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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Week 11

Posted on 15 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Here are this weekend’s picks as The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game and local college games this season.

Luke Jones finished Week 10 with a 7-7 record while Drew Forrester was 8-6 on his picks. Entering Week 11, Jones is 88-59 on the season while Forrester is 86-61. Official standings are based only on the NFL picks.

Forrester and Jones correctly picked Indianapolis to beat Tennessee to kick off Week 11.

You can listen to Friday’s “Picks and Comment” segment HERE.

Ravens at Bears: Chicago 24-13 (Drew), Chicago 20-17 (Luke)
Falcons at Buccaneers: Tampa Bay 20-14 (Drew), Tampa Bay 24-21 (Luke)
Jets at Bills: New York 23-20 (Drew), New York 23-16 (Luke)
Lions at Steelers: Detroit 27-19 (Drew), Detroit 21-20 (Luke)
Redskins at Eagles: Philadelphia 34-17 (Drew), Philadelphia 27-16 (Luke)
Chargers at Dolphins: San Diego 28-21 (Drew), San Diego 26-20 (Luke)
Browns at Bengals: Cincinnati 23-16 (Drew), Cincinnati 27-14 (Luke)
Raiders at Texans: Oakland 19-16 (Drew), Houston 24-23 (Luke)
Cardinals at Jaguars: Arizona 24-17 (Drew), Arizona 21-12 (Luke)
Vikings at Seahawks: Seattle 35-10 (Drew), Seattle 27-11 (Luke)
49ers at Saints: New Orleans 27-13 (Drew), New Orleans 24-16 (Luke)
Packers at Giants: New York 28-16 (Drew), Green Bay 20-16 (Luke)
Chiefs at Broncos: Kansas City 24-20 (Drew), Denver 27-14 (Luke)
Patriots at Panthers: New England 21-17 (Drew), Carolina 21-20 (Luke)
Maryland at Virginia Tech: Hokies 50-0 (Drew), Hokies 37-10 (Luke)
Towson at William & Mary: Tigers 38-33 (Drew), Tigers 31-23 (Luke)
South Alabama at Navy: Midshipmen 27-24 (Drew), Midshipmen 24-16 (Luke)

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Bears passing game dangerous despite backup McCown under center

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Bears passing game dangerous despite backup McCown under center

Posted on 14 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Chicago Bears are one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises built around a reputation of menacing defense that’s stretched across decades of professional football.

However, this year’s team under new head coach Marc Trestman centers around an explosive passing game despite injuries that have sidelined starting quarterback Jay Cutler and thrust 34-year-old journeyman Josh McCown into action for the better part of the last month. With Cutler sidelined for Sunday’s tilt against the Ravens, McCown will again serve in a starting capacity, but the number of pass-catching targets at his disposal qualifies as a new version of the “Monsters of the Midway.”

Of course, the Baltimore defense did exceptional work against Cincinnati’s talented group of receivers led by A.J. Green last Sunday, but the Bears bring a level of physicality that the tall but wiry Bengals receivers do not provide. Leading the way is the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Brandon Marshall, who is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and ranks ninth in the NFL with 786 receiving yards and tied for sixth with eight touchdown catches.

“He catches the ball no matter where you put it,” said cornerback Lardarius Webb, who is coming off his best game of the season in Week 10. “If you put it somewhere around him, he can make the catch. That’s what makes him so dangerous. You have to know where he’s at at all times on the field. Wherever he’s lined up, we need to know because he’s a game-changer.”

What makes Marshall so dangerous is Trestman’s willingness to line him up in a variety of places on the field, making it difficult for defenses to find the best matchup consistently. Even if the Ravens are able to harness Marshall, the emergency of second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery has forced pass defenses to pick their poison when electing to bracket coverage on Marshall, leaving the 2012 second-round pick matched up in single coverage.

After an underwhelming rookie season in which he caught just 24 passes for 367 yards, the 6-foot-3 Jeffery is 13th in the league with 735 receiving yards, giving the Bears one of the best pass-catching duos in the NFL. With the Ravens possessing only one cornerback taller than six feet — starter Jimmy Smith — Webb and No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham will need to play in a physical manner similar to how they played last week against the Bengals.

