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Win A Couple For The Gipper!

By Rodger M. Wood

The Caps loss of Game 5 in overtime 3-2 may just be unjustly blamed on our hard working hero of the Bruins quarter finals, right winger Joel Ward for a high stick penalty on Rangers forward Carl Hagelin with 22 seconds remaining in the game and the Caps ahead 2-1.

Ward drew a double two minute penalty for high sticking, the Rangers pulled their goalie for a 6-4 man advantage, and Brad Richards scored to tie the game 2-2 with 8 seconds remaining. Marc Staal scores the winner on the same penalty at the 1:35 mark of the first overtime period.

Some folks are faulting a player deserves better treatment. There were horrible racist Tweets leveled at him when he beat the Bruins and yet he ignored them. We should also be loyal to him, especially when he may have been duped into the penalty.

I urge the referees, fans and teammates to look at a replay of the penalty high stick play. You may see how Hagelin brought his stick under Ward’s and up into his own face deliberately, maybe a predesigned play to draw a high stick penalty and minuscule blood. If injured, it is amazing how fast Hagelin got across the ice to show the referee the blood.

It all looks suspicious to a hockey fan like me, but I’m told this is becoming an increasing tactic in the NHL, especially late in the game to draw a high stick when behind or in overtime.

The referee and linemen ignored Ward’s lack of intent and gave the game to the Rangers by their oversight.

In any event, the Caps are behind in the series three games to two and needing to win the 6th game at home Wednesday and 7th at New York Friday. It would be great if the Caps could rock the Rangers at the Verizon Center and then go on to stick it to them in their arena.

Maybe, the Caps could dedicate their efforts in beating the Rangers to their much aligned teammate and win a couple games for the Gipper.

Caps Split Home Series With Rangers

By Rodger M. Wood

Article Mike Green 1

If the Caps/Rangers keeping playing the classically tough hockey they played in Games 3 and 4 of the semi final Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center last week for the rest of the series, the fans watching are going to have to keep an aspirin bottle by their sides to save them from heart failure from the lucky bounces that decide the game.

In the third game, Rangers Marian Gaborik’s goal beat the Caps at the 14:41 mark of triple overtime.

In the fourth game, Caps defenseman Mike Green scored the game winning 3-2 goal from the point with 5:48 to go in regulation to even their semi–finals series at two games a piece.

The overtime game reminded me a lot of the New York Islanders/Capitals triple overtime game my son Thom and I saw at the Old Capital Center on April 18, 1987, except in the Wednesday game, Caps defenseman Larry Murphy wasn’t on the ice to pass toe puck out from behind the net to Islanders Pat Lafontaine to cost the Caps the game and their 1987 season.

Playing all out offensively in overtime, Caps’ Ovie had two opportunities, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Mike Green, Matt Hendriks, and several other Caps players had great scoring opportunities, only to hit the post, bounce the puck off Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and not bury the pill to make the Caps victorious.

Getting two and a half days of rest before the fourth game, the Caps bounced back with a furious first period vengeance, outshooting the Rangers 14-3, with Ovie scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs to put the Caps ahead by a goal 1-0.

The Rangers came out in the second period loaded for bear. After getting a chewing out from Coach Tortorella for his lethargic play, Rangers forward Artem Anisimov scored the first goal, and Marian Gaborik got another big goal to tie the Caps at 2-2 at the end of the second period. Niklaus Backstrom had scored the go ahead go at the 11;54 mark.

The two teams battled in the third period until the 4:12 mark , when Green buried the winning goal to give three of the Caps “young gunners,” Ovie, Backstrom, and Green a goal each and the Caps encouragement that their top shooters were awakening offensively in the series.

Playing mostly with only four defensemen, who did double duty in the overtime game, Caps forwards Matt Hendrick, Troy Brouver, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Mike Knuble, Joel Ward, and Brooks Laich may be wearing the Rangers down.

Hendricks had 11 hits in the overtime game, one of which almost put 6-1, 218 Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh up in the stands.

The Caps also beat the Rangers at their own game in the regulation game, blocking 24 shots to the Rangers 7. While most of the Caps players stopped their share, defenseman Jeff Schultz stood out with 9 blocked shots.

Goalies Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundvquist are having a classic battle between the pipes. In the overtime game, Lundvquist stopped 47/48 shots and the regulation game, 25/28 shots while young Holtby stopped 47/49 shots in overtime, and 18/20 in the regulation game. Holtby has allowed 9 goals in the four games, Lundvquist 8. While he is a goal better than the Caps 22-year old goaltender, the 30-year old Lundvquist may be showing signs of wear and tear as the series goes on.

Both teams are playing good old time hockey. The teams are close alike in their “clogging the neutral zone play,” blocking shots, making big hits, and battling to win the battles in the corners. Coming back from a possibly devastating loss in overtime to win, Caps veterans and youngsters showed a lot of mental toughness, which they have been criticized as not having in recent past years.

Neither team will be going down easy this playoffs, so Caps fans get your aspirin bottles out. Win or lose, you’ll need them to keep heart.

