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Will Ravens continue to be haunted by the four deadly sins of defense in 2012?

Posted on 04 November 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s get this out of the way right away – the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 and any complaining about Sunday’s 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns won’t change their slim lead in the AFC North or color the obvious breakdowns and weaknesses that are apparent to anyone who has watched their choppy work.

But as a Ray Rice told me at the podium on the shores of Lake Erie after another win: “There are no bad wins in the NFL.”

We can deal with the offensive inconsistencies later but my concerns center around a defense that will continue to take the field with a squad of patchwork underachievers and glaring fundamental issues.

The four deadly sins of defense continue to haunt the Ravens, if only for the first 80 yards of the field in Cleveland on Sunday. Rushing the passer. Stopping the run. Covering in the secondary. And tackling in general.

Let us count and assess the issues one by one…

The Ravens have no pass rush. Despite having the return of a seemingly spry Terrell Suggs in Houston two weeks ago, he was no factor in Cleveland. Joe Thomas ate him up and most teams will simply get some help on No. 55 if he becomes a pest and the Ravens lack a backup quarterback chaser with any push. Paul Kruger hasn’t been effective. Pernell McPhee, who flashed some visions of a pass rush specialist last season, has been mostly invisible this year and was an injury scratch on Sunday. Haloti Ngata continues to struggle physically and the leaks continue all around him on the defense.

Of course, no pass rush leads to trouble in the secondary with any quarterback and wide receiver tandem that has is given ample time to make a play. This will be an especially daunting issue when the Ravens see the Steelers in two weeks as Ben Roethlisberger has made a Hall of Fame career by making positive plays happen after the play breaks down.

With the injuries to Lardarius Webb, the Ravens secondary has been stressed tremendously because Cary Williams is now carrying the weight of marking every team’s No. 1 receiver. Aside from the obvious with Sergio Kindle being unable to play after his brutal fall and head injury, Jimmy Smith has been the Ravens’ most disappointing first-round draft pick since Travis Taylor. He’s the most penalized defensive player on the team and is consistently getting beat by top-notch receivers on a weekly basis. To my eyes, they’re simply targeting him and the likes of Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and the Manning brothers will literally be frothing at the mouth awaiting a chance to throw the ball into this secondary.

After more than a decade of dominance against the run – and a source of massive pride of a local fan base that would routinely chant “you can’t run” from my seats up in Sect. 513 – the Ravens’ run defense has been porous as it’s been four straight weeks of allowing running backs to gash the front seven and get deeper down the field where the secondary becomes a de facto part of the tackling corps.

And all over the field tackling has been a consistent source of frustration. You can blame not-so-new-anymore defensive coordinator Dean Pees. You can talk about the loss of personnel like Ray Lewis via injury or Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, etc. to free agency, but there have been leaks all over the field when it comes to second chances and fellows in purple flailing and missing.

Eight games into the season, the Ravens are 6-2 and there’s ample reason to be energized by their gaudy record and seat atop the AFC North.

The offense has certainly been capable as witnessed by their early-season success and it even managed 25 points yesterday on the road in Cleveland by managing to play about 20 minutes of decent football and still spending more than an hour without a first down. But there have been many times recently when Joe Flacco and the offensive crew have been stumbling their

SEE PAGE 2

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor about emotions of his day

Posted on 24 September 2012 by WNSTV

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers

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Torrey Smith tells Nestor staying upbeat through Pittsburgh drops was key to success

Posted on 07 November 2011 by WNST Staff

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Caps Media Fantasy Camp plus Other Odds and Ends

Posted on 08 September 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals held Media Fantasy Camp down at Kettler IcePlex on Wednesday and the event started with Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach/video Blaine Forsythe providing the media with a tour and demonstration of the video room. The room is quite nice with very comfortable seats positioned in front of a 100 inch plus screen. Boudreau started the presentation by showing us a clip of the “old way” the Capitals used to play in their own zone. In that method, the strong side wing (the one on the side where the puck currently resides) was positioned high in his own zone on the near side defensemen. Boudreau noted that this tactic often resulted in quick transition for his club, which the highly skilled team took advantage of in previous seasons. However, due to the drop in goal scoring early on in 2010-11, the bench boss opted to change that strategy to one that is more closely used by the other 29 teams in the league where the winger is positioned down lower in his own zone. That tranformation, which was often painful to watch last December, was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7. But at the end of the season, the strategic move paid off as the Caps ended up 4th in the NHL in goals against average at 2.33 per game behind Vancouver, Boston, and Nashville. Note that two of those three were in the Stanley Cup Finals while the Predators gave the Canucks all they could handle in round two. From my vantage point, Boudreau absolutely did the right thing changing things up in his own zone last season, but more on that a little later on.

