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Caps Get Rare Regulation Victory in San Jose

Posted on 10 March 2018 by Ed Frankovic

For nearly 25 years, the Washington Capitals have not known the way to winning in regulation in San Jose. On March 10th, 2018, Philipp Grubauer stopped all 24 shots he faced and Nicklas Backstrom turned in an all world performance, including notching the only non-empty net goal, in a Caps 2-0 victory at the Shark Tank. It was the Capitals first win without extra time against the Sharks at SAP Center since October 30th, 1993.

“Do you know the way to San Jose…”

The Caps do now, and the way they won was with solid team defense, strong goaltending, and a committed effort to getting pucks deep and towards the net, especially over the last 40 minutes.

The victory improves the Caps record to 38-23-7 (83 points) and combined with the Leafs 5-2 triumph over the Penguins on Saturday night it puts Washington back in 1st place in the Metropolitan Division by a point. The Caps have a game in hand on the Pens and third place Philadelphia has also played 68 games like the Capitals, but trail by two points.

Here are nine thoughts and analysis on a humongous win in a state that has not been kind to Washington.

California Dreamin’ – Coming into this matinee, the Caps had lost seven straight games in the Golden State. Last season, with seemingly the best roster, on paper, ever assembled in franchise history, the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals went zero and three. La La land was not good to Coach Barry Trotz and his team this week either as they suffered a 4-0 defeat in Anaheim, a game that they looked like they were sleeping through, and then a tough 2-1 loss to the Kings on Thursday. The Caps played much better in that affair, but they could not put the biscuit in the basket. Saturday’s victory against a third straight California team that is desperate for points was one of the most sound defensive performances by the Capitals all season.

Hey Nineteen – When Washington gets strong play up the middle of the ice, they are an extremely tough team to beat. Many Capitals struggled in the first two games of this road trip, but Backstrom was near the top of that list. After his terrible turnover in period one in the City of Angels, he was a total non factor in the loss on Thursday. On Saturday, however, Nicky was the best player on the ice. His compete level was through the roof and he repeatedly won puck battle after puck battle playing with Brett Connolly (1 assist) and Andre Burakovsky in a newly configured trio. Connolly’s pass to Backy with 1:28 left in period two was a superb one, but #19’s slap shot was even better and he ripped it over Martin Jones’ glove into the top shelf. That tally is Backstrom’s 17th goal of the season. I’m of the opinion that several Caps are trying to pace themselves so that they can peak their game in April, when the postseason starts. Backstrom is definitely one of them, but on Saturday, the Caps needed a win badly in a tightening playoff race, and Nicky announced his presence with authority all afternoon.

Meet in the Middle – It’s no secret that Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan has focused the build of this team up the middle of the ice. In addition to Backstrom’s outstanding game against San Jose, pivots Evgeny Kuznetsov (+1 in 20:05) and Lars Eller (goal, +1 in 17:04) were excellent. Since Coach Trotz went all Reg Dunlop and shuffled his lines around, Kuzy centered the Gr8 and Tom Wilson while Eller was flanked by Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie. The change certainly helped Burakovsky and Connolly the most since there aren’t many centers better than #19 in this league. However, I liked how Oshie, who is rounding back into form and is long overdue for a goal, and Vrana played with Eller. Vrana has really improved his defensive zone play and he used his speed to get the puck out of the Caps own end a couple of times. All three of the Caps top centers were playing well in San Jose and Lars was rewarded with an empty net tally with 1:49 remaining to put a dagger in the Sharks.

