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Ovechkin’s 12th of Season Propels Caps Over Islanders

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Ovechkin’s 12th of Season Propels Caps Over Islanders

Posted on 28 November 2014 by Ed Frankovic

Plain and simple, that was the Washington Capitals best game they’ve played all season.

The Caps outshot attempted New York, 70-60, dominated the face off battle, 34-21, received great goaltending from Braden Holtby (26 saves), finally scored at even strength, and their coach, Barry Trotz, made some outstanding pre and in game moves.

It was a very important in division win against a club that had won five in a row, in the Islanders.

So in two games, which I proclaimed were a measuring stick for Washington, they stood up very well taking three of four possible points to stay in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders did get two points in the first game thanks to referee Kyle Rehman’s Thanksgiving Eve gift, but if I’m New York, I feel like the Islanders are improved but the Caps are a different and still improving club, as well, and should be even better as the season progresses.

Alex Ovechkin once again had the game winning goal, notching his 12th of the season after Tom Wilson made a great rush up the ice with the puck to get the Islanders moving backwards. The Gr8 used the New York D as a screen and rifled it by Chad Johnson, who more resembled OchoStinko tonight (22 saves on 26 shots).

Sure this victory would have been better had the Capitals beaten Jaroslav Halak, but you can only beat who the other team lines up against you. Johnson did have some quality saves, he had to because Washington had tons of excellent scoring chances, especially in periods two and three.

Holtby was outstanding and he had to be sharp from the get go as the Islanders really dominated the first five minutes. Washington only had one shot at the midway point of period one but then they took over. Before the game, Trotz switched up his lines moving Evgeny Kuznetsov up to the 2nd line with Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer while Andre Burakovsky moved down to the fourth line. Boy did that move pay off as Kuzy had a super game with a goal and an assist while MJ90 dominated the ice with a goal and an assist. Both played just under 16 minutes while Brouwer had an assist in just over 17 minutes. Washington needed that performance from their second line since it had gone six straight games without a goal. No doubt Kuznetsov deserves more playing time going forward. He still has some defensive issues, but Burakovsky is struggling more in the d-zone right now so 92 needs to remain there for at least the near future.

Defensemen Matt Niskanen had another stellar game pitching in three assists in 22:35 of ice time (team lead) and his hockey IQ is extremely high. Joel Ward’s empty net goal came because #2 was willing to take a hit as he threw the puck up the right wing boards to Ward. If Niskanen goes in soft at all on that play the Islanders likely come away with the biscuit. Just a smart and tough play by a very good defensemen there.

In addition to Trotz’ pre game line changes, he did a great job with the matchups late in period two once the Caps got the lead and especially in period three when the Capitals pulled away, for once. Barry likely learned from the two goals the Islanders scored late in period one when he got burned with Burakovsky on the ice against John Tavares on the first goal. #65 screened his own goalie and left one of the best pure goal scorers in the league all alone at the side of the net on that tally. The Islanders then tied it after Wilson mistakenly fought Matt Martin. Anders Lee scored shortly after the bout on a deflection in front when Karl Alzner failed to either block the point shot or tie up a New York forward in front.

But other than that, there wasn’t much to be unhappy about. Washington continued to do a better job of getting bodies to the front of the net so that bodes well for more goals going forward. It is very important to get points right now so that the Caps can make the playoffs and also move up in the division, but it’s even better when they play the right way and win.

On Friday, they played the right way and received a much earned 5-2 victory to improve to 10-8-4.

Notes: Burakovsky had the lowest ice time for the Caps (9:10), but he did score the first goal on the PP by going to the net and deflecting Niskanen’s shot home…the Caps got Brooks Laich back on Friday and they are now 5-0-2 with #21 in the lineup. His hard work rubs off on the rest of the team and he allows Trotz the ability to better balance the lines…the Caps play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at 7 pm on Hockey Night in Canada. I’d expect Justin Peters in net for Washington since Trotz and Mitch Korn won’t want to wear Holtby out.

 

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Caps Beaten by Beasts of the East

Posted on 29 March 2014 by Ed Frankovic

The Boston Bruins are one heck of a hockey team.

The “Beasts of the East” are clearly the team to beat in the Eastern Conference this year and possibly the club with the best shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup given the easier route to the finals in the Eastern Conference. They don’t appear to have any weaknesses, and this is a club that lost top 4 defensemen Dennis Seidenberg earlier in the year to season ending injury. But they have lots of depth.

So with the Caps having to face a club that came in to Saturday’s matinee on a 13-0-1 streak one would think they would be ready to compete right out of the gate.

They weren’t.

They didn’t skate well.

Their passing was atrocious and they didn’t pay the price to win the one on one battles in the first 30 minutes.

If not for Braden Holtby’s goaltending, a 3-0 deficit could’ve been at least six or seven. #70 was really good in the crease, but his teammates didn’t help him out.

You can’t do that when your playoff chances are on the line and especially not against a club as strong as Boston.

Washington’s line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward had their usual strong game and they scored late in period two after Mike Green, who was another bright spot, made a great rush up the ice. The Capitals then threw the kitchen sink at Bruins goalie Chad Johnson (31 saves) in the third period, but he was too good and then a terrible charging call on Alex Ovechkin took away any momentum the Caps had built to that stage.

The Bruins would score on that tally, and they scored on one other power play to go 2 for 4 on the game while Washington was 0 for 3.

Boston’s fast start and the special teams were essentially the difference in the game.

Make no mistake about it, the Bruins deserved to win this contest. They played better over the course of the 60 minutes.

But anyone who thinks that the officiating in this contest was decent is smoking some serious stuff. I’ve tried to give the zebras more of a break this season and for the most part, they’ve been better overall. However, the job that Tim Peel and Frederick L’Ecuyer did today in a critical game for Washington was disgraceful.

Of Boston’s four power plays, three were not even penalties. John Erskine’s delay of game hit the glass before exiting the rink (shown clearly on replay), Jason Chimera’s slashing call was a joke and at worst, Johnny Boychuk should’ve gone off with him if that stuff is going to be called. Finally, as mentioned above, the Ovechkin charge was an absolute mirage of a penalty.

In addition, during the Caps power play, right before the Ovechkin “charge” call, a clear trip on the Gr8 was missed that would’ve put Washington on a 5 on 3 advantage.

Simply put, Peel and L’Ecuyer should not get paid for their work today.

Also, why are some of these calls not reviewable by replay? The NFL has it and so does NCAA college basketball. Pucks going over the glass is an easily reviewable event!

But enough on the zebras and league policy, because complaining about those things is pretty much like talking to a brick wall.

This was an important game for Washington and they didn’t come out with the intensity they needed against a super Boston team.

Once again, make no mistake about it, the Bruins deserved the win.

The Caps do go 2-1-2 during a stretch that looked nearly impossible a few weeks ago, so they can take pride in this run against some of the NHL elite.

But now they need to get down to business and find ways to win down the stretch. They have eight games left and likely need 12 or 13 points to get in the post season dance.

Tomorrow night in Nashville against the Predators they desperately need a win.

Coming out with intensity from the opening draw, and getting pucks and bodies to the front of the opponents’ net like Caps Comcast analyst Alan May repeatedly calls for, would be a really good way to start.

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Team USA Should Choose Caps John Carlson for Sochi Squad

Posted on 16 November 2013 by Ed Frankovic

With less than three months until Team USA plays its first game on February 13th vs Slovakia in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, things are heating up in the battle to make the team.

The rosters for many of the countries will be finalized over the next four to six weeks and make no mistake about it, earning a spot on a team is a big deal to NHL players.