“[Jeffery] catches everything. He goes up and gets the ball,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him drop a pass on film. If you’re not attacking the ball and going up and making a play, he’s going to get it.”

The news doesn’t get much better beyond that as 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett has caught four touchdowns and running back Matt Forte is regarded as one of the most dangerous receivers in the league out of the backfield. The Ravens will find size everywhere they look in the Bears passing game, making their ability to pressure McCown that much more critical in Sunday’s tilt at Soldier Field.

It remains to be seen whether defensive coordinator Dean Pees will once again use Webb inside in the nickel package, but the ability of safeties James Ihedigbo and Matt Elam to gain good position in coverage against Bennett will be a major challenge in containing the Chicago passing attack, especially inside the red zone.

Even with an array of power forward-like targets to throw to, McCown must still deal with a defense tied for third in the NFL with 32 sacks. The Ravens were able to harass Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton into throwing three interceptions and will look for similar results against the career backup, who has completed 60 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions in three games this season.

Baltimore has talked all week about the takeaway outburst against Cincinnati being the result of preparation finally coming together and will try to prove it wasn’t simply the result of some different defensive looks mixed with good fortune against their division rivals in the 20-17 overtime win.

“You all just happened to see a byproduct of all the work that we put in,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “We got put in the position to get those plays. I always like to say that turnovers and interceptions are an accumulation of preparation and luck. Some of those plays, [the ball] landed in the perfect position. It’s luck, but it’s preparation for being there.”

Rare chance for running game

The struggles of the Ravens’ historically-poor running game have been discussed ad nauseam, but Sunday may represent their best last chance of hope that the ground production can improve in the second half of the season.

The Bears rank 31st in the league against the run and are giving up just under 130 rushing yards per game this season. The season-ending loss of defensive tackle Henry Melton in September and the current shoulder injury sidelining outside linebacker Lance Briggs haven’t done the defense any favors as the Bears have needed to lean heavily on offense to build a 5-4 record.

It remains to be seen how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will handle the workload in the running game after head coach John Harbaugh suggested performance will dictate how many carries struggling starter Ray Rice and backup Bernard Pierce will receive moving forward. Rice is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry while Pierce isn’t much better at 2.8 as both have battled injuries this season.

“We’re working to get better,” Rice said. “I know I’ve worked my butt off to get back on the field to play at a high level. I’ve just got to keep myself motivated, because I know once the opportunity comes and we rip off one of those big gains, we’ll be saying, ‘Well there it goes.’ The day will come.”

If the day doesn’t come Sunday against one of the league’s worst run defenses, it may be time to close the book on any hope for improvement in the Ravens’ rushing attack.

Hester the home-run hitter

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens missing four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice

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Ravens missing four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice

Posted on 14 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to an important showdown with the Chicago Bears this weekend, the Ravens were without four defensive starters during Thursday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee), cornerback Lardarius Webb (groin), and inside linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) were all absent for the second straight day. Each played in last Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals, but Ngata and Smith both left the game at different points and were expected to be limited in practices this week.

Webb spoke to reporters in the locker room prior to Thursday’s workout and did not appear to be noticeably favoring an injury.

Defensive end Chris Canty (knee) was the only new absence on Thursday after he practiced and was not listed on the injury report a day earlier. Canty also addressed reporters prior to sitting out practice and gave no indication that he was dealing with an injury.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) and strong safety James Ihedigbo (toe) were both present and working after being listed as a limited participant on Wednesday’s injury report.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) was added to the injury report as a limited participant.

Meanwhile, Chicago added starting tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle) to their injury report after he didn’t participate on Thursday.

Here is Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Haloti Ngata (knee), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), CB Lardarius Webb (groin), DE Chris Canty (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (groin), LB Terrell Suggs (neck)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (toe/knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)

CHICAGO
OUT: LB Lance Briggs (shoulder), QB Jay Cutler (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LS Patrick Mannelly (calf), DE Shea McClellin (hamstring), DT Jeremiah Ratliff (groin), TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
LIMITED: T Jordan Mills (quad)

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Arthur Jones becoming force along Ravens defensive line

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Arthur Jones becoming force along Ravens defensive line

Posted on 13 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Growing up in a household with two younger brothers who’ve achieved fame in the athletic realm, Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones is finally drawing much-deserved recognition of his own.

