Tag Archive | "chicago"

Apr 5, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (34) pitches in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

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Looking back at Arrieta’s Orioles departure

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Hindsight is always crystal clear and it takes no baseball genius to see that the Orioles trading Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs looks like a terrible decision two years later.

But as Orioles fans wondered what might have been Sunday night as Arrieta pitched a no-hitter in Chavez Ravine — his league-leading 17th win of the season — many of those same individuals screamed for the organization to give up on the right-hander in 2013 when he sported a 5.46 career ERA in parts of four seasons in Baltimore. In trading Arrieta and erratic relief pitcher Pedro Strop, the Orioles picked up starting pitcher Scott Feldman (and catcher Steve Clevenger) to help in a push for a second straight playoff appearance that ultimately fell short.

Though executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette fetched an underwhelming return for two flawed pitchers who still possessed plenty of upside and have gone on to have much success in Chicago, the big-picture concern is the Orioles’ longstanding inability to develop young pitching as Arrieta is just one in a long list of talented prospects not to pan out in Baltimore for a variety of reasons.

But that isn’t even the part of the equation that stings the most when you look back at the circumstances of the time. Despite electric stuff that Arrieta flashed on more than one occasion, the 27-year-old made just six career appearances with the Orioles out of the bullpen. There’s no disputing that he didn’t belong in the rotation with a 7.23 ERA in 2013, but why didn’t the Orioles move an arm such as his to the bullpen in a long relief role on at least a temporary basis?

Because the Orioles had Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland stuck there.

If McFarland would have at least developed into a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter by this point, everyone would still second-guess the Arrieta deal, but at least you could say the Orioles had brought another viable starter into the picture. Instead, the 26-year-old lefty is plugging away in a very similar role two years later and hasn’t been a real difference-maker.

Many have questioned the Orioles’ strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and you can’t help but wonder if maybe — just maybe — Arrieta would have eventually figured it out after some time in the bullpen to either become a successful starter or at least move into a meaningful bullpen role in a way similar to All-Star closer Zach Britton. Maybe such a strategy would have only been delaying an inevitable release or a different trade down the line, but it would have been another avenue to explore with an untapped talent.

Instead, the organization viewed McFarland as the preferable option moving forward, which makes you doubt its talent evaluation in addition to the ability to develop pitchers.

A change of scenery ultimately worked perfectly for Arrieta as he’s blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. No one would have reasonably bet on him finding this dramatic level of success when he was traded, but it’s disappointing that the organization preferred to trade him in order to rent an average starting pitcher — Feldman was never going to substantially move the meter in a playoff race — and to keep a lesser Rule 5 arm in a bullpen role perfectly suited for Arrieta at the time.

It isn’t so terrible that the Orioles gave up on Arrieta after 358 major league innings consisting of more hair-pulling frustration than success. Already 27 at the time, Arrieta may have never figured it out in Baltimore.

But what stings is the organization trading him away for little upside in return and without exhausting every avenue to try to make it work.


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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 12 Chicago White Sox

Posted on 29 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Chicago White Sox – They’ve tried a few times to make this place more comfortable since it was outdated from the moment it opened. It always gets compared to Wrigley Field because it’s 11.4 miles away. When I was syndicated at the turn of the century and had many occasions to attend them both, and I always preferred Comiskey (or U.S. Cellular Field or whatever they’re calling it these days) and this tour did nothing to change that. The food is better. They have elotes. The fans are more legitimate and not a bunch of drunk frat idiots. It’s better equipped to handle people at every turn. There are many more quality seats close to the field. When I’m in Chicago, this is where I prefer to go to watch baseball.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 13 Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Wrigley Field – Sure, there’s the old world charm about the home of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, it was built a hundred years ago. But every time I think about going to a game at Wrigley Field it’s one giant pain in the ass. The parking. The people. The place is built about five times smaller than it should be. One bonus: it has troughs, which makes it legit. But, unless you buy a seat in the bleachers (and those seats are always premium priced) you can’t even visit to take a picture. The place really smacks of corporate greed and has for most of my lifetime. The team always sucks (except when Jake Arrieta is involved). The food and choices suck. The scoreboards are still so antiquated as to be confusing. Seriously, I put it even a little higher on this list than I thought it deserves to be because my wife likes it but I think the place mostly sucks. It’s a great throwback experience. They’ve done a nice job of keeping it clean but it’s such a tourist trap of a place for my tastes. Sure, you gotta go and I get that. But I’m glad my team doesn’t play there and that I don’t have to get scalped for a C-minus experience every time I visit. I’m not planning on going back anytime soon and I don’t feel like I’m missing much. It’s a far better place on TV.