An interesting part of the video session was a one on one chat I had afterwards with Forsythe about the software technology involved in breaking down game tape. Today’s products make it very easy to get that done as soon as a period is over and the assistant coach stated that he is able to show the coaches and/or players whatever they want to see after each stanza. Back when I was doing statistics for the Capitals in the early 1990’s, then video coordinator Tod Button often did that task after the game, but while the game was going on he had software that allowed him to mark portions of the tape as even strength, power play, penalty kill, face-off, etc so that he could break it down quickly for then coach Terry Murray. Button would also use that software to break down game film of other teams, which he recorded via Satellite at Piney Orchard and sometimes at the old Capital Centre. Forsythe told me that he still relies on the Centre Ice Package to record the games of future Capitals opponents. As expected, Forsythe’s software, 20 years later, is leaps and bounds better than what Button had to work with. The video coach also stated that certain buildings provide much better angles than others, with Madison Square Garden being one of the best (so I guess Rangers fans do have something to chant about next year, eh?!). Video coordinators prefer that they get all of the game footage from faceoff to final buzzer so Forsythe’s biggest issue is one that Button didn’t like dealing with either in the 1990’s: the play starting in the corner! It seems even technology can’t replace a tv producer who prefers showing other footage while the puck is being dropped.

Once the video session was over, the media was treated to a practice and instruction session that was run by assistant coaches Bob Woods, Dean Evason, and Forsythe. It was truly a fun day out at Kettler.

Now back to the Caps and their defensive zone play. On a very recent trip to the Great White North, I spoke with an NHL scout who was adamant that the way to win the Stanley Cup was via solid team defense and goaltending. He opined that a team must have a goalie that can flat out win a game for a team when needed in the post season, as Tim Thomas did for the Bruins on several occassions this past spring. The list of those type of netminders includes mulitple Stanley Cup winners Ken Dryden, Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. Having witnessed every Capitals season since their inception and many painful post seasons, it is hard to disagree with the scout. Washington’s biggest problem in the post season over the years has primarily been goaltending. In 1998 the Caps received the best netminding they’ve ever had as Olie Kolzig basically carried Washington into the Stanley Cup Finals. Looking back on very recent history, the best example of a Capitals goalie stealing a game or two was Semyon Varlamov’s play in the opening two contests of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins series. If you go back and look at the quotes from the Pens you will see that many of them talked about how good Varly was playing. That was one of the reasons I was hoping that Varlamov would remain a Capital but his agent sealed that fate with some crazy negotiating and now that ship has sailed. So the question now becomes is Tomas Vokoun the guy that can take the Capitals to unchartered waters in the post season? That’s not to say that Michal Neuvirth can’t be that guy, after all he’s won two AHL titles, but #30 was unable to steal a game for Washington against Tampa this past spring when the Caps needed that desperately to change the momentum in a tight series. Clearly we can’t hang the series sweep primarily on Neuvirth, team defense was horrendous at times and all you have to do is go back and watch the Jeff Schultz giveaway in game one that led to Steve Downie’s tying goal or Eric Fehr’s disastrous clearing attempt in game three with the Caps up 3-2 in period three.

Here are some other Caps Odds and Ends:

– It was revealed by The Washington Post that John Erskine underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and he may not be ready for the regular season meaning the top six healthy defensemen are Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, and Schultz.

– In that Varlamov trade, the Caps received Colorado’s first round selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft (they also received a 2nd round pick). When speaking with an NHL scout who is focused on the amateur side of the business, he mentioned that next year’s draft class was very good. He also felt that Colorado could very well struggle in 2011-12. So GM George McPhee and company could end up with a top five pick in a strong draft year!

– Capitals rookie camp opens on Sunday, September 11th at Kettler IcePlex with a rookie game in Philadelphia against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, September 15th at 5 pm. The veterans will officially hit the ice on Saturday, September 17th at Kettler IcePlex.

– Single game Capitals regular season tickets are now available via washingtoncaps.com

– Tickets are still available for the Capitals pre-season opener in Baltimore at the First Mariner Arena on September 20th against Nashville. Go to washingtoncaps.com for purchasing info.

– Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in and connected with the tragic plane crash in Russia on Wednesday. God Bless.