Letting Them Play – For my money, the last two Washington games have been the best officiated tilts I’ve seen all season. In both affairs, the referees didn’t call a lot of penalties and let the teams play. However, stick infractions or obvious trips, clips, and interference were whistled. It was clear that the players for the Caps, Kings, and Sharks all knew how the games were going to be officiated and they played accordingly. There was lots of hitting and good end to end skating. The one constant in both contests was Trevor Hanson. The Richmond, British Columbia native is in his sixth season in the NHL and he’s quickly becoming one of the best zebras. Gord Dwyer and then Dan O’Rourke was the other referee in the Kings and Sharks games, respectively. The Caps had a three to one power play advantage on Thursday while the Sharks had two man advantage situations to none for Washington on Saturday. Both penalties on the Capitals at the SAP Center were well deserved infractions by Wilson. Simply put, I’d certainly like to see Hanson doing more Caps games.

Shoot to Thrill – Making the right decisions inside the offensive blue line has been a problem area for the Capitals this season, and in years past, especially in the playoffs. Those brain cramps have cost Washington a lot of odd man rushes and goals against this campaign. Poor offensive zone play is a big reason the Caps goals against average has gone up in 2017-18. In the first period of the Sharks game, the Caps forwards made a few mistakes in the offensive and neutral zones that San Jose turned into quality chances. Fortunately for Washington, Grubauer was at his best in a scoreless first frame where the Sharks had the better of the play. In the middle stanza, however, the Capitals really played the right way for the first time on this road trip and made sure to get pucks deep and towards the net. The result was a 12 to 3 margin in shots on goal in the middle twenty. When trailing 2-1 on Thursday at Staples Center, a House of Horrors for the Caps, Washington only put five shots on net in the third period. Connolly passed up a great look in the center of the ice and that’s just not a good choice given his super shot. Oshie and several others have been guilty of not firing the puck on net from the high danger areas, too. Coach Trotz, in his first two seasons in Washington, used to constantly utter the mantra, “This is a shoot first league.” He’s right and many of the goals are scored on rebounds or quick ones where the goaltenders don’t have time to get set. It would behoove the Caps to maintain the mentality they displayed in the second and third periods in San Jose, because that type of hockey is how you win in the spring. To reinforce the thought process, I recommend that AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill be blasted in the Caps locker room before EVERY period.

Blue Line Reconfiguration – After the loss to the Ducks on Tuesday, Coach Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden made changes on the back end. Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov were still together while John Carlson was paired with Michal Kempny with Brooks Orpik and Jakub Jerabek forming the third duo. Things went okay in LA, except for the game winning goal where Jerabek failed to keep a puck in the offensive zone and then Trevor Lewis went around #44 like he was an orange road cone to score on his third shot in succession. It was a poor play by Orpik, who has struggled pretty heavily since the all star break, but Jerabek and Grubauer didn’t exactly shine in that sequence either. You can certainly put some of Orpik’s issues on being paired with rookie Madison Bowey, a future top four defensemen, who was understandably starting to have trouble with the intensity and speed of the game post January 1st. Against San Jose, a team that typically gives the Capitals fits, Brooks turned in arguably his best game in three months. He was physical with five hits and he had no giveaways in 17:04 of action. He was also part of a penalty killing unit that allowed only one power play shot in four minutes of man advantage time. Orpik must continue to play the way he did on Saturday and it would probably be wise for the coaching staff to give him some days off before the playoffs commence to keep him healthy and fresh, especially in back to back tilts.

Solid as a Rock – Braden Holtby has not had a good post all star break stretch and former Caps goalie Brent Johnson stated on Twitter that he believes fatigue, which ultimately then led to a drop in confidence, has been the issue. After #70 gave up three goals in the first half of the Ducks game, and all of those certainly weren’t on him, Coach Trotz has gone with Grubauer in net. #31 had a decent game against the Kings in a loss, but against San Jose he was superb in the opening frame until the Capitals got their game in gear. The Sharks hit a couple of posts early, as well, but Washington has been due for some breaks. In earning his second shutout of the season, Philipp improved to 9-8-3 this year and his save percentage is up to .925. Grubauer will be starting on Monday against the Jets at Capital One Arena and he’ll likely split the back to back games with the Holtbeast against the Islanders later in the week. The German keeper has certainly earned the cage right now with his solid play. He has been steady and he came up with some big saves early against the Sharks.