First, it was winning Super Bowl XLVII and getting the best of younger brother Chandler Jones — a defensive end and 2012 first-round pick for the New England Patriots — along the way to championship glory. Now, he is gaining further notoriety as one of the Ravens’ best defensive players in his fourth year.

Success didn’t come immediately for Jones as a knee injury in his final season at Syracuse caused his draft status to plummet before the Ravens selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. Playing behind veterans such as Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, and Cory Redding on the defensive line, Jones was active for just two games as a rookie.

At the same time, his other younger brother was becoming one of the most famous mixed martial art fighters in the world while cheering on his older brother in Baltimore.

“When he first started, we’d be out there watching like, ‘Is he even playing right now?’” said UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, who visited the Ravens at their Owings Mills facility on Wednesday. “Not only has Arthur managed to be in the game full-time, but he’s becoming an impact player, and that’s amazing to see.”

Now a starting defensive tackle for the league’s eighth-ranked defense in points allowed, Jones faced the problem that many young defensive linemen encounter when entering the NFL without overwhelming size like Ngata’s 340-pound frame. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds coming out of college, Jones bounced back and forth among the different defensive line positions while learning the Ravens’ 3-4 system.

Jones became a regular member of the defensive line rotation in 2011 — appearing in 14 games and making one start — and was tabbed to compete with fellow defensive lineman Pernell McPhee last season at the 5-technique defensive end spot vacated by Redding. However, that position required more speed and didn’t allow Jones to fully utilize the strong leverage he gained from a wrestling background.

The transformation for Jones started midway through last season when the Ravens began using him more exclusively at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot that lines up on the outside shoulder of the opposing guard. Over the final six weeks of the 2012 season, Jones collected the first 4 1/2 sacks of his career and continued to be a major contributor in the Ravens’ postseason run to a title.

“The more guys play, the more they see, the more they just kind of understand what you want,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Jones prior to the bye week. “When you’re early on and you play on a defense that’s a multiple-type defense, you really spend a heck of a lot of time just memorizing what the heck [you’re] supposed to do rather than just playing ball. Once that kind of clicks in, it makes a difference in a player who makes more plays, because it comes natural now.”

After missing the 2013 season opener due to an irregular heartbeat that put his career at a temporary standstill this summer, Jones has become one of the best players on the Baltimore defense in collecting four sacks and 28 tackles, five of them for a loss.

He has often pointed to a critical point in his career taking place during the NFL lockout in 2011 when he spent extensive time training with his brother Jon in the mixed martial arts. The workouts not only improved his hand placement critical for defensive line play but left him in the best shape of his life, and he’s continued to train with his young brother.

“I give a lot of credit to [Jon],” Jones said. “In the offseason, I work out with him faithfully on hand fighting, wrestling, [and] leverage. Just having good pad level is a game-changer in this league, so if you can learn how to use your hands and have good leverage, you can do some good things.”

Regarded as strictly a run-stopping lineman early in his career, Jones has emerged as arguably the Ravens’ best interior line pass rusher and has graded out as the team’s third-best defensive player this season behind the pass-rushing duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, according to Pro Football Focus.

Though nose tackle Haloti Ngata has been named to four Pro Bowls and receives the most recognition along the defensive line, Jones has been the Ravens’ most consistent defensive lineman as he’s progressed from a frequent game-day inactive in his rookie season to one of the better 3-technique defensive tackles in the AFC. His improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates, who’ve seen him blossom up front.

“When you see the potential of a player and he grows, and he starts to mature into himself [and] come into his own, it’s pretty good,” Suggs said. “It’s good to see the production that he’s had with success.”

The Ravens’ biggest problem in regards to Jones might be the ability to keep him as he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Awarded the second-round tender worth $2.02 million as a restricted free agent this past offseason, the 27-year-old is in line for a good payday on the open market.

With the Ravens projected to have limited salary cap space for the second straight season and needing to address a plethora of offensive issues, Jones might follow a similar path as Paul Kruger, who turned a successful fourth season in Baltimore to a lucrative contract with the Cleveland Browns. Jones joked Wednesday that his younger brother Jon was visiting the team to help negotiate a contract extension with general manager Ozzie Newsome.

