Tag Archive | "Kings"

A furious Capitals rally from a three goal deficit forces overtime, before Jeff Carter ends it for the Kings in the extra session.

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Caps Rally from Three Down But Fall in OT to the Kings, 4-3

Posted on 10 March 2016 by Ed Frankovic

Do not go to sleep on the Washington Capitals, ever.

On Wednesday night, the Caps rallied from a 3-0 third period hole to force overtime at the Staples Center before losing, 4-3, on Jeff Carter’s goal when a Capitals player headed to the bench on a bad line change giving the Kings an odd man rush.

Wow, what another thriller!

The Caps, who played the first period like they were still shopping on Rodeo Drive, trailed by three pucks after just 13:26. Washington once again was penalized by the zebras early in a game for the 10,000th straight time and after a failed clear on the penalty kill, a pinballing puck shot from the point hit notorious Cap killer Vinny Lecavlier on the way to the net and past Braden Holtby (26 saves). It was the 12th time in the last 14 games that the opposition scored on the Caps first.

The Holtbeast made several other big stops in the opening frame, but with the Capitals over pressing to tie things up, they made an offensive zone blue line turnover that allowed the Kings to get a three on two rush. Defensemen Jake Muzzin jumped up in the play and Tanner Pearson gave #6 a nice drop pass that he snapped top shelf by Holtby to make it 2-0.

Shortly thereafter, with the Capitals again trying to press the play, Karl Alzner lost the puck down low and the forward covering for him, Evgeny Kuznetsov, decided to freeze at the top of the right wing circle instead of turning and heading back on defense, as he is supposed to do. The result was a three on one for the Kings that Milan Lucic buried for his 16th goal of the season.

Perhaps you could partially fault Holtby on the second goal, but not the other two. He also made several other big saves on Los Angeles quality chances, otherwise it would’ve been at least four or five to zip.

It was another dud of a first frame for Washington, there’s no two ways about. They were outskated, outshot (14-6), and outplayed.

But in 2015-16 Capitals fashion, they never gave up. They had some super chances in period two, but couldn’t connect as the biscuit was just not bouncing their way. The shots on net after 40 minutes were 21-13 for the guys in black, but it was 7-7 in the middle stanza, so the tide was turning.

Three goals down heading into the final frame at 12:30 am, it’s time to go to bed on the east coast, right? I mean this Capitals team isn’t coming back from three down against one of the best squads in the NHL, right?

Since the Caps were in LA, I think it’s only fitting that we quote the great Jack Nicholson from a Few Good Men here, “You’re <blankety blank> right they did!” [Sorry, this is a kids friendly blog, so I won’t give you the exact quote, but you get the message, right?]

Shame on you if you bailed, because the Caps totally stormed the castle in that third period getting back in it on a goal just 1:46 in from T.J. Oshie on their only power play of the game, to three for the Kings (thanks for nothing Francois “You really should be selling ties” St. Laurent). Marcus Johansson made a nice play in front, after a Matt Niskanen shot, to keep the puck alive before #77 snapped it home.

Washington continued to swarm like bees around honey and with just over nine minutes remaining, Oshie made a brilliant pass to Alexander Ovechkin in front of Jonathan Quick (29 saves). Ovi was cut off so he tried a spin move and the fired puck hit off of the Kings defender in front right to Nicklas Backstrom. Nicky promptly buried it to end his 18 game goalless drought and put all LA fans at the Staples Center on edge, as they rightly should’ve been at that point, against the powerhouse Capitals.

Kuznetsov (1 assist) then had a glorious chance in the slot to tie the game up, but Rob Scuderi made a sprawling dive to cut #92 off and send the puck wide of the net. The Caps would not let up and their relentless pressure paid off soon after as Dmitry Orlov tied the contest with 3:22 to go on as pretty a play as you will see. Kuznetsov carried the puck in the zone and fed Justin Williams, who hit Orlov at the right point. #9 then weaved his way through several Kings defenders with amazing grace and stick handling before putting a quick, but deadly backhander past Quick. It was an amazing tally.

The Caps would then pressure the Kings for the last three plus minutes of regulation, but couldn’t convert on the game winner.

Both teams received a point and off to overtime we went. It was a sensational extra session with both teams having great chances, including Johansson just barely missing top shelf on a quality chance. As is usually the case, those misses cost you and the Kings scored on their ensuing possession after Jojo made a bad decision to change without his team having the puck, giving Los Angeles a three on two that Carter finished off.

Wow, what a game!

This Capitals team just never quits. It doesn’t matter how bad they start, they always seem to find the extra gears to get back in the contest to either win or at least salvage a point. They do that by wearing their opponents out, which should not happen when you are playing your sixth game in nine nights or seventh in 11!

But this team is great.

Sure it was a loss, but given the way they battled back to force overtime, it feels like a win. If they can just get some better pregame locker room tunes going so they start games off stronger, then they might never lose again. So somebody please yank the Barry Manilow CD or whatever other bad music (Kanye West?) is in there out of the boom box before puck drop in San Jose on Saturday night (10:30 pm on Comcast Sportsnet).

So the Caps finished off their seven games in 11 nights stretch going 4-2-1.

To quote Max Cherry from the 1997 movie Jackie Brown, they are like The Delfonics, “They’re pretty good.”

In there was a string of four games in five nights, plus a west coast flight. This squad should have had no gas left in the tank for a comeback on Wednesday night, but they somehow did. They have perseverance and incredible pride. They know that if they right the ship and start playing the “north-south” game their coach desires, they will eventually get results.

On Wednesday in LA, they took a costly 20 minutes off from playing Capitals hockey, but kudos to them for never quitting and putting one heck of a scare into a two time Stanley Cup winning hockey club.

Notes: Johansson and Oshie led the Caps with five shots on goal each. Ovechkin had four, three of which came after the first 40 minutes…Niskanen led the Caps in ice time with 28:22…the Caps lost the face off battle, 37-29…shot attempts were 60-53 for the Capitals, thanks to the furious third period rally when the Caps out shot Los Angeles, 18-6, in shots on net…the Kings presented separate video tributes to both Williams and Mike Richards, who each played their first game as visitors in the City of Angels since winning two Stanley Cups for Coach Darryl Sutter …Washington is now 49-13-5 (103 points). The league should have the Presidents’ Trophy engraved already.

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In a thrilling late night game in Cali, the Capitals emerge victorious in the shootout, 2-1.

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Braden Holtby Ends the Ducks’ 11 Game Winning Streak

Posted on 08 March 2016 by Ed Frankovic

Braden Holtby allowed a goal to Ryan Getzlaf that he probably wanted back just one minute into the game on a delayed penalty call on Alex Ovechkin, but that was all the Ducks would get the rest of the night. Washington’s Andre Burakovsky tied the contest just 41 seconds into the third period and after overtime solved nothing, the Caps won in the shootout to halt Anaheim’s 11 game winning streak, 2-1.

Wow. Wow. Wow!

That was one incredible hockey game that was well worth staying up for!