Washington Capitals fans will have both Alexander Ovechkin (Russia) and Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) to watch in Sochi, but there is another Caps player that is making a strong case to be on an Olympic roster, USA’s John Carlson.

That Carlson is in the running for a spot on the team is no surprise to Caps fans. #74 has been flat out dominant over the last few weeks and his 32:26 of ice time on Friday night in Detroit, including an eye popping 4:19 of play in the five minute overtime is quite telling. Carlson is a major reason that Washington is 6-1-1 in the month of November.

Team USA’s GM is David Poile and he is the ultimate decision maker for the roster, but he will get help from others to include Team USA’s head coach, Dan Byslma and Pens GM, Ray Shero.

Two quality NHL hockey writers, Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside, handicapped the Team USA roster on November 7th. In that post they list the following four players as locks to make Team USA’s defense:

Ryan Suter (Minnesota)

Paul Martin (Pittsburgh)

Jack Johnson (Columbus)

Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers)

Given that there are likely going to be eight players chosen on defense, that leaves four roster spots remaining.

In the mix to make the roster, based on who attended Team USA’s camp last August, in addition to Carlson are:

Kevin Faulk (Carolina)

Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis)

Keith Yandle (Phoenix)

Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh)

Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg)

Zach Bogosian (Winnipeg)

Matt Carle (Tampa Bay)

Cam Fowler (Anaheim)

Seth Jones (Nashville)

Danny DeKeyser (Detroit)

Erik Johnson (Colorado)

According to LeBrun and Burnside, they have Yandle, Shattenkirk, Faulk, and Orpik as the next four on their list. Carlson was further down on their rankings, but again, that list was done on November 7th and nine days later, we have more data.

The key for Poile is to have a crew that is playing as well as possible when February 13th arrives.

When talking to the former Caps GM out at Kettler IcePlex last August, it was clear to me that Poile is very concerned about the lack of success the Americans have had in the Olympics outside of North America and he pinpointed their ability to play on the Olympic sized ice, which is wider than the NHL rinks. This changes the game and puts a larger premium on skating ability.

It also, in my mind, puts more emphasis on having right handed players play the right side and vice versa with the left. Looking at the four locks to make the team in the ESPN article, one thing to note is that all four of those defensemen shoot left. So of the remaining four spots, one would have to think that at least three of them should be right handed shots.

The right handed shots on the above list are: Carlson, Jones, Erik Johnson, Kevin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, and Dustin Byfuglien.

Is Carlson in the top three or four on that list?

With the way #74′s played over the last month, absolutely!

Carlson’s four goals leads all USA defensemen (tied with McDonagh) and his 23:38 average time on ice puts him sixth overall out of the 16 players mentioned as possibilities. Carlson, and his defensive partner, Karl Alzner, routinely play against the top line of the opposition. So he’s no stranger to top players like Sidney Crosby, Geno Malkin, Eric Staal, Martin St. Louis, and John Tavares that will be donning the uniforms of Team USA’s opposition. There’s a reason Carlson gets those assignments game in and game out, he’s considered Washington’s top right handed defender in his own zone.

Another reason Team USA should choose Carlson is his skating ability. The 2010 World Junior Championship hero for Team USA is extremely mobile and that is something Poile’s team absolutely has to have in Sochi. I’m not sure a guy like Orpik is as effective on the big ice as he’d be in an NHL sized rink. Jones is a generational player and a raw talent, but he’s only 19 years old and is only just this year playing against the top competiton in the NHL. It just seems too risky to choose him now with so much pressure on the Americans to medal. Seth will eventually be there, but now is not the time. I’d also pass on a guy like Byfuglien who has had conditioning issues in the past and isn’t a super skater. He’s another guy more suited to NHL sized rinks. Bogosian, with all of the potential he brought when drafted high in Atlanta and his great skating ability, just hasn’t been consistent. Erik Johnson was super in Vancouver in 2010, but his game has been up and down recently and he is another much more suited to the NHL sized rink.

That leaves Carlson, Faulk, and Shattenkirk as my top three right handed shots. Carlson not only kills penalties but he also has a hard shot to bring to the power play. You can’t play 4:19 of a five minute overtime without being in great shape and #74 routinely is one of Washington’s best conditioned players. Overall, there is just no downside to putting Carlson on Team USA. He’s played in big games at the NHL level and in junior competitions in enemy rinks.

Carlson is playing the best hockey of his career right now and he deserves a really good look from Poile, Bylsma, and Shero (the Penguins are in town on Wednesday). If they see what we’ve seen Carlson do over the last several weeks, win the loose puck battles in all zones, get his shots to the net, and shut down the top line of the opposition, they should come to the same conclusion I’ve come to:

John Carlson deserves to be on the Team USA roster for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

 

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Handling Bigger Ice Key for Team USA in 2014 Olympics

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Handling Bigger Ice Key for Team USA in 2014 Olympics

Posted on 27 August 2013 by Ed Frankovic

On day two of Team USA orientation camp at Kettler IcePlex this afternoon General Manager David Poile didn’t beat around the bush when discussing the biggest challenge his squad faces heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It’s all about how his squad performs on the bigger ice surface.

“We know what the challenges are here, we haven’t had any success in Europe on the big ice. The United States hasn’t won any medals in the last two Olympics played on the big ice,” stated the long time NHL GM.

Yes, Team USA won silver in Vancouver in 2010 and also in Salt Lake City back in 2002, but both of those tournaments were played on NHL sized rinks. The Olympic surface is wider, which changes several aspects on how the game is played.

“Angles and spacing really [is the difference]. More so the angles are quicker to adjust, it’s more of a read. At the NHL level you are approximated to the boards so you can use it as a gauge. Here, if you rely on that you are out of position pretty quickly. The one good thing is the zones are all a little different sizes but the paint is always in the same spot. I think that’s a key thing for everyone to understand and realize that from a spacing issue to try to use the faceoff circles and dots because they are actually in the same position as an NHL rink, almost,” said Kings winger Dustin Brown.

In 2010, Team USA used its ability to be physical to its advantage but with more room, taking the body is not as easy and is not as much of a factor.

“There’s more to being physical than the big hits. It’s rubbing guys out, grinding guys out. There’s still opportunities for the big hit, you just have to be patient and let it come to you. You can’t be running out of position because it’s just that much further you have to go to get back,” added Brown.

Most of the players seemed comfortable with going to the bigger rink size and some, like Carolina defensemen Justin Faulk, didn’t think the change was going to be real difficult.

“It’s probably easier going from big ice for smaller ice. You get more room. I don’t think it’s a big deal, I’ve done it many times personally. Everyone in here has played on big ice at some point. Obviously it’s a little bit different game and style,” stated Faulk.

Several other players acknowledged the ice surface challenge but it was clear that Poile, who has been in hockey long before every one of Team USA’s players was born, believes that addressing the rink size issue is paramount to his clubs success.

“The challenge for us is we’ve never had any success on European soil. We owe it to ourselves to to go over every facet of what we’ve done in the past on it. We’ve talked to former players and coaches and the thing that comes up constantly is you have to have speed. I don’t think we’ll need that truculence element as much. It’s just an adjustment and making the players aware of the differences in the ice size and making sure. You don’t want it to be the excuse. The fact that we’ve won two silver medals in North America and got nothing in Europe – I can’t accept that. These are good players, they’re smart players, they’re skilled players. It’s different – yes. Ok, so let’s go figure it out…it could be coaching, it could be systems, it could be the players that we take over there,” concluded Poile.