Closing Time – Overall, this was a much needed victory for Washington made more impressive by their style of play. This was a very important game to the Sharks and the Capitals matched San Jose’s compete level and desperation. It was a tight checking affair that is very reminiscent of how the game will be played in April and beyond. To win this way, with much improved team defense and better offensive zone decision making, bodes well for the Caps down the stretch.

Notes: Alex Ovechkin had 10 shots attempts and six shots on goal. His best chance to score his 41st of the season and 599th of his career was on a third period semi-breakaway, but Jones stopped him with his glove…Orlov led the Caps in ice time with 24:22. Carlson is getting a lot of press for his play this season, and deservedly so, but #9 has been very consistent since late October/early November on the back end…the Caps won the face off battle, 33-20. Kuzy was 10-8 after going 1-10 against the Kings. Eller was 6-1, Backstrom went 8-5, and Jay Beagle won six of nine draws…Wilson, who has been outstanding most of the season, took a puck to the head in the second period in LA but returned in that contest. On Saturday, he played, but looked a little off timing wise. He took two penalties and did not get a hard shot off on a good pass from Ovechkin in tight…Brent Burns led the Sharks in ice time with 26:01…congratulations to MacLellan for receiving a well earned contract extension from Caps ownership…it will be Washington vs. Winnipeg on Monday night at 7 pm from Capital One Arena. The Jets will definitely make the post season and they appear to be a lock for second place in the Central Division.

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Ed Frankovic previews Caps-Sharks preseason game

Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Navy looks for seventh win Friday night at San Jose State

Posted on 21 November 2013 by WNST Staff

2013 Navy Football Game Specifics
Game 11 Navy (6-4) at San Jose State (5-5 / 4-3 Mountain West)
Date and Kickoff Nov. 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm PT / 9:30 pm ET
Location San Jose, Calif. | Spartan Stadium (30,456)
Television ESPN2
TV Talent Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Danny Kanell (analyst) and Allison Williams (sideline)


Setting the Stage

• Navy and San Jose State will meet for the third time on the gridiron when the two square off on Friday night at Spartan Stadium (30,456) in San Jose.   Kickoff is set for  6:30 pm local time, 9:30 pm in Annapolis.
• Friday’s game will be televised nationally by ESPN2 with Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Danny Kanell (color) and Allison Willliams (sideline) on the call.

Navy Tops South Alabama 42-14 To Become Bowl Eligible
•    (AP) – Darius Staten made his final home appearance a memorable one with a career-high 127 yards on seven carries with a touchdown to lead Navy to a 42-14 victory over South Alabama.
• The Mids, who scored 22 consecutive points in the second half, finished undefeated at home for the first time since 2004.
• South Alabama’s Ross Metheny completed 18 of 27 passes for 160 yards with two touchdown passes to Shavarez Smith, who had five receptions for 65 yards.
• Brandon Bridge replaced Metheny at quarterback and put together a 20-play, 89-yard drive that was stalled at the Navy 4 when Kendall Houston was stuffed by Cody Peterson on fourth-and-2 with 11:12 left in the game. Navy then put the game away on the next possession on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds to Matt Aiken.
• Navy backup quarterback Tago Smith added another 24-yard scoring run with 2:17 left for the 42-14 lead. The Mids racked up 519 total yards, with 351 coming from the rushing attack.
• Navy opened an early 3-0 lead on its first possession with a 37-yard field goal by Nick Sloan. The Jaguars then responded with a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive, capped by a 4-yard pass from Metheny to Smith.
• Staten then gave Navy a 10-7 lead with 13:24 left in the half with a 17-yard touchdown run. After being helped by a roughing the passer penalty on Navy’sChris Johnson, South Alabama went ahead again when Metheny and Smith teamed up for a 22-yard touchdown.
• The shootout continued on the next possession as Navy scored again on a 7-yard run by Shawn White, who carried three defenders into the end zone. The Mids increased the lead to 20-14 with 34 seconds remaining in the half on a 21-yard field goal by Sloan.

