Friday, March 12, 2010 11:55pm
By Joe Beninati
It's unreasonable to expect this hockey team to play at warp speed one day after clinching the Southeast division title. But that's the standard they've set for themselves.Please don't take anything away from Tampa Bay's performance. They outworked the Capitals over long periods of action tonight. But the home team has been so dominating at even strength this year, you can see it on the night when they aren't all there.The powerplay was the only provider of offense this evening and the two goals were so unlike each other. One was a beautiful feed from Alex Ovechkin to Tomas Fleischmann, the other was all hard work and courage to stand in front of the net by Brooks Laich.
The Caps now have six different 20 goal scorers in their lineup, and even with that kind of fire power they were kept in check by Tampa Bay goalie Antero Niittymaki. Niittymakihas been pretty darn effective against Washington in his career. He now owns a mark of 7-2-1 against them. And you could tell from the first minute tonight that he was locked on to the puck.For the first time in a long time Bruce Boudreau broke up the Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Knuble line to create an offensive spark for his team. The Lightning did an excellent job
of forcing the Capitals top gunners to the outside. Ovechkin did not have more than one high quality chance that I can remember tonight. Teams gang up on him so much these days and they focus attention on blocking his shots.The Caps were able to contain Steven Stamkos and his linemates, ending the impressive center's point streak at 18 games and goal streak at 7 games in a row. That 20-year-old is special. His shot is explosive and he releases it in a heartbeat.Since we are bumped out of the booth on Sunday by NBC, it will be interesting to watch Chicago and Washington as a spectator. I think the Hawks and Caps are destined to meet
soon in a Stanley Cup Final. It may not be this year, but it won't be much longer.
The Blackhawks play at such a high tempo, I feel like it will bring the best outof the Capitals.
Should be a treat to watch on Sunday.