As for the roster make up itself, there were 48 players invited to the orientation camp and this is the deepest pool of talent Team USA has ever had. The team appears strongest in net where the club has the likes of Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson, Ryan Miller, Cory Schneider, and John Gibson. Up front they are led by Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski, and Bobby Ryan while on defense Ryan Suter and Erik Johnson are the logical leaders. Poile indicated that this would be the toughest team these players would ever have to make and he stated that about half of the spots are likely already locked up based on the performances of some in the 2010 Olympics.

“As we’ve told the players, the body of work they’ve had in their career to this point is important but what they do in October, November, and December will be the deciding factor. I favor the guys from 2010, not only because of the success they had but how they’ve matured as hockey players. The age group we have right now is excellent. At times we thought we were too young in 2010 but now, four years later, we are bang on at the right age.”

It is apparent that the roster decisions are going to be extremely tough and many players will suffer the disappointment of missing out on representing their country, but Poile relishes that process.

“This is going to be the toughest decisions that I have to make, but I want it to be tough…We want the hard decisions, we’ve never really had in USA hockey to make that many hard decisions because we’ve never really had the depth and quality we presently have, so bring it on.”

Notes: The Caps were represented at the orientation camp by defensemen John Carlson, who scored the Gold Medal winning goal for Team USA in the 2010 World Junior Championships…Poile called Kettler “as good as any facility I’ve ever seen”…Erik Johnson was very critical of his game with Colorado last year and made it clear he needs to be more consistent…the Team USA jerseys were unveiled by the players to a sold out Kettler IcePlex. NHL Network televised the event.

 

 

 

 

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Orioles are finally in pennant race — but where are Baltimore baseball fans?

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Orioles are finally in pennant race — but where are Baltimore baseball fans?

Posted on 08 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve argued with WNST morning show host Drew Forrester for a decade about this. He’s always said – much like everyone in the Angelos family – “When the Orioles win they’ll ALL come back!”

Well, in case you haven’t noticed while you were dusting off your purple gear this week for tomorrow night’s meaningless and mostly unentertaining Ravens game in Atlanta, the 2012 Baltimore Orioles are just about everything you’d want in a MLB team in a “small market” where the owner is pocketing over $100 million in profit every year.

They have young stars. They are exciting every night – including last night’s 14-inning marathon victory over the Seattle Mariners that unfolded like The Ilyiad. They seem to play sudden death baseball a lot. It’s almost like they WANT you to fall asleep on them.

And these days, it appears, that most Baltimore sports fans have in fact “gone to sleep on the Orioles.”

By and large, most of you are not coming to Orioles games right now. The Orioles haven’t inspired you to buy a ticket, despite their good fortunes and entertainment value on the field.

This is a perfect day for me to write about going to Orioles games because I’m going to the game tonight.

Why?

Well, I got free tickets.

My complaints and reasons for not giving Peter Angelos my money are legendary and well-documented. The incident when the team stiffed me on a $30,000 sponsorship, then attacked me at a game in 2004 and sent an apology note signed, “The Bird.” Then, after 21 years of covering the Baltimore Orioles through three ownership groups, they took my press pass in 2007 and have summarily lied about why, which is standard operating procedure from the Angelos family.

Hell, four months ago at a charity cocktail function, Brady Anderson told me I “should leave Baltimore if I don’t like the way the team is being run.”

But I still watch them every night – which either makes me a sucker, a fool or an eternal optimist. Or maybe just someone who loves Baltimore and the Orioles and remembers how much fun baseball was for the entire community before Angelos wrecked the franchise for anyone who takes the time to examine all of the facts.

Oh, here’s one more warm and fuzzy — this Friday will mark the one-year anniversary that one of their legendary players, broadcaster and caring front office man Mike Flanagan put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

The Orioles have played 110 games this year. I’ve watched about 95 of them in their entirety. The other 15 I’ve either fallen asleep (like last night) or kept track via my mobile device on WNST’s live box score feature.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might find five games where I haven’t been live tweeting most of the evening from my couch. So, I’m qualified to bitch in many ways because I’m the biggest Baltimore Orioles fan you’ll ever find.

And, again, I’m not giving Angelos my money – not tonight or any night.

In Dundalk, we would simply call him a scumbag and leave it at that.

But he doesn’t care about whether you or I come to the ballpark. He’s sucking that $3.00 per month from my cable bill and yours, 

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It’s Time for the Caps to Make Some Big Moves

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It’s Time for the Caps to Make Some Big Moves

Posted on 15 June 2012 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee held a “State of the Caps” press conference Thursday at Kettler IcePlex in preparation for some important events coming up on the NHL calendar, namely the NHL draft on June 22-23 in Pittsburgh and the beginning of free agency on July 1st.  In addition, McPhee stated that the coaching search is continuing and he is in no rush to hire a new bench boss to replace Dale Hunter, who announced he is returning to his junior team (London Knights) following the Caps second round playoff loss to the Rangers.

It was an insightful session, granted you realize that there was no way McPhee was going to show any of his cards as he prepares for as important an off-season as the Capitals have had in several years. For a quick synopsis of the press conference, I highly recommend Mike Vogel’s Dump ‘n Chase blog.

So why is this such an important off-season for the Capitals?

For me, the team is finally in a salary cap position to re-tool the roster given that high priced players Alexander Semin and Dennis Wideman are set to test the free agent waters. In addition, McPhee has two first round picks in the upcoming draft, the 11th and 16th overall selections. Given the salary cap room and assets in the system, GMGM has a big opportunity to try and obtain the pieces this Capitals team needs to finally get over the hump in the post season.

Since the lockout, McPhee has chosen to go the draft route to build this Capitals team adding free agents or players via trades, when needed. It is a strategy that has worked well in getting Washington to become a consistent playoff team (five years in a row). The Caps have an explosive talent in Alexander Ovechkin and the combination of the Gr8 and winning has seen the Verizon Center become a “place to be,” as evidenced by the fact that the team has sold out 153 consecutive games.

McPhee made mention of that in his press conference, talking about the value of “building from within.” He compared the Los Angeles Kings, who raised Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time ever this past week, to his own club pointing out that significant players Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick were all LA draft picks. Clearly Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, and Braden Holtby form a comparable group for Washington to the Kings crew listed above. Both teams successfully stockpiled picks for several years and used the draft to help build a large portion of the core of their team.

But that is where the comparisons stop for me. After the names listed above the Kings can add Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, and Dustin Penner. Those are four top six forwards to go with Kopitar and Brown and each one was acquired in a trade with the Richards and Carter deals falling in the blockbuster category. Kings GM Dean Lombardi recognized the holes on his top two lines long ago, as LA was reportedly one of the finalists in both the Ilya Kovalchuk (2010 trade deadline) and Brad Richards (summer 2011) sweepstakes, before the Devils and Rangers obtained their respective services. To get each of those top four forwards, Lombardi traded the following:

Richards (acquired summer 2011):  forward Wayne Simmonds (2nd round in 2007), forward Brayden Schenn (1st round & 5th overall in 2009), and a 2012 second round pick

Carter (acquired trade deadline 2012): defensemen Jack Johnson (1st round & 3rd overall in 2005) and a 1st round pick in either 2012 or 2013

Williams (acquired trade deadline 2009): forward Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2nd round pick

Penner (acquired trade deadline 2011): defensemen Colten Teubert (1st round & 13th overall in 2008), a 1st round pick in 2011, and a conditional 2nd round pick

Those four, with Kopitar and Brown are arguably as good a top six group of forwards as any in the league. To get those players Lombardi had to give up assets, high drafted players along with high draft picks. Lombardi has also done well in the free agent market adding key defensemen Rob Scuderi (in 2009 from the Penguins) and Willie Mitchell (in 2010 from the Canucks). McPhee actually had Mitchell in town in 2010 before he eventually inked with the Kings. Simply put, the Kings GM made some very bold moves and took chances to build what is now a championship winning club.