But, you still gotta go and see it.

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A memorable day we hope never happens again

Posted on 29 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Accompanied by the punchlines and photos on social media was a sadness as a recording of the national anthem played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon.

As if the sight of an empty ballpark moments before the start of an Orioles game wasn’t strange enough, it had just hit me that we wouldn’t hear the customary “O!” that we’ve come to expect at any major sporting event in Baltimore over the years. Out-of-towners don’t get it and even some within the community don’t care for the practice, but there are few things more “Baltimore” than our own Star-Spangled Banner trademark you’ll even hear when fans follow the Orioles or Ravens on the road.

It was just the latest reminder of how far from ideal the concept of playing a baseball game without fans truly was, but that’s when I heard the faint but audible “O!” from a few dozen fans standing beyond the left-center gate. The sound warmed the heart in a week filled with much tension and sadness in the city of Baltimore, and it suddenly made more sense for the Orioles to be playing a game at home before embarking on what will now be a nine-game road trip.

“Oh, they were heard,” said a smiling Buck Showalter when asked about those fans cheering from afar during an 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Of course, the Orioles returning to the field is of little consequence compared to the real problems our city is facing and will continue to deal with in the coming hours, days, and weeks. The decision not to allocate the law-enforcement officials required for a regular game was a wise one, but the quiet atmosphere was a reminder of just how important fans are to the product.

As one of the select few able to watch the game in person, I enjoyed the previously-unheard sounds of Jimmy Paredes sliding into third base or first base coach Wayne Kirby calling for Delmon Young to run out a popup, but the atmosphere reminded of a junior varsity baseball game without the pings of aluminum bats. It may have been a day that made major league history, but we can only hope it never happens again as we look ahead to the return of both the Orioles and fans to Camden Yards on May 11.

“It’s something that we hopefully don’t take for granted,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, who jokingly pretended to high-five fans and sign autographs before the game. “Days like today definitely remind you if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have jobs. Hopefully, everything can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

A game being played without any fans wasn’t what anyone truly wanted, but if it represented baby steps toward some normalcy, we’ll take it. After watching so many parts of the city burn on Monday night, just seeing baseball being played at Camden Yards again was movement in the right direction.

For those watching on television or listening on the radio on a weekday afternoon, the surreal game at least provided a temporary distraction.

“They’re always watching. You all know that,” said center fielder Adam Jones, acknowledging more fans viewing on television than those attending any game under regular circumstances. “Cameras are always on. It was good to come out and get six [runs] in the first [and] get a stronghold off a good pitcher.”

The day was helped by the Orioles rolling over starter Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox to win their third consecutive game. While players were quick to note the insignificance of winning a baseball game in the city’s current climate, you still sensed their purpose of wanting to do something positive for fans despite their inability to attend the game.

Of course, the run of baseball-related distractions and sacrifice isn’t over for the Orioles as they’ll now play a “home” series — with home uniforms and all — against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg this weekend. But leaving town on a winning note helps.

“You tried to stay focused on the competition and us trying to get where we want to be at the end of the season,” Showalter said. “But I also talked to [players] about the people who are going to be sitting around our city watching this game. How many things have really gone on normal here in the last few days in our society?”

Yes, the perception of playing in an empty stadium was less than appealing, but it beat the alternative of canceling a third consecutive game at an abandoned Camden Yards. If it served as even a few minutes of leisure from the tension that currently exists in our city, the unorthodox measure was worth it.

There are much bigger issues at work in Baltimore — ones that won’t be solved overnight — but to hear cheers from those fans standing beyond the gates was a reminder of just how important something so unimportant can be. It isn’t a coincidence that we’ve occasionally heard the “Seven Nation Army” chants from protesters over the last couple days, either.

Sports have brought and will continue to bring us together, which is why I look forward to once again seeing a packed Camden Yards — hopefully as early as May 11.

“The last 72 hours I think in this city have been tumultuous, to say the least,” Jones said. “We’ve seen good, we’ve seen bad, we’ve seen ugly. We’ve seen our games canceled, postponed, relocated, a lot of families relocated.

“It’s a city that’s hurting, and a city that needs its heads to stand up, step up, and help the ones that are hurting. It’s not an easy time right now for anybody. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s a tough time for the city of Baltimore.”

One day at a time.

As unusual and less than perfect Wednesday’s game was, it was comforting to have a diversion.

