Thursday, April 30, 2009

Capitals finally show that killer instinct

Discipline, it was the key word in the first round of the Rangers/Capitals series, whether it was the misguided antics of Sean Avery or the misfiring water bottle tosses of coach John Tortorella, the distractions in the end proved to be more damaging to the Broadway boys than anything else.

Prior to the start of the round one series, the thought was that the offensively charged Capital line up would have little trouble handling the Rangers, making quick work of them and saving up their goals for more adventurous times to come.

The problem was that in those early games the Rangers managed to play a solid disciplined game, one which shut down the high profile stars of the Caps while sneaking in the one goal that would make a difference and steal away a win. After each Capital loss, it was a familiar sight on the highlight reels, the Caps could be found firing off the shots at Henrik Lundqvist and he would turn each one aside with calmness, turning some of the games most impressive offensive threats into frustrated rink rats wondering what it takes to score.

The Rangers had a three game to one lead, requiring just one more win to eliminate the Caps and they could not find it. While the Capitals finally found their scoring in the final three games, the Rangers lost theirs, even more troublesome they provided the Capitals with more opportunity than was prudent, with less than intelligent penalties giving the Caps power play opportunities and sloppy play in their own end of the rink eventually making even Lundqvist look human at times.

And while all that was spinning out of control they had the twin distractions of their most controversial player raising his coaches temperature, while the fans in Washington managed to take John Tortorella past the point of no return (well for one game at any rate).

Tortorella had benched Avery for one game following a string of costly penalties in game five, only to lose his own code of discipline in a incident with fans in Washington, his actions costing him a one game suspension for game six.

By the time all that drama had cleared from the headlines for game seven, the Rangers were in fragile territory, that 3-1 lead long gone and a resolute and confident Capitals team ready to make amends for their early lethargic start and secure their place in the second round.

In the end, the team that everyone thought would advance did, the one that offers up more drama off the ice than on sometimes received their just reward for an inability to put away a team that had opened that door.

There are going to be many questions to ask in New York in the off season, chemistry between coach and players and questions of discipline for both on ice and off.

For the Capitals the second round beckons with the Penguins on the marquee and the showcase series for the NHL of the clash of their rising stars.

While the NHL office may be in New York and the market is key for the NHL's television success, the match up to come is the best one for the hockey fan and one that has been a much anticipated event since the rise of the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin and Bakstrom.

And to think it all could have been derailed if the Rangers had kept their cool and focused on just one more win on the ice without all the drama that seems to follow them around.

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