Coaching is important in hockey, but there is no substitute for quality players. Darryl Sutter didn’t start working magic with the Kings until the Carter trade occurred, which gave Los Angeles two scoring lines. As McPhee said in his press conference, the coach he is looking for is one who will get the entire team to buy in. Dale Hunter did that this year with the Caps and they had some success, but in the end they were done in by their inability to score goals. I put that issue on the personnel as the Capitals were essentially a one line team, making it much easier to shut down the Caps big guns.

So the coaching system by itself, in my opinion, is mostly irrelevent, because the major driver in winning or losing is the talent level. As we stand now, assuming Semin leaves, there are at least two, and perhaps three or four, openings on the top two lines. Fill those gaps and whatever coach McPhee brings in can implement whatever system he chooses to try. After all, a coaching system can be changed or tweaked by the bench boss, but you don’t have a lot of opportunities to change the personnel, especially once the season starts. As GMGM stated at his presser on Thursday, the next few weeks seem to be the best time to make moves to improve your club. McPhee said it is not his desired route, he prefers to make changes while games and practices are occurring, but that is the way things have shaken out since the lockout ended and the NHL entered the salary cap era.

In pro sports, consistent winners almost always have a good draft history, so there is no question that is the main building block for a successful organization. The Caps have done that over the last five plus years. However, to get to the elite level and break through to win a championship, it is clear that management needs to take some additional chances. Recent Stanley Cup victories by the Kings, Bruins, Blackhawks, and Penguins bear that out.

GMGM stated last month that he tried to move one of next week’s first round selections for a top six forward at last February’s trade deadline but the return wasn’t deemed great enough that day. So McPhee knows what he needs to do, but coming out and saying that in a press conference now only drives prices up, so it is rare that you’ll hear the GM openly state his intentions.  

Based on the talk on twitter from several NHL insiders just today, the trade market is getting hot again and prices are not likely as high as they were in late February since there are more teams willing to move players. Washington needs an influx of high end players, especially at forward, if they want to challenge for a Stanley Cup.

That is why this offseason is so important for the Capitals. They can’t afford to play on the edges anymore, so McPhee must be aggressive and try to make some big moves to improve the talent level. Hopefully he can find the right dance partners in the coming weeks.

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Caps Set to Face Bruins With Holtby in Goal

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Caps Set to Face Bruins With Holtby in Goal

Posted on 08 April 2012 by Ed Frankovic

The NHL unveiled the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff schedule on Sunday afternoon and the 16 teams that qualified now start 0-0 as they vie for one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports. The Washington Capitals, by virtue of their thrashing of the New York Rangers on Saturday combined with Ottawa’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, ended up in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. As a result they draw the #2 seed, which is none other than the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

Washington will be a heavy underdog in this series but that doesn’t mean a whole lot once the puck is dropped. The Caps had a difficult regular season but for the first time since the first seven games of the season, their skaters are all healthy. Nicklas Backstrom had his best outing in the win over New York since returning from a 40 game absence due to a concussion. Mike Green is as healthy as he is going to be following hernia surgery in January and there are no other major ailments that coach Dale Hunter has to deal with at forward or on defense.

The problem though, is that both goalies Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth are injured leaving rookie Braden Holtby as the likely starter when this series kicks off on Thursday in Beantown. The good news is that Holtby hasn’t played like a rookie and #70 does not represent a big dropoff from Vokoun and Neuvirth. Holtby, who has been compared to a young Olie Kolzig, brings an added dimension with his ability to play the puck. NHL defensemen like a goalie who can do that effectively because it limits the number of times they can be rammed into the back boards by opposing forwards.

It will be up to Hunter and assistant coach Jim Johnson to take advantage of Holtby’s superior stickhandling skills to neutralize a Bruins team that likes to get the puck deep and physically pound their opponent with Milan Lucic and the scrappy Brad Marchand. Boston also has some serious skill up front in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tyler Seguin. Their defense is lead by 2009 Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara and in goal they have two time Vezina trophy winner, Tim Thomas. Boston is a very good team and the Caps will have their hands full, no doubt.

I will have my series preview up later in the week but for now here is the full schedule, including television information, for the first round series:

Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:30 p.m. Washington at Boston TV: CSN, NBCSN, CBC

Saturday, April 14, 2012 3 p.m. Washington at Boston TV: NBC, CBC

Monday, April 16, 2012 7:30 p.m. Boston at Washington TV: CSN, NBCSN, CBC

Thursday, April 19, 2012 7:30 p.m. Boston at Washington TV: CSN, NBCSN, CBC

*Saturday, April 21, 2012 3 p.m. Washington at Boston TV: NBC, CBC

*Sunday, April 22, 2012 TBD Boston at Washington TV: TBD

*Wednesday, April 25, 2012 TBD Washington at Boston TV: TBD

 

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Navy Battles Army Saturday at FedEx Field

Posted on 09 December 2011 by WNST Staff

2011 Navy Football Game Specifics
Game 12 Army (3-8) vs. Navy (4-7) presented by USAA
Date and Kickoff Dec. 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm ET
Location Landover, Md. | FedExField (82,000)
Television CBS
TV Talent Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
Army-Navy Rivalry Click here for more information

Setting the Stage
• Army and Navy will meet for the 112th time and for the first time inside the Capital Beltway when they square off on Saturday, Dec. 10 at FedExField (82,000) in the annual Army-Navy Game presented by USAA.  Kickoff is set for 2:40 pm (ET).
• CBS Sports will broadcast the game around the world on the American Forces Network with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson calling the action.
• CBS Radio/Westwood One will also broadcast the game around the world on American Forces Network with John Tautges on the play-by-play and Eddie George handling the color commentary.
• CBS Sports Network will provide complete coverage surrounding CBS Sports’ broadcast of The Army-Navy Game presented by USAA. The Network will air two special editions of INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL on Saturday prior to the game, INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: ARMY-NAVY MARCH-ON SPECIAL (11:00 am-12:30 pm, ET) and INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: ARMY-NAVY TAILGATE (1:00–2:00 pm, ET).  Hosts Adam Zucker and Molly Qerim will be joined at FedExField by analysts Randy Cross and Brian Jones, as well as special guests from the academies.
• The MARCH-ON SPECIAL features the procession of the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets as they march onto FedExField, while the ARMY-NAVY TAILGATE previews the game with in-depth news and analysis.
• PRELUDE: THE MAKING OF A GAME OF HONOR, a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the SHOWTIME documentary A GAME OF HONOR, airs at 12:30 pm, ET on Saturday.

