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Special teams: Neither team posted great numbers on the power play or the penalty-kill during the regular season, but there are two important things to note. The Canadiens had the third-best power play on the road — they ranked dead-last at home — while (as noted above) the Penguins were missing some key players on their power play. This is where you’ll find Crosby and Malkin together, along with Letang, Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist, who can be dangerous in front of the net. The Canadiens have two capable point men in Weber and Petry, but it’s too easy for defences to key on them. The Canadiens have crafted two new power-play units for the postseason and there may not be enough time for them to get up to speed. That was obvious in the exhibition game against Toronto when the Canadiens went 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed two short-handed goals. Edge to Pittsburgh.
Coaching: The Canadiens’ Claude Julien and the Penguins’ Mike Sullivan have both won Stanley Cups and they’re both fine coaches. Julien has the more difficult task because he won’t get the last line change until Game 3 and Sullivan has a lineup with more skill, more depth and more experience. Edge to Pittsburgh.
Intangibles: When asked about his team’s chances against the Penguins, Julien is quick to point out the Canadiens fared well against Pittsburgh in the regular season (1-1-1). However, it should be pointed out that Crosby missed the first two games and had three assists in the third one when the Penguins beat the Canadiens 4-1. The Canadiens have a knack for raising their level of play against the NHL’s better teams and they emerged victorious in their only two previous playoff matchups against the Penguins in 1998 and 2010. Edge to Montreal.
Fearless prediction: Penguins in four games.