It was physical; there were great end to end rushes, quality scoring chances, and some outstanding goaltending at both ends of the rink. John Gibson made 31 saves, robbing Justin Williams at least four times in this one, to carry the Ducks to the gimmick. Holtby held up his end of the bargain, as well, stopping 27 shots and he looked like early season Holtbeast. He made several huge stops, at key times, and he didn’t give up many rebounds. It was easily his best game since at least the all star break.

Williams, who was Comcast’s player of the game, did get an assist on the tying goal by Burakovsky. That second unit was all over the Ducks the entire evening and their only flaw was failing to pull the trigger when they had some great looks. Both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Burakovsky were guilty of overpassing on several occasions.

Each team played well and it is easy to see why the Ducks had been on a tear. They are extremely good and play a style that is conducive to lower scoring games. They have speed and size, just like Washington, so this was really an even matchup.

Mike Richards and his linemates, Daniel Winnik and Jay Beagle had another strong contest, especially in the third period when the Caps carried most of the play. #10 picked off a “D to D” pass with a minute to go and nearly won the game on a sweet backhander. Gibson, once again, kept his club in it.

The overtime saw the Caps carry the majority of the possession as they worked their three man cycle and overlap style very well. Matt Niskanen nearly won the game again for Washington with a sweet move to the net, but Gibson stopped his backhander in tight. The Capitals received a power play in OT when the Ducks were called for too many dudes, but just 16 seconds into that T.J. Oshie was called for closing his hand on the puck. Three on three continued without a decision, although the pace was frantic and heart pumping.

In the shootout, Holtby had two snazzy glove saves while Oshie made one of his sick head fake, then backhand roof job moves to give the Caps the edge early. Kuznetsov then had a chance to win the game, but despite beating Gibson, he shot wide. Corey Perry would deliver for Anaheim with a sweet backhand move of his own with the game on the line. Enter Nicklas Backstrom, who skated in calmly and coolly, faked going blocker side to open up the Ducks goaltender like a can of beans, and then #19 slid the puck on the ice between Gibson’s legs to silence the Honda Center. The Swedish assassin was quiet and deadly with his work and Washington earned another big victory against one of the NHL’s elite.

The exhilarating triumph improves the Caps to a 49-13-4 record, good for 102 points. That is just out of this world and even more impressive is that this was the Capitals fifth game in seven nights and they navigated that stretch at 4-1, including flying cross country on Sunday.

This group is clearly special and they once again shook off a rocky start to improve as the game went on. They were emotionally involved in the contest after the opening shift and they were winning many of the loose puck battles against a super hockey club.

There was just a ton to like about this victory, and perhaps, most importantly, was the way their goalie rallied after allowing an early goal to close the door with numerous ten bell saves.

Yes, the Holtbeast was back on the prowl on Monday night in a huge Capitals victory in Anaheim.

Notes: Burakovsky now has 23 points in his last 25 games…both teams went 0 for 4 on the power play in 6:16 of time. Washington’s PK was outstanding holding Anaheim to just 1 power play shot! The Caps man advantage efforts in regulation were superb and generated seven shots on goal, but Gibson was the difference…the Ducks won the faceoff battle, 29-22, although Kuznetsov went 8-6…Ovechkin had 0 shots on goal through 40 minutes but had four in the third period and one great chance in overtime that was denied by Gibson…Williams also had five shots on net…Niskanen played 27:05 to lead all skaters…Mike Weber had eight hits for the Caps. Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov also had five each. The Ducks were credited with 43 hits to 33 for Washington…next up for the Caps are the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center at 10:30 on Wednesday night.

 

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A Matt Niskanen shot leads to the third game winning Caps goal this week.

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Grubauer Leads the Caps to the Century Mark in Points

Posted on 05 March 2016 by Ed Frankovic

Coming off of a tough loss to the despised New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals were set to play their fourth game in five nights in Beantown against a red hot Bruins club. To win, they would need effort from everyone on the roster and superb goaltending.

They received both of those.

Matt Niskanen’s rocket 2:36 into overtime beat Tuukka Rask (28 saves) as the Capitals rode some stellar goaltending from Philipp Grubauer (33 saves) to defeat Boston for the sixth straight time, 2-1.

This was one heck of a hockey game after the Capitals dominated the Rangers on Friday night, but lost due to some big mistakes. Washington had a good start on Saturday, however, it was one of those big mistakes that led to the opposition scoring first, once again. The Caps top line got caught out of position in their own zone and then an unfortunate bounce off of Nicklas Backstrom’s skate went Patrice Bergeron’s way and he deposited the biscuit into the cage just 7:11 into the game. Grubauer had no chance on that one.

Overall, though, it was a solid road period for the Caps and they were unlucky to trail, having outshot the Bruins, 9-7.

In the middle frame, things got very dicey, very quickly. The Bruins appeared to take a 2-0 lead on a rebound goal where the Capitals coverage broke down, but the Washington video coaches notified Coach Barry Trotz that they thought the play was offsides. Sure enough, Loui Eriksson’s skate was up in the air on zone entry and the goal was wiped out.

After surviving that, the next turning point occurred when Alex Ovechkin was given a questionable major for boarding by the overreacting Wes McCauley (the same referee who incorrectly whistled Tom Wilson for a match penalty against Ottawa earlier in the year). Brad Marchand earned a roughing call to negate the first two minutes of the major, but after Mike Richards, who was fabulous in this game, made a great steal and rush up the ice, Wilson was correctly called for interference. That gave the Bruins a five on three advantage for one minute and 49 seconds. Grubauer was spectacular in that sequence and he had some assists from the iron as the B’s hit a couple of posts.

Washington would ride the momentum from that big PK and Karl Alzner scored after carrying the puck deep in the offensive zone. #27 battled along the left wing boards and Ovechkin came in and snagged the biscuit. Ovi alertly spotted Backstrom in the far slot and then #19, with Alzner heading to the net, put one right on King Karl’s stick and he directed it home to tie things up.

The Caps gathered energy from that tying goal and kept pushing, but yet another mental mistake led to a too many dudes infraction. The Capitals penalty killing unit, which was a perfect five for five in 8:09 of shorthanded time, did the job.

As a result of all of the penalties, the Bruins had 20 shots on net in that middle frame, yet the game was still tied heading into the third period.

Normally the team playing the fourth game in five nights would be the one hanging on, but it was the other way around in this one as the Capitals carried the play with 10 shots on goal to just four for Boston. Each team had three minutes of power play time but neither could convert setting the stage for the OT.

In extra time, each club would generate three shots each, but then Marcus Johansson made a strong offensive zone entry and fed Andre Burakovsky just inside the blue line. Young Burra then made a nice cut across move and dropped the puck to Niskanen, who had just come off the bench on a change, and #2 just hammered it past Rask on overtime shot lucky number seven. It was the third time this week that a “Niscannon” blast led to the game winning goal (Oshie tipped his shot home in the win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Niskanen had the GWG against Toronto on Wednesday).

Wow, this was some great hockey game!

