Washington Capitals broadcasters Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin are in playoff mode

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How can you not love a hockey telecast from Montreal that opens with a goosebump-inducing rendition of "O Canada" in both French and English?

Throw in 2 1/2 hours of near perfect play-by-play from Joe Beninati complemented by the always astute analysis from the eminently engaging Craig Laughlin, and the Washington Capitals' dominating 5-1 Game 3 playoff victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night was almost always a pleasure to watch on Comcast SportsNet.

That being said, let's also offer just a few nitpicks on the broadcast, if only to avoid being accused of being totally in the tank for what surely must be one of the most entertaining and informative local hockey announcing teams on the planet.

For one, the commercialization of the telecast seems a tad excessive.

I know, I know, they've got to find a way to pay for all of it. But really, do we truly need the "Ford Keys to the Game," the "Manhattan Auto Matchups," the "American Service Center Key Fact" and the fishiest of them all, the "Legal Seafood (Sound) Bite of the Night," the latter label on a snippet of a pregame interview with Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau. Do those hokey sponsorships actually help those businesses sell product? Can't they just do it the old-fashioned way and buy a 30-second spot during a break in the action?

Here's another nit.

I know the Capitals are based in the District, but this Northern Virginia resident can't stand hearing the team often being referred to as "D.C." by Beninati, as in, for example, "D.C. is in total control of the game." Why not simply "Washington," the "Capitals" or the "Caps." Hearing "D.C." just grates on my inner ear in much the same way as it processes the sound of a fingernail on a blackboard. You often hear the same "D.C." reference occasionally on Nationals broadcasts, as well. Call me crazy, but it just doesn't sound right.

And finally, can't we just call a goal a goal, and not a marker or a tally. It's a 20-minute period, not a stanza or a frame. It's a hockey rink, not a pond.

These guys are really too good to fall back on all the timeworn cliches. Then again, feel free to call me totally inconsistent or even crazy, because I'm still loving it when Laughlin calls a puck the "biscuit," as in "he just put the biscuit in the basket," Beninati uses "sin bin" instead of penalty box or Laughlin refers to some extracurricular pre-fight shoving as the lads engaging in some unfriendly "fraternization."

Keep up the fine work fellas, and that also would include Al Koken reporting from the front row at pond/rinkside, offering all manner of newsy nuggets and cogent analysis himself.

-- He's back back back: That would be Chris Berman, who this week signed a multiyear agreement to continue as the face and more than occasionally grating voice of all things NFL on ESPN, where he's been employed since he joined the cable network not long after it first went on the air in 1979.

That is truly welcome news for television critics around the country, amateur and professional, who have taken a wide variety of shots at Berman for an even wider variety of reasons over the years. And now, thanks to this new deal containing mostly undisclosed terms, there likely will be plenty more to come, present company occasionally included.

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