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Do The Caps Have Enough Heart To Win The Stanley Cup

By Rodger M. WoodJohn Erksin4With the playoffs this week, the acid test is about to begin for the Washington Capitals.Embarrassed by a first round loss to the Canadians last season after finishing #1 overall In league standings, they have to win the Cup or face a rough summer.Going 15-3-1 since March 1st, they showed they have the tools.Bruce Boudreau is a good coach who taught them defense and how to win again after a horrendous 8 – game losing streak in December.They have strong goaltending in Michal Neuvirth (2.49 GAA, 27-11-4) and Semyon Varlamov (2.23 GAA, 11-9-5), and a sensational backup in rookie goalie Braden Holtby (1.79, 10-2-2), waiting in reserve at Hershey, if either falters or is injured.They’re blessed with healthy 30 – goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin, who could turn into a 50-goal scorer in the playoffs, 28 –goal scorer Alexander Semin, and a clutch 24 goal scorer in rejuvenated 38-year old Mike Knuble.They have 18-goal scorer Niklaus Backstrom, 16 goal scorer Brooks Laich, 17 goal scorer Jason Arnott, 13 goal scorer Marcus Johanssen, and 10 goal scorers in Jason Chimera, Dennis Widemann, and Eric Fehr.They have a new leader, Jason Arnott, who has won a Stanley Cup.They have two high scoring lines, a speed line that can score, a checking line, and tough guy line in Matt Bradley, Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon.While Tom Poti and Dennis Widemann are still on the injured list, they’ll have seven healthy defenseman available for the playoffs when Mike Green returns to the lineup.They’ve learned to play good defense, dump the puck in the opposing offensive zone and won many low scoring games with an late opportunistic goal.Rookie defensemen, Karl Alzner and John Carlson are shutting down opposing scorers, and Scott Hannan is the stay at home defenseman they’ve always needed.The power play scored five goals in the last three games and was working without Mike Green or newly acquired Dennis Wideman, who will be out the first playoff round with a leg injury.Having won eight of nine in overtime in March, including wins against Philadelphia, Tampa, and last year’s cup winning Chicago Black Hawks, they can withstand heavy duty pressure, similar to that experienced in the playoffs.The penalty killers, Boyd Gordon, John Carlson, Scott Hannan, and others have been superb all season.The Caps have the talent, but it takes more to win a Stanley Cup. If we could only inject Matt Hendricks or Matt Bradley or John Erskine’s mental and physical toughness into our star players, we’d have sure winners.All our guys would play tough, block shots, give and take bone crushing checks shots, win the battles in the corners, and do the little thing needed to win hockey games. And then, with a little luck and some dirty goals, we’d be sure winners.The Caps have all the pieces to the puzzle, but need heart to bring home the Stanley Cup.

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