It was physical, Wilson fought Adam McQuaid in the first frame, and it was played at a high tempo, end to end pace. Coach Trotz’ crew worked hard all evening and afterwards he commended everyone’s “battle.” Battled was the right word because the Bruins love to play heavy hockey, as do the Caps. For some reason, Washington just seems to get the better of Boston ever since the 2012 playoff series victory. Normally it is Braden Holtby who terrorizes them, but on this night it was Grubauer who did the damage.

The victory improves the Capitals to the century mark in points at 48-13-4. They have an 18 point lead in the Metropolitan Division and are 15 points over the top clubs in the Western Conference. The NHL can just start engraving the Presidents’ Trophy now.

But that is not the hardware this club wants and their play over the weekend, despite losing to the Rags, is encouraging. They were emotionally involved in both hockey games after snoozing through many previous tilts. They still have some things to clean up, but overall the effort was back, and big credit for that goes to the newly cobbled fourth line of Richards, Jay Beagle, and Daniel Winnik. Those guys have pretty much tilted the ice for Washington since they’ve been put together this week. You can’t underestimate what a difference having a line like that makes now and will add in the post season since Coach Trotz can put any of his four lines out on the ice against any opposition line because this club is so deep. General Manager Brian MacLellan, who fixed the blue line in the summer of 2014, and the top six forwards in the summer of 2015, has now, along with Coach Trotz, fixed the bottom six forwards since the beginning of the season with the Richards signing and Winnik trade.

On Sunday, the Capitals will fly to California (I’m going back to Cali, Cali…) for a very difficult three game stretch against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks, the top three clubs in the Pacific Division. It starts on Monday night at 10 against a Ducks squad that has won 11 games in a row to pull a Linda Rondstadter (Blue Bayou, h/t Gary McCord) on the Kings.

To beat these three left coast powerhouses the Capitals will need the type of effort they had against Boston while minimizing the big mistakes.

Get your rest and your caffeine ready for the late night week ahead.

Notes: Niskanen, who was +2, led the Caps in ice time with 26:48…Ovechkin, despite the bogus major penalty, seemed more like himself in this one with nine shot attempts and five shots on goal. He and Zdeno Chara had their usual battle and #33 was called for roughing late in the game for trying to take Ovi’s head off. The Gr8 will face another one of his “buddies” on Monday in Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks…the Caps lost the face off battle, 29-26. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was fabulous despite scoring no goals on seven shots on net, was 8-4…Brooks Orpik logged 22:30 but was cut late in regulation on a clean hit by the Bruins. T.J. Oshie also got hit high early by Chara in this one and stayed in the game…given the “battle” of this contest, it’s safe to say that the Caps will be eating rocks for breakfast on Sunday morning before their all day flight to California.

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The Caps play a terrible 2nd period that ultimately dooms them in Dallas.

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Caps Third Period Rally Falls Short Against Dallas

Posted on 13 February 2016 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals played, by far, their worst period of the season in the second frame on Saturday night in Dallas, giving up 17 shots on net and four goals to fall behind 4-0 after 40 minutes.

The Caps went totally against what makes them successful in that middle frame. They tried soft, cross ice passes instead of getting pucks deep. As a result, they could not take advantage of their size and skill down low which provided the super fast Stars with several odd man rushes that they capitalized on.

Braden Holtby did all he could to keep Dallas at bay, but he could not be faulted on all four of the goals against since two were on three on one breaks, one came from in front by one of the best scorers in the NHL in Jamie Benn when he was not covered properly, and the fourth tally was on a two man advantage power play where one of the Capitals penalty killers also lost his stick.

It was as ugly a period as the Caps have played all season long. It all started with a bad decision by the Caps inside their offensive blue line. Instead of dumping a puck down low and creating a two on one advantage situation, the Washington forward chose to go cross ice and Dallas was off to the races. That sequence started what seemed like wave after wave of Capitals turnovers leading to Stars chances.

Shortly after it was 2-0, the Caps Andre Burakovsky had a seemingly open cage to cut the lead to one and the shot was somehow stopped. Moments later the Stars were gifted another three on one when a Caps defenseman tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone and was pick pocketed. That made it 3-0, and then when Washington took two bad offensive zone penalties, the Stars cashed in late to make it 4-0.

Holtby, who deserved much better than the garbage play in front of him to that point, was relieved for the final frame to get Philipp Grubauer some work.

The reaction on twitter from several skeptics within and outside the Caps fan base was somewhat predictable during the second intermission. People were spouting off about how the Caps losing to Dallas, for the second time this season, showed they couldn’t beat the best teams in the NHL and that they weren’t for real.

Are you kidding me?

We can check the ledger with the court reporter, but if I’m not mistaken the team that has won three of the last six Stanley Cups, the Chicago Blackhawks, were defeated by the Caps in their only meeting back in October. But narratives rarely focus on the facts on twitter, especially from the haters and non-believers, so my message after 40 minutes to those who were bailing on the team after one bad period was: “Good riddance and don’t come back.” Washington, win or lose in Dallas, was still going to be the best team in the NHL.

“Best team in the NHL” is what showed up in the third period as the Capitals stormed back like Miracle Max had given them all magic healing pills. Alex Ovechkin started it with a laser from the Ovi spot on the power play to record his league leading 35th tally and get the ball rolling for Washington.

Justin Williams then atoned for his poor play on the first goal and made it 4-2 from in tight with just over 12 minutes to go. Then, after Ovechkin was flat out robbed by Kari Lehtonen (20 saves), Andre Burakovsky buried a sweet feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov (two assists) to cut the deficit to just one puck with 6:06 left.

For the final six minutes the Caps had numerous chances and it took fortunate stops from “LUCK-onen” on Burakovsky, John Carlson, and Williams to maintain the Stars lead. Finally, with Grubauer pulled for the extra attacker, it took the right goal post on a Tom Wilson shot in the slot and then the linesman getting in the way after a face off win to take Ovechkin off of the puck with 30 seconds left for Dallas to escape with a 4-3 win.

The loss, just Washington’s 10th of the season in regulation, drops them to 40-10-4 (84 points). They still lead the NHL in points and are the best team in the NHL. The Stars have 15 regulation losses and no other club is closer in that department.

Losing was tough for the Caps and the critics will likely be out, especially those who despise Ovechkin and this franchise, but I don’t really care. Washington proved to all watching, and hopefully most importantly to themselves, that when they play their brand of hockey, which is getting pucks in deep on the opponent via proper zone entries, solid puck support, and strong, hard passes, that they are unbeatable.

That’s right; I said the Caps are unbeatable when they play the right way. In the second period, they played the wrong way. They tried the “easy game” where you don’t pay the price physically and mentally that’s necessary to win hockey games. You can’t play that way and beat anyone, let alone one of the top clubs in the Western Conference.

So on Saturday night, the Caps hopefully learned a good lesson or were simply reminded (after all, they’ve won 40 times this season in 54 games) about what is needed to be successful. Sure they received zero points, but when Coach Barry Trotz and his assistants show the team the tape of this one and point out the good and the bad, it will be clear as day as to how they need to play if they want to win the trophy I know they badly want in June.

