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Poker News: April 18th, 2009

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Copyright © Washington Times

HEADLINE: Thom Loverro: Playing poker leaves nothing but a deficit

So what do you do when you go to your ace in the hole and you have nothing to show for it?

That's the question facing the Washington Capitals and coach Bruce Boudreau after Saturday's 1-0 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 2 of Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Verizon Center, putting the Caps down 2-0 in the series.

After getting beat 4-3 on Wednesday night, Boudreau made the move to replace veteran goaltender Jose Theodore - his starter most of the season - with 20-year-old rookie Simeon Varlamov, making just his sixth NHL start and his first playoff appearance.

Varlamov didn't let Boudreau down, stopping 23 of 24 shots.

"I thought he played well," Boudreau said. "I don't think there was anything that could have been done on the first goal, and I thought he made a good save about three minutes after that. I was very happy with his game."

But what now? The Rangers called Boudreau's bluff and beat his ace in the hole. Maybe Rangers coach John Tortorella is just a better card player.

The Caps were expected to dispatch the Rangers in the first round, and despite New York's play at the end of the season, it was not an unreasonable expectation. No. 2 seeds are supposed to beat No. 7 seeds.

I know upsets happen more in the Stanley Cup playoffs than in other sports. But Boudreau - save for the goaltending position, where the Rangers have a championship goalie in King Henrik - has better cards to play than Tortorella.

Boudreau, though, in essence said his team played the best it could and got beat.

"I am sitting there, and I can't think of any faults," Boudreau said. "I thought we played a great hockey game. I thought they played a great hockey game. ... The one break they got on an odd-man rush, they put it in - great play. I think about five minutes later, we had an odd-man rush with [Sergei] Fedorov and [Alexander] Semin, and he made the save. After that it was two teams working extremely hard."

All that hard work, though, did not put the Caps in the places they needed to be to pressure Lundqvist, and at times the Caps looked tired and frustrated by their failure to be in the right place at the right time.

"We are trying to get there," Boudreau said. "Their defense is doing a hell of a job in blocking us out. We talk about getting in front of the net and going for rebounds, and when we are going for rebounds, [Lundqvist is] kicking them by us. It is not like we are just sitting there and saying, 'OK, we're going to take the shots on the side.' I thought we tried like hell to get there."

So what is the difference? Maybe it is Tortorella.

When asked about his team's patience and poise under the Caps' impressive offensive power, the Rangers coach said: "It comes down to just trying to handle surges, handle momentum swings in a game. It's important. The coaches also have to understand that, too. We don't want to rattle the boys on the bench when there may be a surge going against you. It's just a matter of staying in yourself and trying to find ways to do what you have to do to try and win."

Tortorella is the winningest American-born coach in NHL history. Like Boudreau, he was a successful minor league coach and led the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup in 1996. But unlike Boudreau, Tortorella has championship NHL experience as well, coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup. Tortorella was fired as Lightning coach on June 3, 2008, with a record of 239-222-36-38 in nearly seven seasons.

After a television stint, Tortorella was hired as the Rangers' head coach Feb. 23, replacing Tom Renney, and his intense style has been credited for the Rangers' run to the playoffs.

This series is the first time the Caps have faced the Rangers with Tortorella as coach. Boudreau said the Rangers are playing like a Tortorella team.

"[The Rangers] blocked shots," Boudreau said. "They blocked 29 today. John's team with Tampa won the Cup - they blocked the most shots in the league. Nothing got through. It is nothing new. It is the commitment to playoff hockey. ... All the Ranger guys are committed to the way John wants them to play."

Washington fans better hope Boudreau's ace in the hole - a deep hole right now - is great hockey that digs them out

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on April 18th, 2009

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