It’s true that Jones may never outshine his younger brothers, but he is finally seeing his hard work pay off and the Ravens have benefited along the way.

“He’s turned into a very solid and even excellent defensive lineman in this league, and I think it is because of his work ethic,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s talented, he’s quick, he’s explosive. He’s really maximized his physical potential, and he’s one of the best defensive lineman now going. We’re real proud of what he has done.”

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Webb, Ngata, D. Smith missing from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 13 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Fresh off their best defensive performance of the season in Week 10, the Ravens were without three defensive starters in returning to the practice field on Wednesday to continue preparations for the Chicago Bears.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Daryl Smith were all absent during Wednesday’s practice. Ngata temporarily left Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals with a left knee injury but returned to action and deemed himself fine in the Ravens locker room following the game.

Smith missed two days of practice last week while dealing with a hamstring injury and left the field gingerly in overtime of Sunday’s game, acknowledging to reporters afterward that his hamstring was still tight. The 31-year-old linebacker was listed as questionable on the final injury report for the Bengals game before finishing with nine tackles.

Webb (groin) recorded his first interception of the year against the Bengals and did not appear to be laboring when speaking to reporters after the game, making it possible that Wednesday was a simple day of rest for the No. 1 cornerback. Sliding inside to the nickel position in sub packages, Webb was an active blitzer and finished with five tackles and six pass breakups.

Safety James Ihedigbo (toe) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) were limited participants after playing in Sunday’s game against the Bengals. They were listed as questionable on last week’s injury report.

Starting left guard A.Q. Shipley was present and working during Wednesday’s practice after temporarily leaving Sunday’s game with a neck stinger.

The Bears have already ruled out quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) and linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Here is Wednesday’s report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Haloti Ngata (knee), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), CB Lardarius Webb (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (toe/knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)

CHICAGO
OUT: LB Lance Briggs (shoulder), QB Jay Cutler (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LS Patrick Mannelly (calf), DE Shea McClellin (hamstring), DT Jeremiah Ratliff (groin)

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Golf: PGA Tour OHL Classic at Mayakoba (Thursday-Sunday 2pm from Riviera Maya, Mexico live on Golf Channel); Boxing: Andre Ward vs. Edwain Rodriguez (Saturday 10pm from Ontario, CA live on HBO); High School Football: MPSSAA Playoffs-4A North Semifinal Howard @ Perry Hall (Friday 7pm); The Book Thief” and “The Best Man Holiday” out in theaters (Friday); Man of Steel” and “Turbo” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

10. Elton John (Thursday 8pm Verizon Center), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Monday 7:30pm Verizon Center); Manchester Orchestra (Tuesday 7:30pm Rams Head Live), Eli Young Band (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head Live), Dr. Dog (Saturday 9pm Rams Head Live); The Lone Bellow (Friday 9pm Baltimore Soundstage), Zach Myers/Silvertung (Saturday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Dave Davies (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Bret Michaels (Thursday 9pm Rams Head Center Stage); Gary Clark Jr. (Tuesday & Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Skrillex (Thursday 8:30pm 9:30 Club), Sister Hazel (Saturday 6pm 9:30 Club); Widespread Panic (Tuesday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); The Mowgli’s (Wednesday 7:30pm Rock & Roll Hotel); Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds (Friday 8:30pm The Hamilton); Rick Ross (Sunday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers (Sunday 8pm State Theatre); Counting Crows “Echoes of The Outlaw Roadshow” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

The Lone Bellow HAS to win “Best New Artist” this year, right?

GARY CLARK JR GARY CLARK JR GARY CLARK JR GARY CLARK JR GARY CLARK JR

I’d listen to Sister Hazel sing “Row Row Row Your Boat”.

I’ve tried telling you about Sister Sparrow before. Stop missing the memo.

9. NBA-Washington Wizards @ Dallas Mavericks (Tuesday 8:30pm from Dallas live on Comcast SportsNet PLUS), Washington Wizards @ San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday 8:30pm from San Antonio live on Comcast SportsNet), Cleveland Cavaliers @ Washington Wizards (Saturday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet)

Meanwhile, JJ Hickson…

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Four things you can count on: Death, taxes, the 15-7-0 and Jay Cutler getting hurt

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Four things you can count on: Death, taxes, the 15-7-0 and Jay Cutler getting hurt

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. We do plenty of that elsewhere. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick.