In February, you can try the “easy game,” it probably won’t work, but when you have a big standings lead and are two months from the playoffs, it doesn’t hurt you in the near term. But playing the way they did in the 3rd period was a great reminder to Ovechkin and company that there is one recipe for success in the NHL and that is for a team to play to their strengths. For the final 20 minutes, it was “heavy hockey” city for Washington and that allowed their skill to take over the game. That’s the way Coach Trotz wants it drawn up and executed. When they do that, they win.

Yes, losing stinks, but on Saturday, the way this one went down might just be a really good thing, long term, for the best team in the NHL.

Notes: the loss halted the Capitals five game winning streak…Washington won the face off battle, 31-27. Mike Richards was 6-0 from the dot…the Caps were only credited with 15 hits, four by Ovechkin. Most of the physical play from Washington came in the final 20 minutes…Dallas was 1 for 4 on the power play while the Caps were 1 for 3…the Caps took their fourth “too many men on the ice” penalty in the last four games. That trend needs to stop, immediately…next up for the Capitals are the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. The Kings will be without forward Marian Gaborik (knee) and goalie Jonathan Quick’s status is up in the air, too. #32 was injured in a win over Boston earlier in the week. There is a very good chance that Brooks Orpik will be back in the lineup  for the Caps which likely means that Taylor Chorney will be scratched. Chorney was -2 in this contest and he and Dmitry Orlov were the defensive pair on the ice on both three on one rush goals by Dallas.

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The Caps keep on rolling, knocking off the Pens in an exciting contest at the Consol Energy Center.

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Oshie & Holtby Help the Caps Slam the Pens, 4-1

Posted on 14 December 2015 by Ed Frankovic

T.J. Oshie had a huge, clean neutral zone hit on Beau Bennett in the first period that knocked #19 from the game and then he added two third period insurance goals as the Capitals won, 4-1, at the Consol Energy Center behind 44 saves from Braden Holtby.

The Pens were fired up for this game, seeing as it was their first under new bench boss, Mike Sullivan, but Coach Barry Trotz’ crew had other plans rushing out to a quick two goal lead behind tallies from Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson. Evgeni Malkin, on a sweet deflection, scored the only goal for Pittsburgh in the first frame, who traded defensemen Rob Scuderi to Chicago for Trevor Daley while this contest was going on (Scuderi actually took warm-ups, but did not play).

The Holtbeast was strong again, especially right at the start of the game when the Pens had some super chances in tight. Those saves allowed the Caps to get their legs and they stunned the Pens and their fans with two goals in the first eight minutes. From there on out the Penguins were forced to play catch-up, something they could not achieve.

This was an exciting and intense hockey game with lots of back and forth action. Pittsburgh was able to get their end to end style going, at times, particularly in the 2nd period. In the final frame, however, Washington did a better job of keeping Pittsburgh on the perimeter and not giving up grade A chances, unlike Saturday night against Tampa where the Capitals literally hung on by their goaltender. Holtby was really good in this tilt, once again, but the Caps did a nice job of having their runs too. That was when they got the puck in deep on a weak Penguins defense and scored some in close tallies.

Oshie’s first goal to make it 3-1 with 11:10 remaining was as sweet of a wraparound tally as you’ll see all season and was the “killer instinct” type of marker that this team talks about getting in the third period. #77 was just superb in this one along with his center, Backstrom, and both had three points. Alex Ovechkin had five shots on goal and eight shot attempts playing with those two, but was held pointless, although that line was on the ice for three Caps goals (one a late PP marker) and just one against.

Carlson was a beast with eight shots on net in a team leading 24:51 of ice time. He and Nate Schmidt (20:10 of ice time and seven blocked shots) were strong on the backend. The dynamic duo of Matt Niskanen (24:13 TOI, +2) and Karl Alzner (23:00 TOI) blocked a combined nine shots, as well. As a team, the Capitals blocked 24 total shots as they forced Pittsburgh to the perimeter on many occasions, especially down the stretch and Holtby had some easy glove saves. There were certainly some instances where the Pens were able to get in close, mostly earlier in the game, but Holtby closed the door.

The Caps received excellent outings from some of their grinders, most notably Jay Beagle (1 assist and 4 hits in 18:16 of ice time) and Tom Wilson (drew a key late penalty and had eight hits in 17:57 of ice time). Both were +1 and did a super job of wearing out the Penguins, who seemed to fade a bit in the third period after the furious pace they set in the middle stanza.

At the other end, the Caps had their share of chances and it took some great shots to beat Marc Andre-Fleury (30 saves).

So the Caps get a big victory against a despised rival. This triumph comes at the end of a stretch of seven games, with six on the road, and they went 5-1-1 to improve their overall record to 21-6-2 (44 points). In the Metropolitan Division, they have a three point lead over the second place Islanders and a four point lead over the third place Rangers and have two games in hand over both squads. The Pens fall to 15-11-3 (33 points) and are 11 points back in fifth place (the Devils are in fourth).

Next up for the Caps are the very fast and skilled Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. The Sens defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 5-3, on Monday to improve to 16-10-5 (37 points), which puts them in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Notes: Shot attempts were 79-52 for Pittsburgh, but the Caps had 24 blocks. The official stats had Washington with only five missed shot attempts, so I question the validity of some of the Capitals totals (home cooking?)…the Caps lost the face off battle, 41-35. Jay Beagle was 11-7 while Evgeny Kuznetsov, who only played 13:41, was 4-12…power plays were 4 to 2 in favor of the Caps, although the last two came in the closing minutes…the Caps had a goal by Justin Williams correctly waved off for incidental contact with the goalie…Dave Jackson and Trevor Hanson called a very good game. Jackson is the best referee in the league because he lets the skaters play and the players seem to always know what type of contest they’ll get with him. I wish the league had more zebras like him.

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Dorsey's Dugout- The First Edition

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Dorsey’s Dugout- The First Edition

Posted on 20 June 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

This is the very first edition of my new weekly column that tackles all sorts of topics in the sports world today. I have opinions on all different kinds of events or sports that are going, so the new weekly column called “Dorsey’s Dugout” is where you can find my latest take on any hot topic.

There has been so much going on lately, including two of the big four sports seasons concluded with another major sporting event that comes around once every four years. So much to write about so now let the first edition of the new column kick off starting with the NBA Finals reflection.

NBA Finals

The Spurs-Heat rematch was what everyone wanted to see after the Heat miraculously came back in game six and won the series in seven games last season. It was their second championship in a row and Miami looked like the favorite to repeat. Despite being the “2-seed” in the East, everyone knew who the beast from the East truly was and were ready to see if they could three-peat against the team with the top record in the NBA during the regular season.

Last year’s finals was one to never forget with so much going on, including Danny Green’s historic three point shooting performance throughout the series and Ray Allen’s season saving three pointer from the corner. There was a bad taste that resonated with the Spurs after the loss and Tim Duncan made no secret of that before the rematch began.

Once the first two games in San Antonio came to a close with the series tied at one heading to Miami for another two games, I thought the Heat were in full control and ready to run away with the third trophy in four years. Lesson learned here, never underestimate the power of revenge.