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Join WNST and Ravens rookies tonight at Greene Turtle Owings Mills for live radio show & season preview

Posted on 06 September 2011 by WNST Staff

With the offseason being a locked out blur, we lost one of our annual traditions in June when we couldn’t do our Ravens Rookies live show with Miller Lite but we’ll be changing that tonight as we’ll host a number of the purple youth to the Greene Turtle in Owings Mills for a special 7 p.m. live show on Ustream and WNST.net.

We invite a myriad of young players and we have commitments from Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Tandon Doss, Pernell McPhee, Chykie Brown, Anthony Allen, Tyrod Taylor and LaQuan Williams. There’s also a chance a few veterans will join us including Sergio Kindle, who was the star of the June 2010 show we did at Casey’s.

It’s always good to kick the season off with a full house and we hope you’ll join us at the Green Turtle in Owings Mills tonight for some Miller Lite, great food and purple cheer as “Pittsburgh (Still) Sucks” week gets underway in Baltimore.

Come and meet the future of the Ravens and enjoy some community cheer with WNST and fellow Baltimore sports fans.

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.

Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.

As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.

This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.

It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.

I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.

The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.

So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .

Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all.  Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.

And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!

Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.

Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.

In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”

And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.

You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?

Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).

I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.

I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.

I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.

Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)

So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.

He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.

The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.

We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.

Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.

Seriously…

This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)

Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.

And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.

His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.

Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.

That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.

Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.

There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.

He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.

He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.

I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.

I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.

Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.

You should follow him. You should root for him.

I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.

I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.

And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.

And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!

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Former Baltimore Colts great Bubba Smith dead at 66

Posted on 03 August 2011 by WNST Staff

As first reported by The Los Angeles Times, former Baltimore Colts defensive end and tackle Bubba Smith was found dead in Los Angeles today at the age of 66.

The Times reported: “The L.A. County coroner’s office said it has not determined a cause of death, but officials believe he died of natural causes. Smith was found at his home on Sunlight Place in Baldwin Hills by a caretaker, police said.”

His myriad of work — on the field and off the field, from starring roles in the Police Academy films to his famous words about Super Bowl III as a member of the losing Baltimore Colts — will all be examined at length all day on Thursday at WNST.net.

Whether you knew him as Bubba Smith the defensive monster or Hightower in the police uniform or the pitchman for a bunch of local downtown Baltimore lawyers, everyone has a memory of No. 78.

If you have a Bubba Smith memory, feel free to post below.

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Get prepared for the summer of the NFL S**tstorm because it has arrived

Posted on 14 March 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

I wanted to give the NFL skirmish 48 hours and a full weekend to let my emotions settle before I officially opined and got long-winded and loud-mouthed. So for those of you who love my rants and tirades, this blog is for you.

For those of you who don’t like facts, figures, education and well-founded opinions about business in America circa 2011 and having a corporate and civic soul, this is a not going to be a happy read for you today to start your week.

To whom much is given, much is expected. (That’s always been my battle cry and unrequited expectation from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has taken hundreds millions of dollars from our citizens only to leave our city empty and penniless on summer nights with 14 years of mostly last-place baseball.)

And even though I know I should’ve known better knowing what I know about money, greedy people, big business and political influence (if not sheer corruption) I expected this NFL money grab to end somewhat amicably with both sides getting more than their fair share of wealth and happiness.

But, the demon seeds of greed have given way to what has now become standard operating procedure for all cowards and “on-the-take” business people and citizens in America – “I’m suing you!” is the battle cry.

The NFL and NFLPA are at war. It all was made official at 5:07 on Friday afternoon and reconfirmed at midnight that night as both sides came out of a highly volatile, highly confrontational summit in the capital of the free world with a series of “he said/she said” comments that are sure to make any PSL-holder pine for a similar playground-style argument from the fifth grade.

But instead of lunch money, there’s $9.3 billion per year to grapple over and these sides both clearly want their piece of the pie and the fans will be like the children in the ugliest of divorces we’ve all seen in our families and neighborhoods – always acknowledged and given lip service but never really considered.

And, of course, it’s all over money – like everything else in our culture these days. So, while every one of those esteemed gentlemen on both sides of the NFL’s platinum-plated picket fence awakened on Friday to watch one of the great nations of the world float into the Pacific and buildings crumble to the sea and nuclear reactors melting down, they all went back into a room later that day and declared a tsunami of their own.

It wasn’t “life or death – nope, just money!

So much for emotions and trying to do the right thing, boys! Way to show everyone what the NFL is REALLY all about.