It was good to hear that familiar “O!” in the distance.

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Orioles to play in empty Camden Yards this afternoon

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Facing circumstances not witnessed in Baltimore in over four decades, the Orioles have announced changes for the remainder of their scheduled homestand, which will include a 2:05 game Wednesday to be played in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Due to the citywide curfew and continuing safety concerns after Monday’s riots, the Orioles moved their scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch to the afternoon on Wednesday. The game will be closed to the public but will still be televised on MASN, which will surely create a surreal atmosphere at the ballpark. This comes after the first two games of a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox were postponed due to safety concerns stemming from Monday’s riots.

It will mark the first time in major league history that a game will be played without a paying crowd, according to Major League Baseball historian John Thorn. The lowest-attended game took place in 1882.

After consulting with city and local officials as well as MLB, the Orioles have moved their weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays to Tropicana Field. There had been discussions about the clubs swapping dates for a home series, but Baltimore will instead serve as the home team and will receive the gate for the weekend games in St. Petersburg minus costs incurred by the Rays.

“After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by violence in Baltimore, and everyone in our game hopes for peace and the safety of a great American city.”

Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeff Samardzija will remain as the scheduled starters for Wednesday’s game.

The postponed games against Chicago will be made up as part of a single-admission doubleheader on May 28 beginning at 4:05 p.m. Tickets for Monday’s postponed contest will be valid for the doubleheader with fans unable to attend having the opportunity to exchange their tickets for any remaining home game this season. All those with tickets to games on April 29, May 1, May 2, or May 3 at Camden Yards may exchange their tickets for any remaining home game. All of these exchanges will be made on a “dollar for dollar” basis.

All tickets are subject to availability and exchanges must be completed by June 30.

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Tuesday’s Orioles-White Sox game also postponed

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore tries to recover from one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles have postponed Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Despite discussions about playing in the afternoon, the club elected to postpone a second consecutive game after consulting with state and local officials as well as Major League Baseball. Even if games can be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this week, start times figure to be impacted by the citywide 10 p.m. curfew beginning Tuesday night that is scheduled to last for the next week.

With law enforcement officials having so many more important matters to address in the Charm City, the involved parties ultimately made the right call not using resources for a baseball game so soon after Monday’s riots.

Safety remains the highest priority, but complicating matters is this being the only trip into Baltimore for the White Sox this season. The Orioles are off on Thursday, but Chicago will be beginning a series in Minnesota.

Like Monday’s postponement, no makeup date has been announced, but fans are asked to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information is available.

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Report: Orioles-White Sox day game being considered for Tuesday

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore deals with one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles and Major League Baseball continued to ponder how to handle what remains of the current homestand.

After postponing Monday’s game due to ongoing riots through the city, MLB will decide by 9 a.m. Tuesday whether the Orioles will play an afternoon game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, according to USA Today. Speaking to media on Monday evening, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged the possibility of the Orioles-White Sox series being moved to another location such as Nationals Park in Washington.

It goes without saying that the Orioles would prefer to play games at their home ballpark if at all feasible.

“We feel like we made the decision that would provide us the greatest possible security, in terms of protecting the fans, the players, the umpires, everybody involved,” Manfred said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking at every possible alternative in terms of completing the schedule in a timely way and making sure the games are played in a secured situation that’s safe for the fans. We’re going to look at every alternative.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced a citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Tuesday night that is to last for a week. Maryland governor Larry Hogan later declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to help protect structures in the city.

Such developments would make it highly unlikely that the Orioles would be able to start games this week at the normal 7:05 p.m. first pitch — if they’re able to play in Baltimore at all.

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McPhee reportedly set to sign $40 million contract with Chicago

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Of all the Ravens’ free agents scheduled to officially hit the market on Tuesday, linebacker Pernell McPhee was always considered the least likely to return.

It appears McPhee has found a new home with the Chicago Bears by agreeing to a five-year, $40 million contract that includes roughly $16 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. The deal won’t become official until after the start of the new league year on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite playing in less than half of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in 2014 while backing up outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, McPhee emerged as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL by finishing with 7.5 sacks in 540 snaps. The 26-year-old earned the highest grade of any Baltimore defensive player in 2014 from Pro Football Focus and received the website’s second-highest grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL behind Kansas City’s Justin Houston.

With the Ravens dealing with salary cap woes and having a number of other positions to address, McPhee was considered a luxury the organization would not be able to afford. The 2011 fifth-round pick is just the latest in a long list of young defensive players in Baltimore to find significant paydays elsewhere as others to depart in recent offseasons include linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Arthur Jones.