San Antonio looked like a different team when they hit the floor in south beach. Greg Popovich outcoached Erik Spoelstra for the remaining duration of the series and fundamental basketball was at its absolute peak of excellence.

Throughout the regular season, many fans of the NBA always made the comment about how boring the Spurs were to watch. They do not have an explosive player like a LeBron James and their style of play is not all up and down the floor with flash, but this series was a display of excellent basketball all around. It was not just one player trying to get it done; it was a team effort all around.

If I were a basketball coach trying to teach the game, I would make my team watch the Spurs play from games three through five. The way the ball was moved around unselfishly and how every teammate was willing to make that extra pass, it may have been boring for some who watch the NBA, but I found it to be a beautiful display of basketball.

The Finals were won due to basketball being played fundamentally spectacular led by the winningest trio in NBA postseason history. Duncan now has his fifth ring and solidified his place in basketball history once again. In my eyes, he is the greatest power forward of all time.

How sweet was this victory for Manu Ginobli? Manu was one of the scapegoats in last year’s Finals due to his poor play, but  this year was a different story. Manu was just being Manu scoring over double-digit points in four of the five games.

There are plenty of support players that surround the long-tenured trio such as Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. There is not a player outside of that trio that had more of an impact on the series than Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

It was remarkable what the 22 year old out of San Diego State accomplished this post-season. For Leonard to be that young and not full of experience in the NBA with the responsibility of guarding LeBron James one on one, it was astonishing.

When the series was tied at one, coach Popovich made it known they needed more from Leonard to take the next step in the series. With a combined 18 points in the first two games, Kawhi answered his coach’s request with three straight 20+ point performances, including a 29 point-performance in game three. Once Leonard took his game to the next level, the Heat were unable to catch up.

What came as the biggest surprise from this series besides the rise of Kawhi Leonard was how lopsided the Finals were. After a tremendous finish last season, this year could not have been more of a blowout unless Miami never captured game two.

No one could have seen a 4-1 Spurs win before the Finals began, it would have almost been deemed impossible. What we learned most from this series going forward is “teams” win championships and the Heat were not a good enough team throughout the lineup.

The Spurs starters were clicking on all cylinders and the bench came out providing a spark. On the other side of the floor, some of the Heat starters were inconsistent and struggling.

So now the off-season begins in the NBA and there are many storylines that will unfold within the next few months. Will the Spurs veterans call it a career riding out on top of the world or come back for more? Will LeBron James opt out and force us to watch another national televised “Decision” to see where he ends up? My thoughts on the James off-season will be coming later in another column. For now, the Spurs are the champions of the NBA. They are the best overall team in every possible aspect and deserved it this season.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NBA Finals was not the only championship series that took place during the beginning portion of the summer time. The Stanley Cup was the other major series that went on during the nights the NBA had off.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are the cream of the crop when it comes to post-season play in professional sports. There is absolutely no other major sport that can compare to what playoff hockey provides throughout its entirety.

The best way to sum up the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the following phrase that I continuously say to those who aren’t the biggest of hockey fans. It is the best playoffs in sports, playing for the best trophy in sports and commentated by the best in all of sports.

It takes so much to win the Stanley Cup and the trophy itself is a trophy unlike any other in sports. Lord Stanley continues to grow in size each season as more teams and players names are inscribed onto the trophy after each season. As for the final part of the phrase in regards to the commentating, there is nothing better in viewing sports than listening to Mike “Doc” Emrick commentate a hockey game.

Doc Emrick is a legend in the commentating world and listening to him work throughout the playoffs is more than a gift. The enthusiasm and excitement he brings to the network every night is truly spectacular. When one team in a game is down one goal with an empty net and down to its last breath, Doc Emrick calling the last two minutes or so of a game sounds similar to a horse race. It is absolutely gripping and consistently has the fans on the edge of their seats in their living rooms.

Now for the Stanley Cup playoffs that took place just recently, the team that was handed Lord Stanley on their home ice, goes down in the history books. The 2014 Los Angeles Kings are a historic hockey team that displayed resiliency that I have never seen out of a team in maybe all of sports in my short lifetime.

The Kings were 4-1 losers to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals last season, so they had aspirations of getting back to that position to avenge their loss. The Kings hit a brick wall during the first round against one of their fiercest rivals.

Los Angeles was dead in the water round one to the San Jose Sharks, as they were down three games to none. After a game three loss in overtime on their home ice, the Kings were on the verge of getting swept. It was a devastating loss and their leader in goal Jonathan Quick had given up 17 goals in three games.

A moment that will forever stand out in the Kings history is Quick acknowledging his teammates on the ice telling them he will play better and everything will be ok. He was the last man off the ice for the Kings, which is unusual for a goaltender.

After giving up 17 goals in his first three games, Quick only gave up five in the next four, which gave the Kings a golden chance to recapture the series. Jonathan Quick looked like the same goaltender that won the Conn Smythe in 2012.

The rest of the team did its part and came back from a three-game deficit to win the series in game seven. The Kings became only the fourth team in the history of hockey to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win a series. This is just the first bit of history that the Kings made throughout the playoffs.

After a first series that had the Kings fans sitting uncomfortably, the second series was another roller-coaster ride. Round two Los Angeles faced their other California rival, Anaheim. It was the first time that these two had ever met in the playoffs ever.

The Kings won the first two games on the road, but then allowed the Ducks to steal both games at home. The series was at 2 all when they went back to Anaheim for game five. The Ducks won game five and the Kings went back home for game six on the verge of elimination.

Los Angeles was once again in a situation with their backs against the wall, but they did not let the pressure get to them. They went on to win the next two games to advance to the Western Conference finals. After just the first two series, the Kings were 6-0 when facing elimination. A team that kept its composure no matter the circumstance, had its chance at sweet revenge the next round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks won Lord Stanley the season before and were coming into the Western conference finals with a bit more rest than the Kings. Los Angeles had their Cup hopes crushed by Chicago last season, so they wanted to return the favor.

A team that had been battle tested and always climbing their way back into series’ consistently, the Kings fought their way for a 3-1 lead over Chicago. The Kings had always had their backs against the wall, but now were in full control. They had their chances to move on, but were unable to capitalize on the golden opportunity.

Chicago had tied up the series at three a piece and had a chance to move on to the finals for a second straight season. LA was once again in a familiar situation, on the brink of elimination despite the 3-1 lead they had. Game seven of these conference finals was as good as it gets in hockey.

LA went into the third period down one goal and looked as if Chicago was on their way to another Finals appearance. With just over seven minutes left in the third frame, Marian Gaborik scored on a rebound to even the game up at four. With the game tied at four and all sixty minutes had passed, an overtime period was needed to conclude the western conference finals.

The last time a conference final needed an overtime period to decide a game seven was twenty years ago when the Rangers eliminated the New Jersey Devils. It did not take long for the series to end as Alec Martinez threw a puck to the net with traffic in front. The puck went over and in behind Corey Crawford to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup.

