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Caps Have To Play Lightning Even Tougher!

By Rodger M. WoodMG 4896The Caps played the Rangers tough in the quarterfinals, but if they want to beat Tampa Bay in the semifinals, they’ll have to turn up their play another notch.Blanking the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 at Pittsburgh Wednesday, Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson helped the Lightning win the quarterfinal series four games to three. During the regular season, the Caps went 4-1-1 against the Lightning, but struggled badly when Roloson shut them out in third and fourth games in early January. After installing a strong defensive system in December/January and Cap forwards started aggravating Roloson, they beat the Lightning decisively in games 5 and 6.Like they did to Lundqvist in the Ranger series, Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley Mike Knuble, Jason Arnott, Niklaus Backstrom and other Caps forwards have to crash the net and disturb Roloson.Sharing the net minding responsibilities with Manny Fernandez in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Roloson led the Minnesota Wild’s come backs from 3-1 game deficits to beat strong Colorado and Vancouver teams in the quarter and semifinals. If the Caps don’t break his concentration early in the series, Roloson could hurt them.Like he did against the Rangers, Captain Alex Ovechkin must come out the first shift hitting every Lightning that moves. He must continue to lead the young Caps by example, pop some goals in andset up his line mates. His goal in the second period of game five against the Rangers was a thing of beauty. Skating down the right wing, with a good defenseman, Marc Stahl, hanging all over him, cuttingleft at the last instance, and putting the puck past Lundqvist was a superstar moment hockey fans should always remember.But Ovie needs to do more against the offensive minded Lightning, maybe block an occasional shot, scramble Lightning forward Steve Downie’s brains with a hard check, if he is stupid enough to get on the ice with him at the same time, and maybe add Mattias Ohlund’s too, while he’s at it, and play more right wing once in a while to make the Lightning defense adjust and teach Roloson his new moves. He has to show the same fire and mental toughness he did the entire Ranger series.Other Caps forwards must continue to contribute goals too. Alexander Semin was flying high in the Rangers series scoring the winning overtime goal in game one, and dramatic goals in games 3 and 4. On a different line than Ovie, he gave the Rangers another force to reckon with. After the Caps dramatic3 -goal comeback in the third period of game 4, Jason Chimera scored the winning goal in second period overtime and also scored the winning goal in game two. Marcus Johanssen has to keep flying down the ice, finding a spot in front of the net and putting three more goals past Roloson.Jason Arnott and Scott Hannan need to keep exerting veteran leadership on the Caps. Their leadership in the dressing room and on the ice was invaluable. Arnott played a big role in getting the young Caps ready to come out to score three goals in the third period comeback win in game four and keeping Semin’s head in the game. Hannan constantly cleared the puck out of harm’s way in the Caps defensive zone and jumped up into the offense to add a little extra pressure on the goalie.Mike Green and hopefully, Dennis Wideman, will be ready to play the point and keep the power play alive. Green’s first period power play goal In game 5 got the Caps rolling, his shot and creativity from the point assisted on another four goals, and his blocked shot showed a lot of courage but little technique.. Both of these players also add a lot to the Caps defense.Jeff Schultz and Karl Alzner led the Caps in the Rangers series with 15 blocked shots each, and the Caps blocked 104 shots in the five games to lead the 16 quarterfinal teams. Blocked shots made Neuvy a better goaltender.The Caps have to keep throwing their impressive depth, 3 defensive pairs and four lines, out on the ice every shift to tire and slow down Lightning skaters. Defensive pair Alzner and John Carlson have to continue their often spectacular defensive play.Against a somewhat anemic Rangers offense, Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth was spectacular with a 1.38 GA and 946 save percentage. Tampa’s offense, which had thirteen different players scoring 23 goals against a pretty good Pittsburgh goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury in a 7 game series, will be a better test. In the Penguin series, Tampa got 4 goals from stars Martin St. Louis, 2 each from Vincent LeCavalier and Steven Stamkos and 3 goals from lesser players Sean Bergeheim, 2 from Simon Gagne, and a goal from Steve Downie, Eric Brewer, Teddy Purcell.The Caps cannot give the Lightning a lot of power plays like they did the Rangers, While Boyd Gordon and the Caps penalty kill unit stopped all but one of the Ranger 18 power plays, it will be hard job stopping the likes of St. Louis, Stamkos, and Lecavalier eight times a game like in the Caps did their only loss in the quarterfinals.Instead, they need to draw Tampa’s bad boys into mistakes. In the Penguins series, Steve Downie spent 16 minutes in the sin bin, LeCavalier 8 PIM. Dominic Moore 16 PIM, and Ryan Malone 12 PIM. The Caps must play tough, but make sure they don’t retaliate to the Avery type play of those players. Hendricks may have to take Downie out again as he has the past four games the two teams have played.Tampa’s defense is playing well. Nate Thompson did it all against the Penguins, and Caps fans rememberthe shots Mattias Ohlund put on Ovie during the regular season. Defensemen Eric Brewer and Pavel Kubina came on strong adding some scoring from the point but Caps fore checking must put pressure on them, particularly their ice time adds up.While the Caps have all the tools to beat Tampa, they have to play even tougher and smarter, get the benefit of the doubt once in a while from the referees and a lucky bounce now and then to beat the Lightning.The Caps start the semifinals off 7 PM Friday at the Verizon Centre.

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