Pregame
• Army’s Corps of Cadets will march-on at 11:24 am, followed by Navy’s Brigade of Midshipmen at 12:04 pm.
• The Navy Leap Frogs and the Army Golden Knights will jump at 2:19 pm.
• Navy’s fly-by will take place at 2:36 pm, followed by Army’s at 2:37 pm.  Navy’s fly-by will feature four F-18s from Naval Air Station in Oceana, Va.  Army’s fly-by will be four Apache helicopters from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

Army-Navy Storylines
• Navy enters the game having won 11 of the last 12 contests against the Black Knights, including each of the last nine. The nine-consecutive wins marks the longest streak in series history by either team.
• The Mids have won nine in a row in dominant fashion, outscoring the Black Knights, 322-91 (35.8-10.1).  The closest game was in 2006 when Navy defeated Army, 26-14, in Philadelphia.  The Mids have won the last two games by 14 points.
•    A win on Saturday would make Ken Niumatalolo just the fourth coach in school history to start his career 4-0 against Army. Paul Johnson went 6-0 against West Point (2002-07), Wayne Hardin won his first-five games (1959-63) against Army and George Welsh won his first-four contests (1973-76).
• Five of Navy’s seven losses this year have come by a combined total of 11 points. The Mids are just 1-5 in games decided by eight points or less. The five losses in close games are tied for the third most in the country.
•    Four of Navy’s 2011 opponents are either ranked (South Carolina and Southern Miss) or receiving votes (Notre Dame and Rutgers) in the top 25 polls.
•    The Mids have played the nations’ 29th-toughest schedule based on the cumulative records of their opponents to date (58-46, does not include Delaware or Army).
•    Eight of Navy’s 12 opponents have winning records and seven are bowl eligible.  Two of Navy’s four opponents that are not bowl eligible, East Carolina and San Jose State, finished with a 5-7 record.
• Navy is No. 1 in the country in fewest penalties per game (2.4) and penalty yards per game (20.9).  Army is tied for third in the country in fewest penalties (4.0).
• Navy has missed or fumbled the snap on at least one kick (PAT or field goal) in eight of its 11 games this year, including five-straight contests in the month of October.
•    Navy is just 16-15 (.516) away from the friendly confines of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium under Niumatalolo, including a 2-4 (.333) mark this year.
• The Mids are 7-9 (.438) under Niumatalolo with more than one week to prepare, but 3-0 (1.000) against Army.
• Navy is 1-5 (.167) in games decided by eight points or less this year and 13-13 (.500) over the last four years.
• In Navy’s four wins this year, it has outscored the opposition 91-17 in the first half (36-0 in the first quarter, 55-17 in the second quarter).
• In the Mids’ seven losses this year, they have been outscored, 152-66, in the first half (59-10 in the first quarter, 93-56 in the second quarter).
• Navy is 4-2 (.667) in 2011 and 26-4 (.867) over the last four years when scoring first.  The Mids are 0-5 in 2011 and 5-17 (.227) over the last four years when the opponents score first.
• The Mids are 4-0 this season when leading after the first quarter and 0-7 when tied or trailing after the first quarter.  Under Niumatalolo, the Mids are 20-3 (.870) when leading after the first quarter and 11-18 (.379) when trailing or tied after the first stanza.
• Navy is 4-3 (.571) when leading after three quarters.  Entering this season, the Mids were 22-0 under Niumatalolo when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.
• Navy has made 43 trips inside the red zone in its 11 games this season, scoring 33 times (.767), including 27 touchdowns (.628).  The Mids are tied for 86th in the country in red zone offense  (Army is also tied for 86th).
• Navy has played five games this year where it has rushed for less than 300 yards and lost all five.  It is 4-2 (.667) when rushing for more than 300 yards.
• An opposing running back has rushed for over 100 yards in a game against the Mids in eight of 11 contests this year.  In the previous three years, Navy surrendered only nine 100-yard rushing games to opposing running backs.
• Senior defensive end Jabaree Tuani has produced 42-career tackles for a loss, which is tied with David Mahoney (2003-06) for the second most in school history.  He is just two behind record-holder Andy Person (1992-95).
• Tuani has recorded 16 sacks over his four-year career, which is tied with Tyler Tidwell (2004-06) for third on the Mids’ career list.

Close Games In The Army-Navy Series
• 53 of the 111 Army-Navy games (.477) have been decided by eight points or less.  Army has won 24 of those 53, while Navy has scored 22 victories and seven have ended in a tie.
• The last time an Army-Navy game was decided by eight points or less was in 2000 when the Mids defeated the Black Knights, 30-28.

Scouting Army
• Army is 3-8 on the year with victories over Northwestern (21-14), Tulane (45-6) and Fordham (55-0).
• The Black Knights have losses against Northern Illinois (49-26), San Diego State (23-20), Ball State (48-21), Miami of Ohio (35-28), Vanderbilt (44-21), Air Force (24-14), Rutgers (27-12) and Temple (42-14).
• Army comes to Landover with the nation’s top-ranked rushing offense (350.9 yds/gm).  The Black Knights last won the rushing title in 1998 (293.8).  Army’s average of 350.9 yards per game would be the most by a team since Nebraska in 1997 (392.6).
•    The Black Knights are 13th in the country in pass defense (178.1).

The Last Time … 
Navy 31, Army 17    Dec. 11, 2010 | Philadelphia, Pa.
• Senior safety Wyatt Middleton’s 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 1:03 remaining in the second quarter turned what was shaping up to be a close game into a rout as Navy rolled to its ninth win of the year and ninth-straight win over Army, 31-17, at a sold out (69,223) Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.  The 98-yard fumble return was the longest in school history and longest in an Army-Navy game.
• Navy had jumped out to a 17-0 lead as Joe Buckley nailed a 36-yard field goal and quarterback Ricky Dobbs threw touchdown passes of 77 yards to John Howell and 32 yards to Brandon Turner.  The touchdown pass to Howell was the longest pass play in series history.
• The Mids were in total control of the game midway through the second quarter until a pair of Dobbs turnovers gave Army life.
• Dobbs fumbled the ball on first down from his own 23 and it was recovered by Army’s Josh McNary.  Six plays later, Army quarterback Trent Steelman hit Malcolm Brown with a five-yard touchdown pass to cut the Navy lead to 17-7. It was Army’s first touchdown against the Midshipmen since the fourth quarter of the 2006 game.
• Three plays later, Dobbs gave the ball back to Army again as he was stripped by McNary and Stephen Anderson recovered the loose ball at the Army 48.
• The Black Knights methodically moved the ball down the field, taking it 49 yards in 11 plays.   On first and goal from the Navy three, Steelman tried to power his way into the end zone, but senior linebacker Tyler Simmons and senior outside linebacker Jerry Hauburger met Steelman at the two-yard line and Simmons’ knocked the ball from Steelman’s hands.  The ball popped up in the air and flew right to Middleton who raced 98 yards for the back-breaking touchdown.
• Army took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and drove 47 yards on 12 plays with Alex Carlton capping the drive with a 42-yard field goal to make the score 24-10.
• Navy put the game away with a 13-play, 87-yard, 9:03 scoring drive to start the fourth quarter with slot back Gee Gee Greene waltzing in from the 25 to make it 31-10.

Service Academy Dominance
• Navy has amassed a 74-40 (.649) overall record in the last nine years, while Air Force is 62-48 (.564) and Army is 30-77 (.280).

Dominant Era in Army-Navy History
• Navy’s 31-17 victory over Army was its ninth-consecutive win over the Black Knights, the longest streak in series history by either team.
• The Mids have won those nine in a row against Army in dominant fashion, outscoring the Black Knights, 322-91 (35.8-10.1).

Our Nation’s Future Leaders
• Navy’s 33 seniors received their service assignments on Nov. 30. Graduates of the Naval Academy serve a minimum of five years in the Navy or Marine Corps, while pilots serve eight years upon earning their wings.
•    25 seniors will be commissioned Ensigns in the United States Navy (11 Surface Warfare, five Naval Flight Officers, three Surface Warfare Nuclear,  two Intelligence, one Supply Corps, one Submarines, one Pilot and one Special Warfare), while eight will be commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the Marine Corps (seven Marine Corps Ground and one Marine Corps Pilot)
• Graduation for the Class of 2012 is Tuesday, May 29.