The Stanley Cup Finals had a similar 4-1 series victory that the NBA Finals presented us with, but the Cup finals were not lopsided like the NBA Finals was. Three out of the five games featured overtime periods, two of which were double overtimes. The Stanley cup playoffs were hard fought, but the team that deserved it the most ended up being the last team standing on the ice.

Alec Martinez scored the game winning goal that sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup and it was Martinez who ended the long journey at home in double overtime. Game five was as intense of a hockey game as there could have been with amazing performances between the pipes from both Lundqvist and Quick.

The Los Angeles Kings won on home ice and the ride was one of the most historic runs I have ever witnessed in sports. Some of the marks that the Kings made in the history book are the following: Fourth team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, first team to ever win three game sevens on the road on the way to a Stanley Cup, their 26th game played in one post-season ties for the most ever and their 64 playoff games played in last three seasons is an NHL record.

Watching the Kings for the duration of this past playoff run was a historic portrayal of resiliency. A team that consistently had their back against the wall with deficits in series leads and in games never quit and overcame those deficits.

Two Stanley Cup titles in the past three years begins to raise the constant discussions on whether they are on the verge of being an NHL dynasty. They are close to doing so, but will need to capture another title. For this team, winning another Cup is not too far fetched.

They have the best goalie in the world with Jonathan Quick, the best defenseman in Drew Doughty and they are deep within the corps of their forwards. The acquisition of Marian Gaborik sparked the Kings run this post-season, as he led everyone in the playoffs in goals. What an acquisition that was at the deadline.

The resiliency that was on display for the roller-coaster ride that was the Los Angeles Kings proves that there is nothing in the same league as playoff hockey. It is the hardest fought journey for the most storied trophy in sports with the top guy in the business calling the dramatic finish. I cannot wait until hockey is back for the next season. This past year was an amazing portrayal of how dramatic the Stanley Cup playoffs are year in and year out.

The Rest of the Sports World

With the NBA and NHL seasons wrapped up, there is still plenty going on in sports. The World Cup is in full blast, the NFL mini camps are about finished and the off-seasons are ahead for the other major sports. Here are some of the topics I would like to cover and my thoughts on each.

USA over Ghana

What a game it was this past Monday when the American squad finally captured three points over the arch rival Ghana. Clint Dempsey is the face of USA soccer now that Donovan was not brought back on the team and Dempsey got the nation going from the get go.

Dempsey scored just over thirty seconds into the match giving USA the one goal lead. It was an inbounds play from the sidelines and could it have been a more pretty display of futbol?

Great inbound pass, touch pass to Dempsey and an incredible individual effort the finish the play. It got the nation rocking from the start and the rest of the game had the Americans on the edge of their seat.

Ghana tied the game up near the matches end, but that was long overdue. They had dominated the game as USA just sat back and played a defensive style of game. Klinsmann’s crew failed to establish possession in the offensive side of the field consistently throughout the match and it led to a plethora of chances for Ghana.

I wrote a major piece above talking about resiliency in regards to the Kings, but the Americans had their own version of it. After giving up a goal that you could feel the devastation countrywide, USA responded with a converted corner to win the match.

Coach Klinsmann got a major win to start off the World Cup for team USA and it is a step in the right direction if they hope to make it out of the group of death. I had been on the record for bashing Klinsmann due to some off the wall comments he has made leading up to the games in Brazil, but he did an excellent job game one.

Team USA’s next match is this Sunday against Portugal. Portugal is desperate as they lost in their first game to Germany, so the Americans are going to need to bring their best effort Sunday. If they play the same way they did against Ghana, they will be wiped off the field.

NBA Draft Chatter

Joel Embiid, arguably the top talent in the NBA Draft, suffered a foot fracture and will be undergoing surgery in the near future. This injury puts the draft in a frenzy now just six days away from the night the first card is drawn.

Before the foot injury, I would say that Embiid is the best player in this draft. His potential is through the roof, especially if you watched him play at Kansas. From his first game as a Jayhawk to his last, his improvement on the floor is a worlds of difference.

He has so much room to grow as a player still, it is potentially scary how great he could be. His back injury was a concern and now the concerns grow with the foot fracture.

If I am a GM in the top five, I cannot risk taking a chance on Embiid despite the potential. His injury problems scare me away and we have seen this same theme so many times in the draft. As a Jayhawk fan, I have strong opinions on the two stars that are in this draft.

Andrew Wiggins is perceived as the man to get this year, but I am not fully on his bandwagon. Its not because he did not live up to the hype he was given during the pre-season because that was astronomical. It is because what I saw on the hardwood floor.

Wiggins has serious potential just like Embiid in some ways because Wiggin’s athleticism is top tier. When it comes to actual basketball on the floor, I saw flaws on a consistent basis.

The way teams found a way to slow down Wiggins during the season was going to a zone defense. It prevented him from using his stellar athleticism to attack the paint and get to the rim. It forced him into becoming a jump shooter and a three-point shooter. Wiggins struggled when he was forced to take jump shots because he could never get into rhythm.

Even when Wiggins got to the rim, he struggled to finish good opportunities. Where Andrew succeeded throughout his freshman year was on the defensive end. He is a good defender one on one and is a great rebounder. He often used his rebounding ability to finish second chance opportunities in the paint.

Wiggins is still extremely young and has plenty of time to grow, but I do not take him at one. I would take Parker with the first selection. The perfect situation in my eyes for Wiggins is at the third overall selection with the Sixers.

This concludes my first edition of Dorsey’s Dugout. It is my new weekly column that brings you into my corner and allows me to give out all my opinions on anything going on in sports. There is still plenty to cover going forward and will be back next week with still more to write about. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 09 June 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Charm City Roller Girls (Saturday 6:30pm Gardens Ice House); WNBA: Phoenix Mercury @ Washington Mystics (Tuesday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Chicago Sky @ Washington Mystics (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Atlanta Dream @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 4pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); MLL: Boston Cannons @ Chesapeake Bayhawks (Saturday 7:30pm from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium live on CBS Sports Network); Boxing: Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Chris Algieri (Saturday 10pm from Brooklyn live on HBO)

10. Frank Caliendo (Friday & Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Pablo Francisco (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s); Nick Offerman (Friday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Honfest (Saturday & Sunday Hampden); Ray’s Summer Days (Friday & Saturday various locations); 22 Jump Street” and “How To Train Your Dragon 2” out in theaters (Friday); Non-Stop” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

Caliendo will never stop being funny. Ever.

You know what? Just some more of this.

9. Rebelution (Sunday 6:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Brad Paisley (Thursday 5pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss & Union Station (Saturday 5pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Tim McGraw (Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); Ringo Starr (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Damon Albarn (Tuesday 8pm Rams Head Live); Playing For Change (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Rick Springfield (Thursday 6:30pm & 9:30pm Rams Head Center Stage); Lalah Hathaway/Ruben Studdard (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); MS MR (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Kelis (Sunday 7pm 9:30 Club); Bacon Brothers (Saturday-Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Buddy Guy (Tuesday 7pm State Theatre), Leon Russell (Thursday 8:30pm State Theatre); Morrissey (Tuesday 8pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Jeff Tweedy (Tuesday 6:30pm Lincoln Theatre); John Prine (Friday 8pm Strathmore); O.A.R. “The Rockville EP”, Jack White “Lazaretto” and Chrissie Hynde “Stockholm” available (Tuesday)

I would pay the same price of admission to see Willie Nelson OR Alison Krauss & Union Station.