Navy Qualifies For Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
•    Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk announced after Saturday’s victory over South Alabama that the Naval Academy has qualified to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Monday, Dec. 30 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas against a projected opponent from the Mountain West. Kickoff is set for 10:45 am in Fort Worth (11:45 am in Annapolis) and will be televised nationally by ESPN.  This will be Navy’s 10th bowl game in the last 11 seasons.
• This will be Navy’s fifth trip to Texas for a bowl game and the first since Navy’s 35-13 rout of Missouri in the 2009 Texas Bowl in Houston. Navy also played in the 2003 EV1.net Houston Bowl (lost to Texas Tech, 38-14), the 1964 Cotton Bowl in Dallas (lost to Texas, 28-6) and the 1958 Cotton Bowl in Dallas (beat Rice, 20-7).
• Tickets for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl are on sale now at:  http://bit.ly/17zldT1
• Tickets can also be purchased starting Monday morning at 9 a.m. by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY or at the Ricketts Hall Ticket Office.
• Ticket prices are $30 (Lower Level & Upper Level End Zone), $40 (Upper Level Sideline), and $50 (Lower Level Sideline). The only way to sit with the Navy contingent is to buy your tickets through the Navy Ticket Office.
• Fans can also purchase tickets to sponsor midshipmen and enlisted personnel and their families for $50 per ticket. Donated tickets are 100% tax deductible.
• The Naval Academy class that donates the most tickets receives a 30% discount on football season tickets for 2014 for every member that donates four or more tickets.  Any individual that donates 10 tickets or more will receive a 30% discount on the 2014 season ticket package regardless of class affiliation. Be sure to donate in your correct ticket account that signifies you as a USNA Alumni.
• “We strongly encourage Navy fans to buy their bowl tickets directly from the Naval Academy Athletic Association,” said Gladchuk. “It is very important for this game and for future Navy bowl considerations for our fans to purchase tickets through the NAAA. If you can’t make it to the game, we ask that Navy fans buy tickets for our midshipmen and enlisted personnel which will allow us to create the usual pageantry of Navy football.”
• Anthony Travel is the official Naval Academy Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl travel agency. Travel packages include hotel accommodations at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel (Navy team hotel). Visit http://bit.ly/1csCTT5 and search Navy Bowl or call (888) 632-6951 to make your reservations.

Scouting San Jose State
• The Spartans enter Friday’s game with a 5-5 record and in need of one victory in the next two games to become bowl eligible.  San Jose State owns victories over Sacramento State (24-0), Hawai’i (37-27), Colorado State (34-27), Wyoming (51-44) and UNLV (34-24).  Its losses have come at the hands of Stanford (34-13), Minnesota (43-24), Utah State (40-12), San Diego State (34-30) and Nevada (38-16).
• San Jose State is led by senior quarterback David Fales, who is a probable first-round draft pick.  Fales has completed 60 percent of his passes (233-386) for 3,202 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Fales is 12th in the country in completions per game (23.3), eighth in passing yards per game (320.2) and 14th in total offense per game (317.6).
• The Spartans are 11th in the country in passing offense, averaging 325.4 yards per game and are 22nd in the country in passing yards per completion, averaging 13.7.
•    Senior wide receiver Chandler Jones has been Fales’ favorite target as he has caught 64 passes for 1,109 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Jones is fifth in the nation in touchdown catches (11) and seventh in receiving yards per game (110.9).  His 6.4 catches per game ranks 25th best in the country.
•    Freshman running back Jarrod Lawson has carried the ball 124 times for 646 yards with three touchdowns.
•    Senior linebacker Keith Smith is one of the top linebackers in the country. He has recorded 137 tackles and eight tackles for a loss on the year and his 13.7 tackles per game is No. 1 in the country.  Smith is averaging 6.9 solo tackles per game, which stands third in the country (just behind Navy’s Cody Peterson). Freshman linebacker Christian Tago has recorded 74 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
•    Senior corner Bene Benwikere has picked off five passes and broken up 10 more passes on the year. He is ranked seventh in the country in interceptions per game (0.6) and fourth in the country in passes broken up per game (1.7).
•    Sophomore kicker Austin Lopez is one of the top kickers in the country, making 19 of his 23 field goal attempts and all 28 of his extra-point attempts.  Lopez is second in the country in field goals per game, averaging 1.9 per contest.
•    San Jose State has lost just five fumbles on the year, which ranks 18th in the country.

