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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Washington could capitalise on lowered expectations

Anaheim well equipped to cope with bruising schedule

Alex Ovechkin (8) and John Carlson are key offensive players for the Washington Capitals
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Starts midnight Wednesday
Selected matches live on Premier Sports

For once Washington begin the Stanley Cup playoffs with expectations in check.

After a string of playoff disappointments which failed miserably to live up to the promise of their regular-season performances, the Capitals underwent an overhaul during the off-season and began the season with a new-look line-up.

Many thought this would be a transition year, but the Caps topped the Metropolitan Division for the third straight season while Alex Ovechkin potted a league-high 49 goals.

For the last two seasons the Capitals have been dumped out of the playoffs by subsequent champions Pittsburgh.

At one stage it looked like the Penguins might not even reach the postseason this year, but they are slated to meet Washington in the second round again - if they can get past arch-rivals Philadelphia.

The last time the Battle of Pennsylvania was staged in the playoffs, in 2012, it was an insane series with three of the six matches featuring at least 12 goals.

Pittsburgh won all four regular-season meetings with a youthful Flyers outfit this campaign, but things could be quite different in a playoff situation. It could be a battered and bruised Penguins squad who stagger into the second round.

In the West, last year's beaten Stanley Cup finalists Nashville have had a strong season, but at much bigger odds chance Anaheim to claim their second Stanley Cup.

The cup finalists face a punishing schedule between now and mid-June and the Ducks are in better shape than most to cope.

They have strength in depth at every position so the inevitable odd injury shouldn't affect them too much.

Defence wins cups and the Ducks boasted the third-best goals-against record in the regular season. They have an embarrassment of riches on defence in front of an elite goalie in John Gibson.

They finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak and should be full of confidence.

Washington to win Stanley Cup
1pt 12-1 Betfred
Anaheim to win Stanley Cup
1pt 25-1 Betfair, Betfred

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The Caps topped the Metropolitan Division for the third straight season while Alex Ovechkin potted a league-high 49 goals
E.W. Terms
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