This is perhaps the most significant song/video I’ve EVER HEARD/SEEN.

John Prine is better at making songs than Manny Machado is at throwing baseball bats.

Purchase O.A.R.’s new record with your cash or I.WILL.FIND.YOU.

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Kings Will Win The Cup, But It Won’t Be Easy

Posted on 03 June 2014 by Ed Frankovic

In a series that was the best I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime in game seven of the Western Conference Final to move on to face the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Western Conference, in terms of elite teams, is clearly the better side, but the way the Rangers are gelling, this is not going to be an easy series for the Kings. New York is playing with tremendous emotion, they have excellent speed, and Henrik Lundqvist is money in the cage. Los Angeles brings size, “deep” depth at forward, and a never say die mentality.

Let’s take a look at the match-up in terms of offense, defense, goaltending, coach, and intangibles.

Offense: The Kings lead the NHL in goals for per game in the post season, at 3.48 while New York is 8th at 2.70. Los Angeles has an excellent top six crew of forwards and the bottom six is as good, if not better, than any team in the league. Coach Darryl Sutter has a talented group of players that really filled its’ biggest need with the Marian Gaborik acquisition at the trade deadline (In a related story, Kings GM Dean Lombardi is wanted on felony robbery charges in the state of Ohio). Justin Williams, after the Kings won a thrilling series with the Blackhawks, called “Gabby” the missing piece for LA. He was dead on, since adding an offensive talent like #12 allowed Sutter to balance his lineup. The Kings survived a series of 0 goals from their best offensive player, Anze Kopitar, in the Western final, so that tells you how deep this crew of Kings forwards is. Mike Richards is mostly playing on the bottom two lines, and he’s a second line center on many NHL clubs. The Kings “That 70’s line” of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Tanner Pearson brings speed and energy. Carter was amazing in the series against the Blackhawks and is a big reason the Kings have a chance to win their 2nd Cup in three years. New York has not scored a lot of goals and Martin St. Louis is their points leader with 13 in 20 games. Chris Kreider has come in to give New York a shot in the arm on offense and he has 10 points in 10 games. The Rangers will rely heavily on his speed and that of guys like Carl Hagelin and Matt Zuccarello. Simply put, though, the Rangers don’t score a lot of goals. Their power play is operating at a 13+% level while Los Angeles is cruising at 25+%. In addition, the Kings can throw four interchangeable lines at you while the Rangers struggle to find a fourth unit. Advantage: Heavily for the Kings.

Defense: The Rangers have a very good top four defense in Ryan McDonough, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Anton Stralman. Their third pair of John Moore and Kevin Klein is solid too. New York’s deep defense allows Coach Alain Vigneualt to not worry alot about exposing one of his pairs to a major mismatch. Any of the three pairs can face high end talent. The question for New York is what pair do they put against the Kopitar line and which one gets the Carter line? I’d imagine we see 27 and 5 go against Kopitar, Gaborik and Brown while Staal and Stralman get the 70’s line, at least initially. As for the Kings, Drew Doughty is the best defensemen in the NHL and he’ll log a ton of minutes. Doughty will make some mistakes but he’ll more than make up for that with numerous “how’d he do that type of plays?” The questions, though, for LA come with the rest of their crew. The injury to Robyn Regehr has been huge and getting Willie Mitchell back in game two against Chicago was very important. Mitchell and Doughty are great penalty killers. Slava Voynov elevated his game in the Blackhawks series and along with Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Matt Greene, they are key to Los Angeles’ ability to win. Will the Rangers speed be too much for those guys? Somehow the Kings were able to overcome Chicago’s speed up front, but the Rangers are likely faster. However, the Rangers forwards don’t have the high end skill like Chicago had with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp. The Kings, however, are one injury away from the slow footed Jeff Schultz being inserted in the lineup. Advantage: Rangers, because of their balance and depth.

Goaltending: Does it get any better than Jonathan Quick vs. Henrik Lundqvist? These are the best goalies in the NHL going head to head for Lord Stanley. Amazingly, they both play different styles. Quick is far more aggressive and moves around much more than King Henrik. Lundqvist is the ONLY goalie in the league who can pull off the “deep in the net” style that he employs. That allows him to rarely be out of position on shots. The Rangers defense knows how #30 is going to play and they are a solid defensive unit. The Rangers are 2nd in the playoffs in goals against yielding 2.25 a game while the Kings are more leaky, at 2.86 per contest (9th overall). But those stats speak more to the style of play and defense of the teams than the net minders. Los Angeles has run into issues when they turn the puck over in the neutral zone, and that has led to a lot of odd man rushes against. Sutter must limit those against a fast Rangers club. Both goalies have had strong outings and also some poor ones, mostly because the team in front of them has struggled, at times. Overall, the Rangers have been more consistent, but they haven’t played the high end talent that Los Angeles has faced in San Jose, Anaheim, and then the 2013 Cup Champion Blackhawks. Advantage: Neither team, goaltending is a dead heat.

Coaching: I was not a John Tortorella fan and when they canned the fiery bench boss and replaced him with Vigneault, I expected marked improvement from New York. Did I think it would translate into a Stanley Cup Final run? Absolutely not. But give credit to the new bench boss (and GM Glen Sather too for some “ballsy” moves behind the bench and with personnel). He managed to survive a terrible schedule early in the post season and rally from a 3-1 hole against Pittsburgh. He’s doing a super job. Sutter is in an elite coach. He maintains an even keel so his team doesn’t get too high or low emotionally and he is a master tactician. Most other coaches would be golfing by now after facing a 3-0 hole in the opening round, but Sutter, assistant coach John Stevens, and the rest of the staff found a way to turn it around, mostly by fixing their poor neutral zone play. Sutter has a keen sense of who has it rolling on a given night and who just doesn’t have it. That’s why guys will move up and down the line-up. He somehow was able to win against the Ducks with both Regehr and Mitchell out, that speaks volumes to the coaching given that that they won with a guy who played the entire season in the AHL in Schultz. Advantage: Los Angeles.

Intangibles: Ever since St. Louis’ mom passed away unexpectedly, the Rangers have been a different team. Anyone who has played hockey, at any level, knows that it is a team game that requires intensity and an emotional commitment. New York clearly has that and throw Dominic Moore’s personal situation into the mix as well. The Rangers are on a mission. On the other hand, the Kings have won three game seven’s on the road, a feat that has never been done before in NHL history. They came back from a three game hole in the first round and were down 3-2 against the Ducks and survived. They were losing 2-0 early in game seven against the Hawks and scraped out a W. One thing that favors LA is the travel schedule. While the Rangers sat for days waiting to figure out who they would play, once they finally did they had to fly cross country to California. So I think that negates any rest they received. Both teams have played a lot of hockey. Advantage: Slight edge to Kings due to home ice.