Service Assignments For The Class of 2012
Player, Service Assignment
Brian Ackerman, Surface Warfare (Nuclear)
Bruce Andrews, Supply Corps
Ryan Basford, Surface Warfare
Thomas Batchelder, Surface Warfare
Brian Blick, Marine Corps Ground
Max Blue, Marine Corps Ground
Alex Boddiford, Surface Warfare
Hal Bowron, Surface Warfare
Brady DeMell, Surface Warfare
Delvin Diggs, Suface Warfare (Nuclear)
Neil Doogan, USMC Ground
Eric Douglass, Surface Warfare
John Dowd, Submarines
Zach Dryden, Surface Warfare
Doug Furman, Navy Pilot
Mason Graham, Marine Corps Ground
Hal Hunter, Intelligence
Caleb King, Naval Flight Officer
Jared Marks, Marine Corps Ground
John McCauley, Surface Warfare
Kwesi Mitchell, Naval Flight Officer
Gary Myers, Naval Flight Officer
Torri Preston, Marine Corps Ground
Kriss Proctor, Naval Flight Officer
Aaron Santiago, Surface Warfare (Nuclear)
Jarred Shannon, Surface Warfare
Eric Stein, Naval Flight Officer
Mike Stukel, Marine Corps Ground
David Sumrall, Intelligence
Jon Teague, Marine Corps Pilot
Alexander Teich, Special Warfare (SEAL)
Jabaree Tuani, Surface Warfare
David Wright, Surface Warfare

President At The Army-Navy Game
• With this year’s game being played in Washington, D.C., it is appropriate to look back at past Army-Navy games attended by the President of the United States.  It is expected that President Barack Obama will attend this year’s game.
• Eight different Presidents have attended the Army-Navy game a total of 18 times.  Harry S. Truman attended the most Army-Navy games, going to seven straight from 1945-1951.  Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to attend an Army-Navy game, as he attended the 1901 contest.
• Only once have both the President and Vice President attended the Army-Navy game.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson were on hand in Philadelphia.
• Navy is 7-9-2 in games against Army in which the President attends and has won the last two.
• The last time the President attended the Army-Navy game, the Mids dealt Army a 34-0 loss in Philadelphia in 2008 with President George W. Bush looking on.

President Of The United States At The Army-Navy Game
Year    President    Result
1901    Theodore Roosevelt    Army, 11-5
1905    Theodore Roosevelt    Tie, 6-6
1913    Woodrow Wilson    Army, 22-9
1924    Calvin Coolidge    Army, 12-0
1945    Harry Truman    Army, 32-13
1946    Harry Truman    Army, 21-18
1947    Harry Truman    Army, 21-0
1948    Harry Truman    Tie, 21-21
1949    Harry Truman    Army, 38-0
1950    Harry Truman    Navy, 14-2
1951    Harry Truman    Navy, 42-7
1961    John Kennedy    Navy, 13-7
1962    John Kennedy    Navy, 34-14
1974    Gerald Ford    Navy, 19-0
1996    Bill Clinton    Army, 28-24
2001    George W. Bush    Army, 26-17
2004    George W. Bush    Navy, 42-13
2008    George W. Bush    Navy, 34-0

Future Army-Navy Sites Announced
• The city of Philadelphia has been synonymous with the Army-Navy football classic over the years, hosting 82 of the previous 111 service academy battles. Army and Navy will be building on that rich tradition in the years ahead with Philadelphia serving as the host of “America’s Game” for four of the next seven years at Lincoln Financial Field (2012, 2013, 2015, 2017).
•    It was also announced that for the first time in series history the game will be played on the doorstep of the nation’s capital as the 2011 Army-Navy game presented by USAA will be played at FedEx Field, while the 2014 and 2016 games will be played at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
•    The process for securing a long-term home for future Army-Navy football games officially began in August of 2008 with the service academies distributing a formal “Request for Proposal.”
•    The first Army-Navy game was played in 1890 at West Point and the second in Annapolis one year later. In 1899, Philadelphia’s Franklin Field became the game site. The “City of Brotherly Love” has dominated as host city for the Army-Navy game since that time. There have been 14 different venues that have played host to the event, four of those located in Philadelphia and two in Baltimore.
•    Municipal Stadium, renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in 1964, has housed the game the most times – 41 in all – that included 35 straight games between 1945 and 1979. It was first played there in 1936.
•    Franklin Field ranks second on the list of Army-Navy game sites with its total of 18, followed by Veterans Stadium with 17 and the Polo Grounds in New York City with nine. “The Vet” first hosted the game in 1980 and did so through 2001 with all but five exceptions.
•    Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia has hosted the game seven times (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010).
•    Army has also battled Navy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in 1983; at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002; and at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in 2000 and 2007.
•    For the 16th-straight year, CBS Sports will televise the Army-Navy classic to a national and worldwide (via American Forces Network) audience on Dec. 10. The Army-Navy game will be the only major college football game played the second Saturday in December.

Showtime And CBS Sports Team Up To Produce All-Access Docu-Drama On Navy And Army Football
• SHOWTIME Sports and CBS Sports are teaming up for A Game Of Honor, a two-hour exclusive docu-drama revealing an unprecedented look at America’s two oldest military academies – The United States Military Academy and The United States Naval Academy. As the midshipmen and cadets prepare to serve their country and participate in a rivalry unmatched by any other in sports, the Army-Navy football game presented by USAA, SHOWTIME will capture an all-access look at their unique season-long journey. The in-depth docu-drama will be co-produced and promoted by SHOWTIME Sports and CBS Sports in conjunction with CBSSports.com and will premiere Dec. 21 on SHOWTIME, 10 days after this year’s Army-Navy game on CBS, Dec. 10.
•    SHOWTIME will have behind-the-scenes access to both academies and their respective football teams for six months leading up to the Army-Navy game, as well as during the game and immediately following. With so many stories to tell, SHOWTIME will air exclusive content across multiple CBS platforms including a special preview show about the making of the documentary on Wednesday, November 23 on SHOWTIME; with a network television premiere of the preview show on CBS Sports on Dec. 3. In addition, CBSSports.com will air an exclusive 10-episode weekly original web series beginning Oct. 17.
•    The docu-drama and web series will capture the personal stories of this unique group of men who are rivals on the football field and brothers in arms on the battlefield. As the young men at Army and Navy endure a much different athletic experience than other Division I football players, A Game of Honor will capture the dedication, discipline and determination demanded of the cadets and midshipmen who are members of these storied football programs. A Game of Honor reveals their unique journey from summer training to the demands of an elite classroom education to the weekly preparations for the football field, all while training to serve their country in a time of war. This rigorous passage culminates with the playing of the annual Army-Navy game, this year from the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
•    CBS Sports’ Creative Director, Pete Radovich, who also serves as coordinating producer for the Emmy-Award winning SHOWTIME series Inside the NFL, will serve as director of the series. Radovich will co-produce with CBS Sports Coordinating Producer Steve Karasik.
•    ”We are honored to broadcast the Army-Navy football game every year on CBS Sports and thrilled to team with SHOWTIME, CBSSports.com and our long-standing partners at the Naval and Military academies on ‘A Game of Honor,’” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “Using unparalleled access provided by the academies, this project allows us to go in-depth across multiple CBS platforms to tell inspiring, compelling and unique stories — both on and off the field — about the 2011 cadets and midshipmen.”
•    ”Teaming up with CBS on any production or project has always resulted in a big time and first class end result,” said Navy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. “This venture could not be more well received by the Academy and the Athletic Department. The story to be told will be emotional, motivating, inspiring, and featured in a way that it will bring an even greater appreciation for some very special people who are some of our nation’s and intercollegiate athletics’ finest leaders.”