You guys remember when the 15-7-0 was a fun time to gather ’round with family, tell tales and make fun of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins? Man…September was so great. Up yours, October!

15 Positive Observations…

1. I guess as it turns out, new Peyton > old Peyton. Oh and since we’re here, this is a reminder that the only Peyton to have ever been on the cover of Madden was Peyton Hillis. Hehe.

The Broncos WISH they had a better offense. Like…the Ravens’?

Also. The Colts’ punter is WAY tougher.

Also, Wes Welker’s catch didn’t suck.

2. As far as I’m concerned, the Towson Tigers are what’s happening in college football. Yes, the Towson Tigers. Nothing else. STOP FREAKING ASKING ALREADY.

Seriously. Don’t ask me about the other stuff. Just enjoy this.

3. Happy Monday. Florida State just scored. How was work today? Florida State just scored again. What are you thinking about for dinner tonight? Florida State scored again. Florida State scored again. Florida State scored again.

And also, Nick O’Leary put someone on THEIR ASS.

Your response, Tigers fans?

And here’s Kelvin Benjamin looking…EXACTLY LIKE A FLORIDA STATE RECEIVER.

College Gameday was at Clemson Saturday morning, happier times for Bill Murray.

4. The Bengals are in first place by two full games. If this particular 15-7-0 post were a meme, it would be the one with the guy with the hair saying “Aliens”.

And even with THIS?

And THIS?

But apparently AJ Green is ALSO good.

5. How was your Sunday? Mine was fine, you know, other than the watching Harry Douglas on my fantasy football bench and inventing knew curse words to scream aloud in response.

After the Falcons beat the Buccaneers, they sent a hazmat crew into the locker room because THIS IS WHAT IT’S COME TO IN TAMPA.

Perhaps the Falcons could have used a hazmat suit to cover Vincent Jackson.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Turnovers Doom Caps in Chicago

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Turnovers Doom Caps in Chicago

Posted on 01 October 2013 by Ed Frankovic

It’s only one game, but a pattern seen in the Washington Capitals pre season continued again in the season opener in Chicago on Tuesday night: turnovers. The Caps did a lot of good things in a contest against a super Blackhawks team, including scoring three power play goals, but they were just too careless with the puck on too many occasions and it cost them at least a point in the Windy City.

Washington took a 4-3 lead early in the third period after two Mikhail Grabovski deflections (#84 had a hat trick plus an assist), but then a Connor Carrick offensive zone miscue led to the tying goal before another turnover in the defensive corner by the Caps allowed Johnny Oduya to score a deflected goal off of Braden Holtby’s glove. It was one #70 would like back and it was tough to see that one cost Washington the game after Holtby made several ten bell saves in period two to keep his club in it.

One thing is for sure, this Capitals team is going to be exciting to watch. Grabovski was all over the ice and his addition seems to mitigate the loss of center Mike Ribeiro to free agency. The Caps have several lines that can score and there were stretches where Washington tilted the ice in their favor. The power play, run by coach Adam Oates and Blaine Forsythe, was great up until late in the game when the Caps had a 5 on 3 but couldn’t convert. Grabovski played below the goal line on the first unit and he really helped open things up for the others. 

But the theme of the game, and what led to a 0 point night, was Washington’s struggles in their own zone. The Caps positioning was bad and they repeatedly failed with their clears. Carrick and Jack Hillen had a rough night as the 3rd defensive pair but several others on the back end gave the puck away too much. Eric Fehr did some nice things at center, but he had his struggles positioning wise when it came to playing defense. The good news is that can be corrected with more reps for #16 at the pivot. The team turnovers are correctable too, but as stated in Sunday night’s blog, the defense is a little shaky and is the weakness on this hockey team right now.

You can bet that Oates and company will adjust going forward. Also keep in mind that Washington won’t be playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions every night. Chicago has a great hockey team and the Caps were in position to win in the third period. That’s encouraging, but there is lots of work to be done for the Capitals to get where they want to be. The offense looks really good, but you have to be able to play in your own end. It will be a work in progress on the back end.