“If we were to go after the market on Pernell, how many other players would we not have on the Baltimore Ravens? That’s kind of the way we look at this thing,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “We have to look at how we can’t pay everybody market value, because it would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys and then go out in the market and get other guys.”

Though listed as an outside linebacker, McPhee displays unique versatility as he was able to consistently pressure quarterbacks while lining up inside or outside along the defensive line. According to PFF, he led the Ravens with 35 quarterback hurries and 21 quarterback hits during the 2014 season.

It will be interesting to see how the Bears handle McPhee’s workload as the Mississippi State product has battled knee issues at various times during his career, which led the Ravens to be mindful about managing his reps in both practices and games. Chicago head coach John Fox likely has an expanded role in mind for McPhee with the organization making such a steep financial commitment.

In 60 career games with the Ravens, McPhee accumulated 92 tackles, 17 sacks, seven pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

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Ravens hire former Bears head coach Trestman as offensive coordinator

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

On the same day Gary Kubiak was formally introduced as the new head coach in Denver, the Ravens officially hired his replacement at offensive coordinator.

Former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman has been hired to become Baltimore’s fourth offensive coordinator in four years and continues head coach John Harbaugh’s trend of appointing former NFL head coaches to the position. Despite two disappointing years in Chicago, Trestman carries nearly two decades of NFL coaching experience and has long been regarded as one of the bright offensive minds in the game.

The 59-year-old has a strong reputation in working with quarterbacks — despite the failures of Chicago’s Jay Cutler this past season — and has guided the likes of Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Jake Plummer, Rich Gannon, and even journeyman Josh McCown to strong seasons. Harbaugh’s brother Jim said in 2013 that Trestman “taught me everything” when they worked as assistants for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, something that undoubtedly came up in the Ravens’ rapid search for Kubiak’s replacement. Trestman also served as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 1989 near the end of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome’s Hall of Fame career as a tight end.

In his first year in Chicago in 2013, the Bears ranked eighth in the NFL in total offense and second in points scored with McCown and Cutler splitting starting duties. Of course, 2014 was another story as Chicago plummeted to 21st in total yards and 23rd in scoring with Cutler starting all but one game. Trestman was fired at the end of the season following a disappointing 5-11 finish.

Trestman’s unconventional résumé includes a return to the collegiate ranks 10 years ago as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State before accepting a head coaching position in the Canadian Football League with Montreal, where he spent five seasons and led the Alouettes to two Grey Cup titles. Of course, the Alouettes are the same franchise that was originally the Baltimore Stallions before relocating in 1996.

This will be Trestman’s fifth offensive coordinator job in the NFL after he previously held the same title in Cleveland (1989), San Francisco (1995-1996), Arizona (1998-2000), and Oakland (2002-2003). The Minnesota native has also spent time as an NFL assistant with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Miami.

Trestman will inherit a Ravens offense that set franchise records in points scored and total yards under Kubiak in 2014. He has roots in the West Coast offense with more of an up-tempo style and a greater slant toward the passing game than what Kubiak employed in Baltimore.

Given Trestman’s age and how long his trek was to finally receiving an NFL head coaching opportunity that didn’t go well in Chicago, you have to wonder if stability could be a bonus for the Ravens as Trestman may not be viewed as a viable head coaching candidate after his ugly ending with the Bears. Of course, Harbaugh and the Ravens will be more focused on Trestman continuing the growth the offense experienced this past season after a difficult 2013 campaign.

He is the fourth offensive coordinator to be hired by Harbaugh and the fourth former NFL head coach to accept the position, joining Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, and Gary Kubiak.


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Caps Win A Perfect Winter Classic

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was smiling and beaming in the locker room following the Caps 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Bridgestone Winter Classic and he had every right to be doing so.

Leonsis, who fought long and hard for the outdoor game in the DC area, watched his club pull out a late victory over the best team in the NHL in the Blackhawks on an amazing stage.

The temperature was perfect, the ice was as good as it could be (kudos to Dan Craig of the NHL) and the venue, Nationals Park, was spectacularly laid out, including the replica of the Nation’s Capitol building with a copy of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pond out in front of it that led to the ice rink.

Washington’s star player, Alexander Ovechkin, had an outstanding game with a goal and an assist while goalie Braden Holtby was excellent in the cage again stopping 33 shots. Troy Brouwer scored the winner on the power play with just 12 seconds to go leading to a wild celebration and flying seat cushions at Nats Park.