Shame on all of them and a pox on their collective houses for picking now – the worst economic climate in this country since the league gripped our culture and the weekend of the largest disaster of our lifetimes — to have this public “Fight Club” engagement when most of us are making less than we’ve ever made and working harder than we’ve ever had to work to pay our bills and keep mouths fed in this once-great nation.

This isn’t sitting well now and it’s bound and determined to get uglier, meaner and more public with each passing day of mudslinging.

Sure, I’m a little “sensitive” about this because the NFL is one of the few reasons WNST 

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Semin Hat Trick Helps Caps Bury Bolts, 6-0

Posted on 26 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Is there any doubt about who rules the Southeast Division? The Washington Capitals hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were riding a five game winning streak and had closed within four points of the 1st place Caps, and promptly buried them, 6-0,  behind Alexander Semin’s third hat trick of the season, and second in as many tilts against the Bolts. Semyon Varlamov made 17 saves for his third career regular season shutout  and Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marcus Johansson had two assists apiece in this white washing of Steve Stamkos and company. The Caps are now 16-6-2 and lead the Southeast Division by six points over the Bolts, who have a game in hand. They also lead the Eastern Conference over the Philadelphia Flyers by a point.

Let’s get to the highlights, quotes, and analysis from a 60 minute Capitals effort:

– Goaltending and special teams were the big difference in this contest. Tampa’s netminding duo of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis are average, at best, and both of them saw the ice in this tilt.  After Johansson cleanly won an offensive zone draw against Stamkos, John Carlson lasered one into the cage to make it 1-0 just 3:09 into the contest, a lead Washington would take to the dressing room. But Karl Alzner took an uncharasterically bad penalty for interference against Steve Downie with one second left in that stanza and that set Tampa up for the first of two early second period power plays. That is where the game really turned for the Caps as they would kill both of those thanks to some great work by Boyd Gordon, Semin, and the entire PK unit. In addition, they did a super job of not letting Stamkos get set up for his vicious one timer from the left wing circle.

– Shortly after the Caps thwarted those two Bolts power plays, Smith couldn’t handle a point shot from John Erskine and it trickled by the shaky net minder to make it 2-0. That goal definitely hurt the Lightning, still they pressed on and opened the game up. That is where they got burnt as Semin made a nice back check to help Washington take the puck away from Tampa and he and Johansson went 2 on 1 the other way. MJ90 then made a gorgeous pass to #28, who rammed it home on the one-timer for his first marker of the night.

– Then Semin would complete his natural hat trick in just 4:29 with two power play tallies (fastest NHL natural hat trick since Bobby Ryan of Anaheim on 1/9/2009; h/t @capsmedia). With Mattias Ritola in the box for tripping, Ovechkin had his point shot blocked but he gathered in the biscuit and slid it over to Backstrom in the right wing circle. #19 then went cross ice to Semin who one-timed another by Smith to end his evening. Stamkos, who was downright awful on Friday, was called for interference and then Mattias Ohlund tripped Oveckhin in the neutral zone to give Washington a 5 on 3. It took only 19 seconds to connect as Ovechkin slid the puck to Backstrom, who then made a sweet cross crease pass to Semin. #28 had the puck almost on the goal line but rifled it top shelf on a sliding Ellis. It was an amazing display of skill by both Backstrom and Semin to put Washington up 5-0 and effectively end the contest at 11:21 of period two.

– Overall the Caps would go 2 for 4 on the power play while they held the Lightning to no goals in five attempts. Even after yielding those tallies to the Caps the Lightning are still killing penalties at an 87% clip, tied for 3rd in the league. They are also fifth in the NHL with the power play at 24%. So the outstanding special teams performance by Washington came against a strong opponent in those categories.  The Caps are 4th in the NHL at 24.1% with an advantage and their much improved shorthanded unit is now up to eighth in the league at 84.3%.

“We played good defensively. Power play works good. PK [penalty kill] did an unbelievable job. I think we play a good 60 solid minutes,” said Ovechkin on the Caps keys to the victory.

 

“I don’t know if it was perfect, but it’s as good as we’ve played all year. When you score a couple on the power play and you kill a 5-on-3, I thought it was a good game by us,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on the effort by his club, who totally dominated the Lightning in all facets of the game.

 

– Varlamov’s best save of night was early in the contest when Martin St. Louis had a chance in the slot after moving around Alzner. After that he didn’t have to do a whole lot in this one as Boudreau said afterwards that his team was determined to play a very good game. But a team’s good play or bad play is often based on the confidence they have in their goaltender, as anyone who has played this great sport will tell you. I think it is no coincidence that their two worst games of the season, in Atlanta and New Jersey, came with rookie goalie Braden Holtby struggling in the cage early on while some of their better contests, such as the last two tilts, have been with Varlamov, their #1 goalie, between the pipes.