Navy Partners with Nike for Army-Navy Game Uniform
•    Before their fight songs ring throughout the stadiums and they storm the fields, nine of the top college football programs will lace their cleats and buckle their chin straps while donning uniquely designed, highly advanced Nike uniforms for at least one game during the 2011-12 season.
•    The fully integrated uniform system, which the University of Oregon debuted during the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, incorporates the latest in performance innovation and design from the world’s most renowned athletic outfitter.  The redesigned base layer facilitates the uniform’s overall innovation, delivering the ultimate in lightweight protection for maximum speed. Strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones also help minimize distraction and optimize protective coverage.
•    The teams selected to sport the 2011 Nike Pro Combat system of dress uniforms include Army, Boise State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Navy, Ohio State, Oregon, and Stanford.
•    While each school’s uniform delivers the same superior lightweight performance and protection, each will tell a different story through its design. Nike worked closely with each university to bring relevant elements of the school’s rich heritage into a distinguished, modern uniform design. The uniforms capture each team’s unique character.
•    ”The support and positive relationship that Navy athletics has enjoyed over the years with Nike is extraordinary.” Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said. “Being a part of this exciting initiative further illustrates the mutual respect that is so much a part of the way we present our product.  The Midshipmen are inspired by the technical innovations and appearance that Nike puts forth through the presentation of their equipment and apparel.  Nike continues to motivate all of our teams to compete at the highest level with great success.  This year, the Army-Navy Game will be a showcase for the direction that our partnership will be heading in the future.”
•    The integrated uniform system provides enhanced durability and innovation from the inside out.  Robust padding without the bulk offers optimal low-profile impact protection specifically throughout the crucial “hit zone” between the knees and shoulders. Nike Pro Combat Deflex padding has also been integrated in the hip and knee areas of the pant for crucial impact protection that stays in place. The base layer now features customizable protection, incorporating a thin, incredibly strong carbon fiber plate that can be placed on the thigh padding where needed.
•    The uniform system design also emphasizes improved thermoregulation, including the Nike Pro Combat Deflex padding layer, which is constructed with fabric selected for its ability to help keep the body cool and wick away sweat – making the uniform, and player, lighter and dryer. The jerseys are made of four-way stretch woven twill that sheds moisture. A Flywire collar eliminates two layers of fabric for improved breathability, providing a more stable anchor to keep the jersey in place.

Dowd A Finalist For The William V. Campbell Trophy
• Navy senior guard John Dowd is one of 16 college football players named to the 2011 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class and is now a finalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the nation’s premier scholar-athlete.
•    The NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. This year’s class members find themselves in good company, as past National Scholar-Athletes include former NFL standout Derrick Brooks (Florida St.); actor Mark Harmon (UCLA); NASA astronaut Leland Melvin (Richmond); former Dateline NBC anchor Stone Phillips (Yale); chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, Billy Payne (Georgia); famed NFL quarterback Steve Young (BYU); and Heisman Trophy winners Terry Baker (Oregon St.), Gary Beban (UCLA), Doug Flutie (Boston College) and Tim Tebow (Florida).
•    Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, and one of the 16 will be announced as the 22nd recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy. Named in honor of Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, former player and head coach at Columbia and the 2004 recipient of the NFF’s Gold Medal, the award comes with a 25-pound bronze trophy and a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.
•    Nominated by their schools, which are limited to one nominee each, candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a grade point average of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The 127 semifinalists for the award were announced on Sept. 29.

Dowd Named One Of 10 Finalists For The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award
• Navy senior offensive guard John Dowd has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.  Dowd is a three-year letterwinner and two-year starter at offensive guard for the Mids and carries a 3.91 GPA in Mechanical Engineering.  He is a two-time Academic All-American and has a chance to become the first Navy football player in school history to be named a First-Team Academic All-American in consecutive years.
•    An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
•    Fan votes, which were conducted through Dec. 5, will be combined with media and Div. I FBS head coaches’ votes to determine the winner.
•    Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS Award® winner during the 2011 football bowl season. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs won the award last year.

Football Bowl Subdivision Finalists For The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award
Emmanuel Acho, Linebacker, Texas
Jake Bequette, Defensive End, Arkansas
Drew Butler, Punter, Georgia
Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Michigan State
Austin Davis, Quarterback, Southern Miss
John Dowd, Guard, Navy
Chase Minnifield, Cornerback, Virginia
Dan Persa, Quarterback, Northwestern
Nate Potter, Offensive Tackle, Boise State
Dawson Zimmerman, Punter, Clemson

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Caps Fall in Hunter’s Debut

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Caps Fall in Hunter’s Debut

Posted on 29 November 2011 by Ed Frankovic

“Baby steps,  I’m doing the work!”  – Bill Murray in What About Bob?

Baby steps. That is where the Washington Capitals are right now after losing 2-1 to a very good St. Louis Blues team at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Nicklas Backstrom scored an early goal on a nice feed from Alexander Ovechkin but defensive zone breakdowns led to two Blues tallies to spoil Dale Hunter’s coaching debut. The Caps are now 12-10-1 and will face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night in DC.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis of a game that saw the Blues improve to 8-1-2 since they hired Ken Hitchcock to be their new coach:

- The Caps played with energy tonight, but it wasn’t focused in the right places. They didn’t get enough phyiscal pressure on the Blues defense and they weren’t getting to the front of the Blues net to create in close scoring chances. They started slow and got better as the game went on, which is understandable given the system tweaks and emotional roller coaster they have endured in the last 48 hours with the coaching change. However, it was not enough to get a victory.

“It happens with transition. They don’t have it down pat yet and I think they got better as the game went on and they competed real hard. That’s the most important thing and that’s what you need to [do to] win,” commented Hunter on his teams execution on Tuesday.

“When you play for a coach for four or five years, you get used to certain things and when somebody else comes in and switches it up, some things on the ice just become second nature and now you have to think a little more and adjust on the fly a little more. The habits of work ethic, supporting the puck, moving your feet, getting pucks out, getting pucks in, those sorts of habits should stay with us. [We’ve] just got to try to pick up a few more good ones,” added Brooks Laich on how the change behind the bench impacted the Caps play.

- On the first Blues goal, both Joel Ward and Jason Chimera made costly giveaways on the same shift and the result was a TJ Oshie tally that tied the game up just five and a half minutes after the Capitals had grabbed a first period lead. The game winning goal came off of a big Tomas Vokoun (28 saves) rebound and Dennis Wideman missed the puck above the crease trying to tie up Patrick Berglund. #21 moved the puck to Matt D’Agostini who took the biscuit around the cage and wrapped it home 8:54 into period two. That would be all St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak (18 saves) would need to prevail at the Verizon Center once again. Defensive zone lapses have been something that has plagued Washington this year and it cost them again. Overall though, the Caps did a better job of limiting odd man rushes, something Buffalo and other opponents have feasted on recently against them. So despite the breakdowns, there was some improvement in the defensive play of the Caps on Tuesday.

“I thought we limited chances pretty well, better than we have in the last two weeks. We still have room to improve – the goals against. Our two mistakes, our line was on for one of them. That puck [has] got to get out twice, we didn’t get it out and it winds up in the back of our net, so it’s baby steps,” added Laich, who was the center with Ward and Chimera on the first goal.