Notes: Alex Ovechkin had 9 shots on net and netted a goal and an assist…rookie Tom Wilson only played 6:40 against a very quick Hawks club…Chicago was 1 for 4 on the power play but their first tally was just seconds after Fehr’s minor expired. The Caps were hoping to improve their PK this season but it got off to a rough start…Washington lost the faceoff battle 31-29 but they did win several in a row late when they had the five on three advantage (Backstrom won most of them)…the final score was 6-4. Marian Hossa was awarded a goal late when he was ruled to be tripped en route to the empty cage…the Capitals open their season at the Verizon Center on Thursday at 7 pm against the Calgary Flames.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be on with Drew Forrester on The Morning Reaction at 7:25 am on Wednesday. Listen Live at WNST.NET

 

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Caps Start 2013-14 With High Expectations Once Again

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Caps Start 2013-14 With High Expectations Once Again

Posted on 29 September 2013 by Ed Frankovic

It is awfully difficult to win a championship in professional sports but heading into 2013-14 that is once again the goal of the Washington Capitals, who have yet to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup since their inception in 1974. The Caps, who have made the playoffs the last six years, have another quality team as they prepare to open their season against the defending champs, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the Windy City on Tuesday night at 8pm on NBCSN.

On Sunday, Caps General Manager George McPhee made several moves to help put some clarity to the opening night roster culminating with a trade of center Matheiu Perreault to the Anaheim Ducks for a 4th round pick and AHLer John Mitchell. In addition, several players were sent to Hershey, including defenesemen Tyson Strachan and Dmitry Orlov. For now, here is what the Caps roster looks like:

Goalies (2): Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth

Defensemen (7): Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Steve Oleksy, and Connor Carrick

Forwards (14): Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer, Martin Erat, Tom Wilson, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera, Aaron Volpatti, and Michael Latta

The move of Perreault was predicted here last week and makes sense from a hockey and salary cap standpoint. This Caps team needed to get bigger and more powerful up front and Wilson’s outstanding camp made keeping him up with the main club, rather than shipping him back to a weaker league (OHL), an easy decision. The 19 year old, who was the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, brings a dimension that this Washington team needs more of in the post season: size and the ability to score the tough goals in close. Six months with Coach Adam Oates and some highly talented teammates is what is needed for Wilson to continue his development, the OHL is just not going to help him get any better.

As for the rest of the squad, the strengths appear to be in goal and up front. Braden Holtby has established himself as a number one goalie and has the chance to move into the elite category with a very strong season. As McPhee told the media last Tuesday, to win the Stanley Cup you have to have great goaltending. #70 is the guy being counted on to deliver that, but Neuvirth is a more than capable net minder and will be needed to play well so that Washington can qualify for the post season in a very competitive Metropolitan Division.

At forward, the Capitals have some serious depth on the wings but still aren’t sure who is going to be the third line center. Backstrom has the first line locked up with Grabovski manning the second unit. The club could go with Beagle as the 3rd line center and Latta pivoting the 4th to start the season, but that depends on the health of the others, primarily Laich, who has been battling a hip flexor issue. Right wing is just loaded up with Ovechkin, Brouwer, Fehr, Wilson, and Ward. Both Fehr and Erat were tried at center this preseason by Oates with some success, so the head coach has lots of options. Johansson could play 3rd line center at some point too. The Caps have not had as talented a crew of forwards to start the season in many years and with the players they have there is lots of room for flexibility.

On defense, the top three is awfully good with Green, Alzner, and Carlson. After that, it gets dicey. Erksine was super last spring in the regular season but is he really a top 4 d-man? #4 will have a chance to prove it starting this week. Oleksy came out of seemingly nowhere to take a 3rd pair spot in the spring and Hillen overcame an early season injury to play a lot of quality minutes last year. Carrick was the biggest surprise of training camp, has great offensive skills and his hockey IQ is high. Learning to play defense in the NHL is harder than any other position so Washington has to be careful to not put too much on the 19 year old, who has incredible potential. The organization still has high hopes for Orlov, but given his injury situation last season, starting him in Hershey made too much sense. The 2009 2nd round pick will play top pair minutes in the AHL and can hone his craft for what appears to be an inevitable jump back to the NHL at some point during the 82 game season.