“When you get some goals against you early it takes the wind out of your sails some time. I think the guys were pissed. They were ticked off, we took a lot of flak this week and that is a proud bunch in there. The week is not over yet but they knew they were better than what they showed and they knew they were better than what people were saying about us. So I think they dug deep and we’ll try to dig deep again on Sunday,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning bench boss on the mind set of his club since losing three in a row.

 

– Carlson and Alzner continue to shine as a defensive pair and Boudreau spoke glowingly of the two young defenseman for their efforts on shutting down the Stamkos-St. Louis-Downie line. Tom Poti, in just his second contest back from injury, added a goal as well and was superb all evening.

 

“[Carlson] and Alzner, for a 21 year old guy and 22, having the duty of shutting down that line did a real good job, and Carly adds that offensive element as well. I thought he was at his best tonight,” started Boudreau on his two rookie defensemen, “I was really impressed with Tom, just his demeanor and you could tell his experience back there when he got the puck he made the right plays he did the right things with it. We missed him [while he was out],” finished Boudreau on #3.

 

– The 20 year old Johansson continues to get better and his play is making Tomas Fleischmann more expendable. MJ90 played a big role on the first and third goals and overall he logged 12:31 of ice time, including 1:53 on the power play (2nd unit). He is a very good skater and just needs to keep improving his play along the boards, particularly behind the net where he gets taken off of the puck fairly easily when he doesn’t move his feet. As for #14, he was scratched today with the return of Mike Knuble (fractured jaw). Fleischmann has really struggled this year and part of his problem is his lack of physical play. He has not been finishing his checks on the forecheck at all and when opposing defenseman feel no threat, it is much easier for them to clear their own end.

– We’ve blogged in the past about the clean hit and then the subsequent fight that occurs. Tonight Erskine made a good solid shoulder check on Nate Thompson and #44 went awkwardly into the boards and stayed down. The zebras, who did a great job on Friday night, did not call a penalty. However, a few minutes later the Bolts Ryan Malone decided to take exception to the hit on his teammate and went after #4. Erskine proceeded to pummel the former Penguins forward. Erskine, who was drafted in 1998 by Craig Button’s Dallas Stars scouting staff in the 2nd round (39th overall), is “pretty tough” as an NHL scouting director told me last season.

Notes: The Caps held Tampa to their lowest shot total of the season (17)…Washington is now a league best 11-1-1 at home…Semin is second in the NHL in goals to Stamkos (21 to 17)…the Capitals are 11-0 when #28 scores a goal and 12-1-2 when he registers a point or more….Brian Fahey, who was paired with Erskine, had his first NHL point (an assist) in 11:21 of ice time in his best game as a Capital…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 33-27 and have been at 50% or better for 11 straight games (last season their longest such streak was seven games)…Next up for the Caps are the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center at 5pm on Sunday…down on the farm the Hershey Bears buried the Syracuse Crunch on the road, 5-1. Andrew Gordon had two goals and was the game’s number one star while Mathieu Perreault added a tally and two assists. Dany Sabourin won in Syracuse for the third straight time in three tries this season. The Bears host Adirondack at 7pm on Saturday at the Giant Center.

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Flacco vs. Ryan: The first final tale of the tape

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Flacco vs. Ryan: The first final tale of the tape

Posted on 15 November 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

I’m pretty well aware that this comparison has been done to death over the last week or so, but I really wanted to make my final evaluation after watching these two go at it head to head. So since re-watching the Ravens @ Falcons a few times proved to be the low-light of my weekend, and since the highlight of my weekend was a fantastic time at John Rallo’s Shogun Fights III, I figured I’d give my first final say on the Flacco vs. Ryan debate in tale of the tape fashion.

The Price Tag: Start with the obvious, as the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft, Matt Ryan reportedly signed a rookie contract worth $66 million over 6 years. Bonuses aside, in layman’s math that’s $11 million per season. As the 18th pick overall, Flacco signed a 5-year deal worth about $30 million, or a relatively small $6 million per year or roughly 55% of Ryan’s annual salary. If the rest of the comparison is debatable, then it’s easy to say that the Ravens are getting more for their investment in Flacco than the Falcons are in Ryan, but the price tag argument goes much deeper than just their respective salaries.