- Alexander Semin (2 shots, 3 takeaways, only 1 giveaway, no penalties) had one of his better games since early in the season. He worked hard and competed on the boards. Hunter put him on the ice in the final minute and he nearly helped get Washington the game tying goal by out battling a couple of Blues in the corner. #28 had only 14:37 of ice time and his Russian friend, Ovechkin, only logged 16:46 but #32 had some good logic on why the Gr8′s ice time was what it was.

“In the second period there were a lot of penalties and he wasn’t killing, so he didn’t play as much. I thought he was pretty much out there a lot in the third,” said Hunter.

- St. Louis is really playing well and they do a great job of skating and taking away time and space. They put enormous back pressure on the opposition and it is easy to see why they are rolling right now. They deserve a lot of credit for why the Caps were held to only 19 shots.

“We played a heck of a hockey game. We created a lot of scoring chances. We didn’t give up anything in two periods. We created a lot for ourselves and we’re starting to dial in the way we need to play to win hockey games. When you play this well, it’s a good feeling,” said Hitchcock, a Stanley Cup winning coach with the Dallas Stars in 1999, after the contest.

- So the Caps recent losing ways continue but there were some things to like in this game. Hunter was fairly upbeat afterwards with his final analysis and Ovechkin wasn’t hitting any panic buttons either.

“Next step [is] to play hard like we play tonight, especially in the third period. I think, I would say, energy was there, we make some hits, we did what he [Coach Dale Hunter] ask us to do and I think if we going to play the same way we going to get some success,” finished the Gr8.

Once again, baby steps.

Notes: The Caps had 8 shots in the last 20 minutes after getting only 11 in the first 40. Backstrom had a great chance to tie it up late with Vokoun pulled but couldn’t connect…Washington lost the face-off battle 22-21 but that was decent considering they lost eight of the first 11 draws…Marcus Johansson sustained a hand stinger in period two and missed a lot of time. He played only 11:02 as a result…John Carlson led the team in ice time with 23:30 but he did go back lazily late in the third period to allow a Blues forward to beat him to the puck and wipe out what would have been icing. I imagine Hunter will let #74 hear about that one…St. Louis out hit the Caps 35-32. Ovechkin had 4 hits as did Chimera…the Blues went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Caps were 0 for 1 in only 20 seconds of man advantage time…after the game the Capitals announced that former Washington defensemen Jim Johnson will take over for Bob Woods as an assistant coach. Johnson’s job is obviously to get the defensemen to play better.

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Caps Beat Pens Thanks to Vokoun

Posted on 13 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

When Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee signed Tomas Vokoun last July, there was a lot of talk about the Caps getting a goalie who could flat out steal games. Well on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, that is exactly what happened as Vokoun made 39 saves to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 overtime victory. Defensemen Dennis Wideman netted the game winner on Washington’s only power play of the contest after Penguins forward James Neal had tied this one up at two on the power play with 3:45 left in regulation.

Here are the highlights and analysis of a game that saw the Penguins dominate most of the contest:

- Michal Neuvirth likely would have had this start given his recent success against the Pens, but when he came down with a lower body injury that forced the Caps to recall Braden Holtby from Hershey today and give Vokoun the chance to get wins in consecutive starts. The 35 year old Czech delivered, building on his great OT and shootout performance in Monday’s 6-5 victory over Tampa Bay. Vokoun didn’t have to be spectacular but he was very solid and didn’t give the Penguins many second chances. If the Caps can improve their play in their own end, and they were pretty bad tonight, just think how good this goalie could be for this team?

- Evgeni Malkin had an outstanding game for Pittsburgh. His two cross ice seam passes set up James Neal’s two tallies. One of the reasons #71 was able to make those plays is because the Washington players were not playing positionally sound or smart in their own end. On the first goal, both Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson chase the puck carrier leaving the back side open. In the first three games we’ve seen opponents exploit the Capitals habit of over chasing and/or watching the puck carrier. The Capitals have to learn to play better without the puck in their own zone and clog the passing lanes and not over commit. I imagine Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe will be showing lots of video on Friday to try and correct these d-zone breakdowns.

- The Capitals players have talked about being the team with the better work ethic in every game. Tonight they were soundly defeated in that category. The Penguins out shot the Caps 12-3 in the first period and 18-3 in the third. It was only in the middle frame that the Capitals had the upper hand, outshooting Pittsburgh, 11-9. I am not sure why the Capitals were so flat early on but one of the reasons for the third period letdown was the Arron Asham-Jay Beagle fight. Beagle had just coincidentally knocked off the helmet of Kris Letang, which would earn him a roughing penalty, and Asham took exception calling on #83 to fight. Beagle, who is definitely not a fighter, but as he told me on media day last Thursday knows he will need to do so at times, was floored with a couple of rights and went to the ice bleeding. He had to be helped off of the rink afterwards but that didn’t stop Asham from making a couple of classless gestures. Asham admitted after the game that he got caught up in the moment, but still, to celebrate after knocking out a non-fighter was totally uncalled for. The fight clearly negatively impacted the Capitals, who had played 25 decent minutes of hockey in a row, since they struggled mightily the rest of the way until overtime.

- Alexander Ovechkin, after a subpar opening two games, made a difference in this one. He deflected in Green’s point shot early in the third period to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead and he drew the only penalty officially called on the Penguins in the game. That came in overtime when he faked Jordan Staal out of his jock in the neutral zone and #11 tripped the Gr8. On the 4 on 3 power play Green hit the right pipe but on the ensuing rush Wideman took a nice feed from Nicklas Backstrom (two assists) and buried it past former Capitals goalie Brent Johnson (16 saves).

- When you are outworked, you normally will find yourself on the short end of the stick in total number of power plays. The Penguins received five while Washington only had one, although I do think the Pens got away with a few things, especially some goalie interference by Chris Kunitz. In addition, Tyler Kennedy did hit Backstrom in the head in the third period, similiar to the Beagle shot on Letang, although #19′s lid stayed on so maybe it didn’t look so bad to the blurry eyed zebras? (Note: the referees initially waved off Ovechkin’s goal, they thought it hit the cross bar). It is hard to argue about the calls against the Caps, they were of the lazy or not too smart variety. Brooks Laich’s cross check on Malkin came after a failed clear. What made that situation even worse was that Green already had lost his stick so what the Caps should’ve done was ice the puck.  Instead they got running around and eventually found themselves shorthanded. The last penalty though, on Troy Brouwer, might have been the worst. The Caps were up a goal and he needlessly hauled down a Pens player in the neutral zone. That one ended up allowing Neal to tie the game. Brouwer did make a nice play on Ovechkin’s goal, he was in front of Johnson battling with Zbynek Michalek providing traffic.

- In summary, the Caps were fortunate to win this contest and move to 3-0. Washington has been playing with fire by going to extra time in each tilt and they have had some very poor play in their own zone. The good news though, is they are getting balanced production in their lineup and Boudreau is not having to put his big guns out on the ice for extended minutes. Green has already seen a reduction in his ice time and that should only keep him fresher and hopefully injury free.

Notes: Steve Whyno of The Washington Times tweeted that Asham had 83 career NHL fights while this was Beagle’s first…the Caps lost the faceoff battle 26-23 but Jeff Halpern went 6-2…Mike Knuble scored the Caps first goal by crashing the net hard…Karl Alzner had another strong game and picked up his third assist of the season…the Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, although he has been cleared for contact effective today, and defensemen Brooks Orpik…Washington is now 11-0-2 in their last 13 regular season games against Pittsburgh (h/t @SkyKerstein of DC’s 106.7 THE FAN)…next up for the Caps are the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

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