Beninati: All Around Caps Effort

Beninati: All Around Caps Effort

Thursday, January 7, 2010

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-By-Play

When I read the Ottawa newspapers today at least four of their columnists predicted a 5-2 Caps win tonight. Those gentlemen must have had a crystal ball because Washington took control of this hockey game in the third period on the way to that exact scoring margin.From the opening shift of this contest I got the feeling that the Senators were going to be uncomfortable with the tempo set by the Caps. The puck movement was exceptionally quick and all four lines were giving examples of that. David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Boyd Gordon capped off an outstanding shift filled with hustle when Gordon cashed in on a rebound from Pascal Leclaire. Leclaire was suspect on the goal Mike Knuble scored from a severe angle in the first. The Caps were the dominant first period team we're used to them being, not the relatively quiet one of the past four games. They looked like they were going to run away and hide in the second period. Leclaire was forced to make several outstanding stops in that frame, keeping his team close. When Chris Phillips had one bounce off Mike Green into the net late in the seocnd, this game was too close for comfort.Jose Theodore was very steady throughout the game in goal. He had been working on his rebound control in practice this week and the hard work paid off.

Nick Backstrom hooked up with Alex Ovechkin early in the third period to give his gang some breathing room. That goal will not go on the Leclaire highlight film, but Backstrom's next one definitely belongs on his. The gracefully Swede swooped behind the net while Leclaire was lost at one side of the cage. In the blink of an eye Nicklas tucked the puck into the far corner while the Senators looked on stunned.Alex Ovechkin finished the third period scoring spree with a beautiful backhand off of a semi breakaway. Ovechkin shifted into high gear at the blue line and put his shot violently into the roof of the goal.

This was truly and all around effort. I thought the D was very solid even though they were working against an Ottawa team playing without Jason Spezza andDaniel Alfredsson, and one that lost Milan Michalek in the first period tonight. Regardless of the Senators being undermanned, John Erskine turned in a super effort. Here's hoping that all the Caps duplicate it in Atlanta Saturday.Watch the game highlights

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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