 

When comparing the “pound-for-pound” values of these two, we are provided with a somewhat unique perspective on things. According to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column on November 9th, the Ravens inquired with the St. Louis Rams prior to the 2008 draft about acquiring their first round pick that year (2nd overall) presumably to draft Ryan. King reported the price tag to be the Ravens 1st round pick (8th overall), 2nd round pick (38th overall) and 4th round pick (106th overall) in 2008, plus an additional third rounder in 2009. Instead the Ravens traded their 1st rounder to Jacksonville for for their first round pick (26th overall), two third round picks (71st & 89th overall), and a fourth round pick (125th overall). After that they traded the 26th and 89th picks just acquired from Jacksonville, along with their own 6th round pick (173rd overall) to Houston to move back up to 18th and select Flacco. The second rounder they would have sent to St. Louis (38th overall) was instead sent to Seattle for a second round pick (55th overall) and a third (86th overall).

 

Confused yet? Here’s the short story, the Ravens selected Flacco with the 18th pick gotten from Houston and gave up their own 6th rounder. They selected Ray Rice with the 55th pick gotten from Seattle, selected Tavares Gooden with the 71st pick gotten from Jacksonville, and Zibikowski with the 86th pick, gotten in the Seattle deal too. They also selected Marcus Smith with the 106th pick which was the 4th rounder that St. Louis wanted, and traded the 125th pick also from Jacksonville for Fabian Washington. The following year, the Ravens selected Lardarius Webb with their third round pick (88th) overall, which the Rams had also reportedly asked for as part of a deal. That makes the Ravens real choice in hindsight either Matt Ryan and an unknown 6thround pick (173rd overall) which the Texans used to select Dominique Barber, or Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Tavares Gooden, Tom Zibikowski, Marcus Smith, Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb.

 

*It should be noted that King’s report was based on information apparently leaked by the St. Louis organization. As Chris Pika points out here, the Ravens remain firm that no offer was made by them to the Rams, and this was just St. Louis attempting to posture and compel Atlanta to trade up. Still, if this was the reported asking price, it’s fair to say that whether they actually ever considered trading or not, we know what the cost of moving up would likely have been

 

Advantage: Flacco

 

Commanding the offense: It should be expected that Ryan should still have the early lead here. A starter since the last game of his freshman year at Boston College, Ryan had numerous opportunities to measure himself against high caliber and often times pro style defenses. He didn’t sneak up on the league like Flacco, and certainly had the entire football world’s attention as he embarked on his senior season. To that end Ryan has responded at every turn, maintaining his esteemed draft status throughout his senior season, and quickly living up to his billing as a high draft pick.

 

Flacco on the other hand after losing out on the opportunity to start to Tyler Palko at Pitt, snuck up on the football world on the strength of one strong season at Delaware, albeit against far lesser competition, and some strong pre-draft workouts. It should be considered a virtual no-brainer that Ryan enjoyed a substantial head start as it relates to football IQ and high level experience.

 

What’s more, while their NFL careers will seemingly be forever intertwined because of their similar circumstances, if you look deeper, perhaps their circumstances aren’t quite as similar as they might appear. Both were made first year starters under first year coaches, and both propelled their teams into the playoffs as rookies, that much is undeniable. But when John Harbaugh took over the Ravens, despite their miserable campaign the previous season, the feeling was that the team could turn things around right away if a few things went their way. The Falcons on the other hand turned over the reigns to Mike Smith in the immediate wake of Bobby Petrino, and not long after Michael Vick, for a franchise that hasn’t seen a lot of upside historically, it appeared as if they might have been in for their darkest hours.

 

To that end, the Ravens, forced to start Flacco from day one due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, did their best to hide the shortcomings of their rookie signal caller, balancing his development with the best interests of the team from a competitive standpoint. It’s hard to argue with their success. The Falcons on the other hand, with seemingly little to lose, placed a lot on their rookie QB right away, and to his credit he has responded in spades.

 

Therefore, it seems pretty easy not only to assess that Ryan is further along in his development in responding to defenses on the fly, but easy to diagnose the reasons why too. It could be argued too that Ryan is further along in this capacity because his coaches have allowed him to be. With that said, fans should also believe that if the Ravens coaching staff has been reluctant to put more on Flacco’s shoulders, it may be for good reason, and not simply because they believe that audibles are overrated. It could easily be argued that Flacco has come farther faster in his development than Ryan, but it seems pretty clear right now that he still has catching up to do.

 

Advantage: Ryan            NEXT PAGE

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