Beninati: Caps in command

Beninati: Caps in command
April 16, 2011, 3:34 am
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Friday, April 15, 2011 11:45 p.m.


By Joe Beninati

Yes its a 2-0 series lead, and yes, the Capitals are playing textbook playoff defense to the letter, but the entire team will tell you theyre only halfway home in round one and that they must stay hungry.

Earlier today at Kettler, defenseman Scott Hannan was giving out a great deal of praise to the forwards for helping the D clear rebounds on Wednesday. He could give all the guys a gold star again for their performance tonight. It was another total team effort that kept Michal Neuvirth well protected in goal.

The rookie made 22 saves for his first playoff shutout in the NHL. His composure has been rock-steady and you can see how confident his teammates are with him at the moment.

In these first two games the Rangers have had very few odd-man rushes. The Caps havent made the risky plays which have left them exposed in the past. It has to be extremely frustrating for New York.

Marian Gaborik had a couple of quality chances to break out of his slump, but Neuvirth and the Capitals defenders kept those to a minimum and kept him quiet.

The Caps would jump out to the lead in the second period with an even-strength goal from Jason Chimera. The veteran winger took a slick pass from Marcus Johannson and beat Henrik Lundqvist from 10 feet in front of the goal. Chimera has turned in two very solid games in this series.

Bruce Boudreau said that Johannson is the catalyst for the speedy trio that includes Brooks Laich, and the young Swede has grown by leaps and bounds in his rookie year.

When the Caps were given a power-play opportunity a few seconds after that opening tally, the door was open for the home team to take the game by the throat. A fortunate bounce would allow them to do just that.

Mike Greens slapshot was deflected by Ranger defenseman Matt Gilroy, the resulting ricochet went directly to Jason Arnott, who played it like it was a perfect pass before zipping a shot over the sprawling Lundqvist. Two goals less than two minutes apart, and the home team looked home free. Earlier today when Brooks Laich was asked what Arnott means to the team, his one-word response was everything. That speaks volumes.

The Rangers showed plenty of spunk in the third period. Agitator extraordinaire Sean Avery was up to his old tricks, looking to stir the pot. He made sure to get into it with John Erskine a couple times before the final horn. Averys efforts, as well as those from Brandon Prust in the final 10 seconds, were meant to be a sign to the Caps that the Rangers will be ready for Game 3 Sunday.

New York plays the game with a ton of heart and guts. They will not quit. And the Caps know they have not accomplished anything yet. They held serve at home in Games 1 and 2, and now they expect the Rangers to be even tougher in their own barn Sunday.

I wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to read these postgame summaries throughout the season, and a big note of appreciation to the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern for their generous sponsorship all year long.

If you are in the DC area on Friday, April 22nd, please stop by the Tavern and join me around 7:00 pm. We can watch some hockey together, talk about the Caps, and enjoy some good food and drink!