So I think this is going to be an excellent series, but it will be lower scoring. It will be hard to top the Chicago-LA Western Final, no doubt. Both teams could win this thing, especially if the Kings can’t get net presence on Lundqvist. But I think the Kings will find a way and overcome a Rangers team that seems to keep improving.

The Pick: Despite the fact that broadcaster Kenny Albert and Rangers assistant GM, Jim Schoenfeld, are some of my favorite people in hockey, it’s Los Angeles in 6.

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 26 May 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-New York Liberty @ Washington Mystics (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Los Angeles Sparks @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 4pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet); Golf: PGA Tour the Memorial Tournament (Thursday & Friday 2:30pm live on Golf Channel Saturday 12:30pm live on Golf Channel 3pm live on CBS Sunday 12pm live on Golf Channel 3pm live on CBS. All golf from Dublin, OH), Champions Tour Principal Charity Classic (Friday 7pm Saturday & Sunday 5pm from Des Moines, IA on Golf Channel), ShopRite LPGA Classic (Friday 12pm Saturday 2:30pm Sunday 2pm from Galloway, NJ live on Golf Channel); Boxing: Carl Froch vs. George Groves (Saturday 4pm from London live on HBO)

10. Bruce Bruce (Tuesday 8pm & 10pm Rams Head on Stage); Tim Meadows (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Artie Lange (Friday & Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Michael McDonald (Friday-Sunday DC Improv); Maryland Craft Beer Festival (Saturday Carroll Creek Park); Great Grapes Wine & Food Festival (Saturday & Sunday Oregon Ridge Park); Taste of Three Cities (Saturday 11am M&T Bank Stadium); A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “Maleficent” out in theaters (Friday)

I never went and saw Tim Meadows’ “Ladies Man” movie because it looked terrible to me. I have to admit however this made me chuckle.

I’m not proud.

9. Luke Bryan (Friday & Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live), Journey & Steve Miller Band (Sunday 6:45pm Jiffy Lube Live); Foxy Shazam (Monday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Manchester Orchestra (Tuesday 7:30pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Ballyhoo! (Friday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Rusted Root and The Wailers (Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club), Old 97’s (Saturday 8pm 9:30 Club); T-Pain (Sunday 8pm Howard Theatre); Matisyahu (Sunday 7pm Lisner Auditorium); Neil Young “A Letter Home” available (Tuesday)

I know ZERO about Luke Bryan. So here’s Luke Bryan playing an Adele song. I have absolutely nothing else to say.

There are people whose opinions about music I respect and they enjoy Manchester Orchestra. That’s what I’ve got for you.

I consider Rhett Miller from the Old 97’s a close personal friend after we hung out in Dallas a few years ago. I have no idea how he feels about the whole thing.

Matisyahu’s show down in DC is acoustic. This might be really good.

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Caps Trades Are Steps in Right Direction, But More Are Needed

Posted on 04 March 2014 by Ed Frankovic

Caps General Manager George McPhee made some good moves on Tuesday acquiring LW Dustin Penner, RW Chris Brown, D Rotislav Klesla, and a 4th round pick while dealing out a 4th round pick and LW Martin Erat.

But is it enough to put this team in the playoffs come mid April?

Right now my answer, as it was after Sunday’s painful loss to Philadelphia, is still no.

Penner, a two time Stanley Cup winner (2007 Ducks and 2012 Kings), is a big left wing that can score. He brings a dimension to the left side of the lineup that the Capitals just don’t have right now. The 6′ 4″ power forward had 11 points in 20 games with Los Angeles during their Stanley Cup run in 2012 playing a top six role. He will be expected to play in a top six position with Washington down the stretch. Penner is an unrestricted free agent and currently makes $2M. The winger, who at times has been out of shape and not motivated, should be focused on proving himself since he needs a new contract come July 1st. Simply put, for a 4th round pick, this was a good trade and a no brainer despite the fact that he is not a fast skater.

As for the Erat deal, just moving his $4.5M salary cap hit this year and next season is a bonus. The Caps do take on Klesla’s salary with the latest CBA, even though he is going directly to Hershey. The 31 year old Czech defensemen, who has split time at the NHL and AHL level this season, carries a salary cap hit of $2.975M but is an unrestricted free agent after this campaign. Klesla, a former top 5 draft pick (#4 overall in 2000 NHL Entry Draft), has struggled of late and was not happy in Phoenix (he was on waivers in the fall). He does not have good wheels, so it appears that in order for McPhee to unload his problem child in Erat, he had to take on some baggage from another club.

Brown, 23, is an interesting prospect. He had 29 goals in his first season (68 games) in the AHL in 2012-13, but he only has 14 tallies in 51 games this year. The University of Michigan product also played for the US National Under 17 and 18 teams. He’s a 3rd line type, a big right winger who can skate in an organization that is loaded on that side.

So did the Capitals help themselves today?

Yes, it wasn’t hard to do when you get Penner for a mid round draft pick and you get out from under Erat’s remaining salary cap hits for this year and next. But there are still issues with this roster. There remains an overabundance of right wingers and some gaping holes on defense. The third pair is a big problem area now so McPhee needs to either land a top 4 defenseman to bump Dmitry Orlov down to the 3rd pair or upgrade so that Connor Carrick and John Erskine aren’t every game players.

To me, it makes sense to move one of your right wingers so that you can use salary cap dollars elsewhere to improve the defense. That would likely mean Troy Brouwer or Joel Ward would need to be dealt, which would bump Tom Wilson up into an expanded role. Moves to that effect would further balance the roster and also position the Capitals to make even more changes this summer to get back to being a Stanley Cup contender.

Currently, they are a middle of the pack club hoping to climb into the playoffs and go a round or two. Let’s make no mistake about that, hockey is a business and making the playoffs has a huge impact financially. That’s why I believe McPhee, who reportedly is in the last year of his contract, is not done making moves and will do more before Wednesday’s 3 pm trade deadline.

This organization wants to badly make the playoffs. Money and likely jobs are on the line. We saw the desperation to make the post season last year when they traded Filip Forsberg for Erat and Michael Latta. It was a win now type of move that ultimately backfired. They were focused on the short term and wanted another body due to the uncertainty surrounding Brooks Laich’s injury. The truth is, they would have still been able to make the playoffs without Erat in a weak Southeast Division.

This spring, it is not as easy with the new division configuration. Somehow the Caps need to improve enough to pass either the Flyers or the Rangers, and Columbus too. Philadelphia dominated the Caps in some important puck possession statistics on Washington’s home ice last Sunday. Add in that the Capitals upcoming schedule is rated one of the hardest in the league and making the playoffs is going to be very tough.

So the Capitals improved their position today and helped their future, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to secure a playoff position.

That’s way I say to look for more moves from the Caps on Wednesday.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be on with Drew Forrester on WNST 1570 AM Baltimore talking Caps hockey at 7:45 AM on Wednesday. Listen Live at WNST.NET

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