As the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference -- and likely having to start a goalie with no playoff experience for Game 1 on Thursday -- the Caps are heavy underdogs against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Here's how a couple NBC Sports analysts handicap the first-round matchup:
Pierre McGuire » "The Boston-Washington series is something I'm looking forward to doing. When you look at it, you have Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron -- two of the better defensive players in the league. Bergeron -- a Selke Trophy candidate -- [will] have a whale of a time playing against Nicklas Backstrom. You have Chara, who is going to be in this titanic battle against Alex Ovechkin. You've got great role players on both sides, especially when you consider the character of Brooks Laich for Washington, and you look at Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, the year he had. The Bruins as the defending champs; Washington played better down the stretch. The only thing where it leans heavily toward Boston is Tim Thomas in goal versus either Braden Holtby or Michal Neuvirth. That's going to be the big thing. To me this is going to be a hard, nasty, physical series because of the storylines that will evolve between the star players from both teams."
Keith Jones » "The key to that series will be the goaltending. I have to give a huge edge to Tim Thomas, obviously, based upon what he did last season -- winning the Stanley Cup. I just think it's going to be too much for the Capitals to handle. Chara versus Ovechkin; Chara will win that battle. I think Ovechkin has too much one-on-one in his game, and he's going to end up with Chara an awful lot. I think the Capitals are in trouble in this series, and the Boston Bruins are going to have a relatively easy time with the Capitals. It's one series in the East that really stands out to me as being a short series with the Bruins standing up, moving on."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!