Special teams will be an important component of Washington’s success. Last season the Caps were #1 in the NHL with the power play (26.8%). You can expect it to remain at least top 5 and Oates and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe will continually be tweaking things to counter opposition tactics. As for the penalty kill, Laich stated on Tuesday that is one of the areas this Capitals club will have to improve in if they want to do well in the regular season and playoffs. The PK has been one of the team’s weaknesses the last few years and it was 27th out of 30 in 2012-13 with a success rate of only 77.9%.

In summary, the expectations are high for this Capitals team. The playoffs are not a given, but if this club can stay relatively healthy, then they have the talent to compete for the division title. Every team in the Metropolitan Division has its issues. The Penguins are the pick of many but their goaltending and team defense certainly has its question marks. Will the Rangers respond positively to a new coach in Alain Vigneault? How will the Devils do with the departure of Ilya Kovalchuk? The Flyers added Vinny Lecavalier but will Ray Emery or Steve Mason step up and be a top goalie in a pressure packed Philly market? Are the Islanders ready to take the next step up the ladder or was their playoff run last spring a one time deal? Is Columbus going to play like the team that nearly qualified for the post season last spring or the cellar dweller crew that started 2013? Finally, will Cam Ward returning in net for Carolina propel them to a winning season? Nothing is set in stone heading into the season and in the salary cap era every team has holes and/or issues. What is important is that the Capitals get off to a good start since coming from behind in the standings is not going to be as achievable as it was in the Southeast Division.

 

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Capitals to open season at Cup champion Blackhawks October 1

Posted on 19 July 2013 by WNST Staff

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Hockey League today announced the 2013-14 regular-season schedule for its 30 member clubs. The Washington Capitals will open the season against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Tuesday, Oct. 1, with the first home game of the campaign set for Thursday, Oct. 3, against the Calgary Flames at 7 p.m. at Verizon Center.

Effective this season, the NHL will operate under a new divisional alignment and scheduling matrix that ensures all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once each season. In creating more geographically-appropriate groupings, the NHL now has two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference. The Capitals will be in the Metropolitan Division with Columbus, Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The NHL will pause from Feb. 9-25, 2014, while NHL players comprise the majority of the rosters of the national teams competing in Sochi for Olympic gold.

The Capitals will host the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2 at 12:30 p.m. It will mark the fourth time in the past five years that the Capitals will play on Super Bowl Sunday.

Washington has six homestands of at least three games on the schedule, the longest being a five-game stretch at Verizon Center from Oct. 10-19. The Capitals have five stretches of at least three straight road games and two season-high five-game road trips from Oct. 22-Nov. 1 and Jan. 24-31, respectively. In addition, the Capitals will have 17 sets of back-to-back games.

Nearly half of the Capitals’ 41 home games at Verizon Center fall on weekends, which includes six games on Friday, eight on Saturday and seven on Sunday. The schedule features holiday home games on Columbus Day (Oct. 14 vs. Edmonton), the day before and the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 27 vs. Ottawa; Nov. 29 vs. Montreal) and Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 2 vs. Detroit).

Television broadcast plans will be released at a later date. All Capitals games can be heard on Caps Radio Network and WashingtonCaps.com.

Home dates to remember:
•    Oct. 3 – Home opener at Verizon Center versus the Calgary Flames.
•    Oct. 14 – A Columbus Day tilt versus the Edmonton Oilers.
•    Oct. 16 – The New York Rangers make their way to Verizon Center for the first time since the ECQF.
•    Nov. 20 – The Pittsburgh Penguins make their first visit of the season to D.C.
•    Jan. 2 – The Capitals kick off 2014 when they host the division rival Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
•    Feb. 2 – On Super Bowl Sunday the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings make their way to D.C.
•    Mar. 10 – Washington hosts Pittsburgh for the second and final time of the regular season.
•    Apr. 11 – Washington welcomes the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
•    April 13 – Washington concludes the regular-season home schedule at Verizon Center versus Tampa Bay.

