One thing that could potentially--and I think will--determine the outcome of the Caps' 2010-2011 is their scoring style.
"It is interesting that Ovechkin scored 24 of his 31 even-strength goals (not counting empty net or penalty shot goals) on rushes into the zone. Setting up in the zone and working for shots accounted for only 3 goals all season for Ovechkin. When Ovechkin scores, the offense appears to resemble more of a basketball fast-break; using the team's speed to create quick goals rather than fighting in the corners in hopes of finding a hole in the defense's system."
--Kewibr, from Japers' Rink
So, what of it? In the series against Montreal, the Caps heavily out-Corsied the Habs. The only advantage the Canadiens had essentially was on special teams. The Canadiens played most of the series in their own end. This led to two things. One, the Canadiens did not allow many odd-man rushes--if you're always on your heels, chasing dump ins basically as soon as you clear the zone, you can't really be aggressive with your defense. Sure, this strategy almost cost the Canadiens the series, but considering that the Habs were not a break-even 5-on-5 team during the regular season, that may have been their only shot. Two, the Canadiens themselves were able to get odd-man rushes. The Caps in being aggressive with their D of course left holes, and the few times the Habs were able to then force a quick turnover and counterattack they converted. They took away the Caps' ability to use speed and skill in the way the Caps had been using those tools all season.
There isn't any novel solution here. The Caps need to cycle and play a grittier offense, especially the second line. This may be why Eric Fehr is only productive in limited minutes--the bottom lines cycle and Fehr is able to park himself near the net, while the rushing top lines don't give Fehr the necessary time. If the top two lines can cycle a bit more, the Caps' offense in terms of overall regular season numbers will suffer, but it could be a more reliable method of scoring, one that can't really be shut down except by very, very good defenses. When the Caps face such a defense, like in Chicago, then it's always possible to fall back on the rush, to keep the defensemen guessing.
I realize that the only example I used here is Ovechkin, but I get the feeling--from watching games, not just a gut feeling--that the Caps overall scored mostly on the rush.
The cycle is puck possession hockey the way Detroit plays, not the rush. I think that's what we're after here. Memo to Boudreau: offense more cycl-y, less rush-y.