Navy vs. The Mountain West
•    Navy is 22-34 (.393) all-time against teams currently residing in the Mountain West Conference and is 2-0 this year with victories over Air Force and Hawai’i.  Navy will play a fourth Mountain West Conference team on Dec. 30 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
•    The Mids have played six – Air Force, Colorado State, Hawai’i, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State  – of the 12 teams that make up the Mountain West.

Niumatalolo Passes Paul Johnson For Third At Navy In Career Wins
• Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to a 46-30 (.605) record in his six seasons as the head coach.  He is third all-time at Navy in career wins.
• Niumatalolo holds Navy coaching records for most wins in the first two seasons (18), three seasons (27), four seasons (32), five seasons (40) and sixth seasons (46) of a career.
• Niumatalolo is the first Samoan head football coach on the collegiate level and the second Polynesian head coach in FBS history (Larry Price, who was the head coach at Hawai’i from 1974-76, was the first).
• Niumatalolo was recently selected as a member of the inaugural class for the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.

Celebrating Navy’s Seniors
• The Class of 2014 has compiled a 28-20 (.583) record over four seasons in Annapolis, qualified for three bowl games and won two Commander-In-Chief’s Trophies.
• With a victory over Army on Dec. 14, the senior class would win its third Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy in four years.
• Navy’s 22 seniors include:  wide receiver and co-captain Matt Aiken, wide receiver Casey Bolena, nose guard Travis Bridges, nose guard Barry Dabney, corner Albrey Felder, punter Justin Haan, wide receiver Brantley Horton, defensive end Michael Huf, wide receiver Shawn Lynch, guard Eric Mahler, wide receiver Hayden Maples, defensive end Evan Palelei, linebacker and co-captain Cody Peterson, safety Wave Ryder, outside linebacker DJ Sargenti, slot back Darius Staten, offensive guard Thomas Stone, slot back Marcus Thomas, linebacker Michael Tuimavave, offensive tackle Matthew Van Halanger, offensive tackle Graham Vickers and offensive tackle Sam Womack.

The Red Zone    
• Navy has scored on 40 of its 45 possessions (.889) in the red zone this year, scoring 33 touchdowns (.733), kicking seven field goals, missing two field goals, taking a knee to end the game in Navy’s 51-7 victory over Delaware and losing it on downs.  The Mids are ranked 25th in the country in red zone offense.
• The opposition has scored on 27 of its 35 red zone opportunities (.771), scoring 25 touchdowns (.714), kicking two field goals, throwing two interceptions, stopped on downs tweice, took a knee once (Duke) and missed three field goals. Navy is ranked 30th in the country in red zone defense.

Inside Linebackers Cleaning Up On Tackles
•    Navy senior inside linebackers Cody Peterson and DJ Sargenti have been all over the field for the Navy defense this season.
• Peterson, the Mids’ defensive captain, is No. 2 in the country in solo tackles per game, averaging 7.4 per contest, and is tied for eighth nationally in total tackles, averaging 10.6 per contest.
•    Sargenti, who had never even recorded a tackle prior to this year and wasn’t moved to inside linebacker (was a QB as a freshman and OLB as a sophomore and junior) until the start of fall practice, is 39th in the country in solo tackles, averaging 5.3 per game, and 95th in total tackles averaging 7.9 per contest.

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