The victory, the Caps 9th in a very difficult December schedule, moves them to 19-11-7 and back into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. Washington is now 18-1-2 when scoring first this season (they scored the first two tallies in this one).

It was a magical day for Washington and Leonsis, who believed that the greater Maryland and Virginia area could make a large hockey event work, and he was proven right.

Now for some analysis of this one.

Washington was extremely solid in periods one and three but they really struggled in the middle frame when they took three minor penalties. Two of those overlapped for 91 seconds so that meant the Caps had to survive a five on three situation against a talented Hawks team. Somehow the Capitals managed to do that, thanks to good goaltending, solid PK work, and over passing by Chicago. Afterwards Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville noted that when you don’t score on a five on three you often lose the game. He also wasn’t happy about his team’s lack of shots on goal during that situation. The two time Stanley Cup Champion was correct on both counts.

Part of the reason the Capitals were able to hold off a talented power play was Washington’s “Honest Abe” player of the game, Brooks Orpik. When last seen on Monday night, #44 was writhing in pain on the ice in Long Island clutching his right knee. Somehow what looked to be a potentially season ending injury was only a minor tweak and Coach Barry Trotz was able to field his best left handed defensemen against Chicago. Not only did Orpik suit up, but he logged a Washington game leading 24:44 of ice time, including 5:43 of the 7:26 the Caps were shorthanded! You just can’t over state what Orpik has meant to this team and both Eric Fehr (breakaway goal) and Ovechkin called him a “warrior” afterwards.

When Orpik was handed the Abe Lincoln gear that goes with being named, by his teammates, the Honest Abe player of the game, in #44 style he provided a quick and simple speech that closed with “I thought everybody was fully committed, so let’s keep it going.”

Trotz noted that Orpik is a guy that doesn’t lead by talk, but by showing up every day and doing things properly. He’s been a great example for his teammates and he’s been an invaluable player on the back end.

“You can only admire what he does and brings to the group. He just makes everybody better. He doesn’t say a whole lot in the room, he says everything with how he plays and how he lives and his actions and his commitment to the game. So, it really is an important piece to what we’re trying to do here in Washington,” said Trotz on Orpik.

The down side is that the Caps had to kill off so many penalties, whether you agree with the officiating or not (and it was not a good day for the guys in stripes, especially the last two calls by Francois St. Laurent on Matt Niskanen and Jonathan Toews). Washington too frequently is chirping at the referees and taking bad penalties. John Carlson’s cross check to the face that put the Caps down two men was a retaliation and unnecessary one. Too often the Caps are losing their focus and some of the penalties are just not smart, like Jason Chimera’s holding infraction and Brouwer’s board in the first period that took the Capitals off of the power play. Despite the issues, Trotz did point out a positive that has come from these mental lapses.

“The thing that we have been really good at this year is, when we get off what I call the rails a little bit and we lose our focus, we’re able to get back and find ways to win.”

That was certainly true on New Year’s Day, but the players I spoke with afterwards, including Orpik, Niskanen and Mike Green (two assists) all said the team needs to limit the number of infractions.

“Yeah we talked about [penalties] before and obviously the 2nd period we took quite a few penalties…every team has a good power play these days…moving forward I think we have to be more disciplined. When you are down that much it taxes certain guys that are penalty killers…we got a lot of good guys that don’t kill penalties so that throws them off a bit and takes them out of their rhythm. There are a lot of things it has an effect on,” said Orpik on Washington’s penalty issues, which helped aid Chicago in out shot attempting the Caps, 26-11, in period two.

“Barry talked about discipline and we sort of needed to refocus. I think we got away from our focus. I think we had a good 1st [period] and once we got into that second period maybe we got caught up with the emotion and the energy of the building and then our focus changed to complaining about penalties and what not…We got to be a little more disciplined,” added Green (two assists in 14:59) on what the team discussed after period two.

Clearly the Capitals aren’t helping themselves with some of these bad penalties. Complaining to the referees, whether justified or not, will not help the cause. Simply put, the players have to focus on their game and let Trotz and GM Brian MacLellan deal with the officiating.

In the end though, this was a huge two points for the Capitals on a perfect day at Nationals Park and the large majority of the 42,832 that attended went home happy, much like Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

Notes: Power plays were 6 to 4 for Chicago and the overall shot attempts ended up 62-58 for the Blackhawks…the Caps lost the face off battle 42-36 but Nicklas Backstrom was 16-13…next up for the Caps are the Florida Panthers on Sunday at the Verizon Center at 3 pm.

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