Flyers goalie Marty Biron has recurring visions of Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals sniper who squeezes snarl, scoring and sheer exhilaration into a pair of skates.

"I have seen a lot of goals and shots he has taken," Biron said. "I don't think I can say he likes one spot on the ice more than others. He shoots it hard and shoots it all the time.

"He's not a guy who gets an opportunity and then maybe hesitates. If he has it in his mind, it's going towards the net. It could be an easy shot from the top of the circle. Last time we played them, he took a shot from the top of the circle. He was 100 m.p.h. going for his rebound. And he buried it.

"It could be a hard shot, a rebound, or just a shot to shoot it - a lot of different things with him. Quick, hard, unexpected; there's a lot of great things to his shot. . . . That puck comes off his stick and it goes quick."

It goes so quick that Ovechkin scored 65 goals this season, more than any left winger in one season in NHL history.

If Biron can't outquick the quickest shot of them all, the Flyers aren't going to win this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The action will begin tonight at the Verizon Center in Washington.

For Flyers coach John Stevens, this is his first NHL playoff series. Ditto for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, the favorite for the Jack Adams Award as the league's coach of the year.

Any veteran playoff coach would tell Stevens that there is only so much you can do to stop the other club's best player.

Ovechkin will get his points. The job is to limit his ability to affect the series. Once a player such as Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby or Ovechkin takes over a game, it's over.

"He and that [Nick] Backstrom have some good chemistry together," Stevens said, referring to the Caps' rookie center. "And you see them sometimes in the zone, and a puck is turned over, they spring to it.

"It's important for our defense not to take unnecessary risks where we put ourselves in a race where [Ovechkin] has time and space with the puck."

Time and space. Give Ovechkin both and he's like the late Dale Earnhardt on the oval at Talladega. You'll never cut him off from the wall.

Braydon Coburn plays the left side of the Flyers' defense most nights, while joined by Kimmo Timonen. Although Ovechkin would presumably attack Timonen's side as a left winger, Ovechkin is righthanded and often prefers to attack on the opposite side, which is his natural shooting side.

"He zigzags all over the place," Coburn said. "That makes it more of a guess where he'll be. He could be on your partner's side" and cross over.

Defensively, the key to containing a highly skilled forward who can move laterally as fast as he can forward is to get him on his backhand. But Ovechkin simply switches sides, angles his shot, and comes with a forehand regardless.

If there's no space in front, he drops the puck back to Backstrom to create new space in front. And forget about trying to play one line or one pair of defensemen against him. It takes multiple lines and several pairs of defensemen.

"He stays out for two minutes on the ice, shooting and hitting," Flyers right winger Joffrey Lupul said. "He's competitive. The only thing that sets him above similar guys with a skill set is his hunger to play and score goals.

"You can see his excitement on the ice. He feeds off the fans. He feeds off scoring goals. He gets one or two and it's just inevitable the third is coming. You can only try to limit his impact on the game."

Ovechkin has bits and pieces of many great scorers before him - with a nasty streak like Gordie Howe's.

"He's a one-of-a-kind player," Lupul said, "the only guy in the league who plays like that. Maybe you can make a case for Jarome Iginla. But Ovechkin is more dynamic than Iginla."

How will the Flyers stop Ovechkin from becoming their Russian Revolution on ice?

"You can't eliminate him," Flyers center Mike Richards. said. "You can try to slow him down and limit his opportunities. He's a good player. He'll find ways. We have to do our best to keep his chances to a minimum."

This Caps squad is different from the one the Flyers faced before the trade deadline. The addition of Matt Cooke, Sergei Fedorov and, especially, Cristobal Huet - the most dominant goalie in the Eastern Conference in the final month of the regular season - has given the Caps a new dimension.

The Flyers, Richards said, "clawed" their way into the playoffs with a pressure-packed nine-game stretch in which they won seven times.

"It was a roller-coaster ride of a regular season, and now we're in," he said. "We can learn from it and use that in the playoffs. We have a lot of young guys in here, a lot of guys without much playoff experience. Maybe the last seven, eight games was what we needed.

"We've had resiliency the whole year, and it stood out in the last two weeks, starting with being down in that Rangers game and coming back to win in overtime. Everyone knows what kind of team we can be when we move our feet. As long as we do the right things, good things will happen for us. When we don't skate, we're an average team."