Coach Hunter Leads the Caps Home

By Rodger M. Wood


The Caps play the Rangers in Game 3 of the semi final playoff series at the Verizon Center tonight after coming off a dramatic second game 3-2 win at the wildly partisan Madison Square Garden to even the series off at 1-1.

Ovie quieted the taunting NY fans, scoring the winning power play goal at 7:27 of the third period, while 22-year old Braden Holtby did the same, stopping 26 of 28 Rangers shots, many of them on break aways and point blank range.

While the Caps get credit for the win on the ice, Coach Hunter and the coaching staff deserve the credit for coming up with the strategy for bringing home the bacon.

When executed error free and supported by good goaltending, the team’s defensive system has been styfling. The Rangers had only 4 shots on net in the first period of the first game, 4 in the second period, and six in the third, and a total of 26 shots in the second game. The Rangers scored two of their 5 goals on Caps’ bad line shifts.

Ovie scored the second game winner after only 13 1/2 minutes ice time. Hunter has been limiting the superstar’s ice time because of his defensive limitations, and probably also to keep him fresher for those offensive bursts like the game-winner late in the game. This move is paying off dividends so far and Ovie likes the system as long as the team is winning.

Also, the hot goalie strategy is paying off. In the beginning against the Bruins, Holtby was the only available goaiie, but after the third game of the quarterfinals, which the Caps lost to the Bruins 4-3 and an admittedly average game for Holtby, Hunter, showing his confidence in the young goaltender, still chose to start Holtby over the now available “veteran” Michael Neuvirth in the nets.

The result has been a hot rookie goalie outmatching the 2011 Stanley Cup MVP goalie Bruins Tim Thomas in the 7 game quarter finals and holding his own against a 2012 season Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Ludqvist in the first two games of the semi finals.

Hunter is also making moves to maximize his players’ strength. He likes the veteran players and has given defensemea Roman Hamrlik a lot of minutes in tight defensive situations in the waning moments of the game. He has put 40-year Mike Knuble back on the ice to score goals and block shots.

He likes team effort blocking shots and uses players like forwards Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, and defensemen Karl Alzner, John Erksine, Mike Green John Carlson and Hamrlick, who are willing to sacrifice their bodies.

The coach likes big bodied players to block or clear out the nets, and speed to get into the offensive zone quickly and has organized his lines to maximize that advantage.

The Mike Knuble/Joel Ward combo won the last game of the Bruins series with a goal in overtime, and scored the first goal of second Rangewrs game.

Speedy Marcus Johannson and Jason Chimera have performed on both ends of the ice, with Chimera scoring his third goal of the playoff in the Caps second game win.

The Caps penalty kill unit has been stingy, with the Bruins scoring only in twice in 26 man advantage opportunities, and the Rangers once in the second game in an odd man situation. Niklaus Backstrom, Matt Hendricks, Brooks Laich, John Carlson, and Karl Azner have done the job killing penalties.

Under Hunter in the playoffs, the Caps have played the best hockey seen around Washington in 38 seasons. The team plays like the coach did in his heyday, stopping pucks, forechecking and backchecking, playing for the team and sacrificing the bodies.

Win or lose the fans know they’re getting 100 percent from their team, and maybe, just maybe, the Caps will get deeper in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than ever before.

Caps Beat Bruins in Overtime

By Rodger M. Wood

Jay Beagle 2

Fourth liner Joel Ward, assisted by Mike Knuble, scored the dramatic winning goal in overtime to beat Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins 2-1 in the seventh game of their quarterfinal playoffs series.

Capitals third and fourth lines dominated much of play with hard forechecking and backchecking all over the ice, with third liner Matt Hendricks scoring the first period goal to put the Caps ahead 1-0.

22- year old goalie Braden Holtby had another unbelievable 1-goal game, allowing only Tyler Seguin’s tying goal in the second period. Nose to nose against last year’s Stanley Cup playoff MVP Tim Thomas, Holtby allowed only14 goals in 7 games for a 2.00 goals against average, while stopping a phenomenal .967 percent of all shots.

It was a team effort throughout the series. The Caps bought into Coach Hunter’s defensive system and stopped a Bruins offense which had six players scoring 20 goals or more during the regular season, and monster defensemen, Zdeno Charra and Dennis Seidenberg manning the blue line.

Capital players blocked shots with abandon, hard checked the opposition and held their ground against a very tough Milan Lucic led team.

While forward Matt Hendrick, Mike Knuble, and Jay Beagle’s all out play sparked the team, 14 Capitals players scored at one goal, with Alexander Semin scoring three goals and Ovie two.

Defenseman John Carlson and Karl Alzner played outstanding hockey against the Bruins top scoring lines, and, with center Brook Laich killing penalties, including one at 2 minute mark of the third period which almost killed the Caps.

The Caps have to wait for the Rangers/Senators and Panthers/Devils 7th game outcomes before they know their opponents in the semi-final series which starts this Saturday.