canadiens going into Thursday's game. While we will look into them more deeply before puck drop on Thursday night, here's a few to ponder as the playoffs approach:

- After dropping his last three games and looking weak on at least half of the 12 goals scored on him, should Jaroslav Halak start game 1 in D.C. or should Price, who has played every minute of hockey against the Capitals this year and faired pretty well, get a shot?

- Marc-Andre Bergeron has been practicing on the top defensive pair with Andrei Markov, with Ryan O'Byrne skating as the 7th defenseman? Will the surprise performer for the Habs on the powerplay find himself skating next to the Canadiens best defensemen come Thursday night, or should Jacques Martin opt for a more physical presence to counter that of the Capitals?

- Should the top offensive trios remain intact going into Thursday night, or should they be shuffled, seeing as most of the Canadiens top six forwards have gone through slumps late in the season?

And the question that will harp the Canadiens until this series is in the books: Do the Habs even stand a chance against the best regular-season team in the NHL?

We will look at all this and more before Thursday's game, and the answers should be revealed fairly quickly once this series gets underway. Until then, enjoy the draft lottery tonight, it should be fairly amusing.

Prax
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