 

OCTOBER JANUARY
Tue, Oct. 1 at Chicago 8 pm Thu, Jan. 2 Carolina 7 pm
Thu, Oct. 3 Calgary 7 pm Sat, Jan. 4 at Minnesota 8 pm
Sat, Oct. 5 at Dallas 8 pm Thu, Jan. 9 at Tampa Bay 7:30 pm
Thu, Oct. 10 Carolina 7 pm Fri, Jan. 10 Toronto 7 pm
Sat, Oct. 12 Colorado 7 pm Sun, Jan. 12 Buffalo 3 pm
Mon, Oct. 14 Edmonton 7 pm Tue, Jan. 14 San Jose 7 pm
Wed, Oct. 16 N.Y. Rangers 7:30 pm Wed, Jan. 15 at Pittsburgh 8 pm
Sat, Oct. 19 Columbus 7 pm Fri, Jan. 17 at Columbus 7 pm
Tue, Oct. 22 at Winnipeg 8 pm Sun, Jan. 19 at N.Y. Rangers 7:30 pm
Thu, Oct. 24 at Edmonton 9:30 pm Tue, Jan. 21 Ottawa 7 pm
Sat, Oct. 26 at Calgary 10 pm Fri, Jan. 24 at New Jersey 7 pm
Mon, Oct. 28 at Vancouver 10 pm Sat, Jan. 25 at Montreal 7 pm
Tue, Jan. 28 at Buffalo 7:30 pm
NOVEMBER Thu, Jan. 30 at Columbus 7 pm
Fri, Nov. 1 at Philadelphia 7 pm Fri, Jan. 31 at Detroit 7:30 pm
Sat, Nov. 2 Florida 7 pm
Tue, Nov. 5 NY Islanders 7 pm FEBRUARY
Thu, Nov. 7 Minnesota 7 pm Sun, Feb. 2  Detroit 12:30pm
Sat, Nov. 9 at Phoenix 8 pm Tue, Feb. 4 N.Y. Islanders 7:30 pm
Sun, Nov. 10 at Colorado 8 pm Thu, Feb. 6 Winnipeg 7 pm
Tue, Nov. 12 Columbus  7 pm Sat, Feb. 8 New Jersey 7 pm
Fri, Nov. 15 at Detroit 7:30 pm Thu, Feb. 27 at Florida 7:30 pm
Sun, Nov. 17 St. Louis 6 pm
Wed, Nov. 20 Pittsburgh 7:30 pm MARCH
Fri, Nov. 22 Montreal 7 pm Sat, March 1 at Boston 1 pm
Sat, Nov. 23 at Toronto 7 pm Sun, March 2 Philadelphia 12:30pm
Wed, Nov. 27 Ottawa 7 pm Wed, March 5 at Philadelphia 8 pm
Fri, Nov. 29 Montreal 5 pm Thu, March 6 at Boston 7 pm
Sat, Nov. 30 at N.Y. Isles 7 pm Sat, March 8 Phoenix  7 pm
Mon March 10 Pittsburgh 7 pm
DECEMBER Tue, March 11 at Pittsburgh 7:30 pm
Tue, Dec. 3 Carolina 7 pm Fri, March 14 Vancouver 7 pm
Sat, Dec. 7 Nashville 7 pm Sun March 16 Toronto 3 pm
Sun, Dec. 8 at N.Y. Rangers 7 pm Tue, March 18 at Anaheim 10 pm
Tue, Dec. 10 Tampa Bay 7 pm Thu, March 20 at Los Angeles 10:30 pm
Fri, Dec. 13 at Florida 7:30 pm Sat, March 22 at San Jose 10:30 pm
Sun, Dec. 15 Philadelphia 3 pm Tue, March 25 Los Angeles  7 pm
Tue, Dec. 17 at Philadelphia 7:30 pm Sat, March 29 Boston 12:30pm
Fri, Dec. 20 at Carolina 7 pm Sun, March 30 at Nashville 8 pm
Sat, Dec. 21 New Jersey 7 pm
Mon, Dec. 23 Anaheim 7 pm APRIL
Fri, Dec. 27 N.Y. Rangers 7 pm Tue, April 1 Dallas 7 pm
Sun, Dec. 29 at Buffalo 5 pm Fri, April 4 at New Jersey 7 pm
Mon, Dec. 30 at Ottawa 7:30 pm Sat, April 5 at N.Y. Islanders 5 pm
Tue, April 8 at St. Louis 8 pm
Thu, April 10 at Carolina 7 pm
Fri, April 11 Chicago 7 pm
Sun, April 13 Tampa Bay 3 pm
All Times Eastern*

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