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Walker, Knuble Lead Caps over Bolts, 5-4

Posted on 04 March 2010 by Ed Frankovic

It was old man night at the Verizon Center on Thursday evening as newly acquired 36 year old Scott Walker and 37 year old Mike Knuble each scored twice to lead the Capitals to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Walker, who was playing his first game with the Caps after coming over from Carolina for a 7th round pick, notched two third period tallies sandwiched around two markers by a fighting for their lives Bolts squad. The victory improves the Caps record to 43-13-8 (94 points) and bumps their Eastern Conference standings lead to 14 points over the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington now has a five point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks in the race for the President’s Trophy (both of them have a game in hand).

Here are the highlights, quotes, & analysis from this one:

Washington owned Tampa coming into this season having defeated them all six times last year and when they easily beat the Bolts, 3-0, back in November they pushed their win streak against the Lightning to 12 straight games. That run ended in Tampa in January in a 7-4 loss and the last two meetings here at the Verizon Center have resulted in one goal victories for the Caps. The secret for the Lightning in keeping things tight with the Caps has been a potent power play and the Bolts were 2 for 5 in this one. A win is a win but Knuble felt the Caps were sloppy after taking a 4-2 lead with 9:49 left and he also says that Washington will see the opponents best games down the stretch, especially from teams like Tampa on the playoff bubble.

“We were a little bit sloppy and I think we just need to bear down a bit more. We got timely goals, Scott [Walker] got a couple goals and I thought the new guys came in and played well. I’ll call [what we need] bearing down a little more, maybe we need to feel threatened and we didn’t seem to be taking their attack seriously. There was a bounce or two there where they were inches away from tying the game. So we got a couple of breaks, a couple of lucky bounces again and ended it. It’s a little sloppy but it’s a win too,” started the man who has scored 15 goals in his last 18 games and 18 in the last 22, “We need to get the idea that these last 20 games are going to be a lot harder than the first 60…Tampa’s season is on the line, they’ve got to get points and make the playoffs. We’re going to get everyone’s best effort…We can’t just slough off and hope that someone makes a play to score a goal or keep it out, we’ve got to bear down.” finished the man who leads all players 33 or older in goals.

Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet, whose team is now three points out of playoff position, was not happy with his club as a whole.

“It’s always frustrating when you lose. There are certain guys, Martin St. Louis, obviously Steven Stamkos, I thought Vinny [Lecavalier] the last couple games came to play. Some other guys, I don’t know. I really don’t know. You got to block a shot or dive to get the puck out of your own end. Bite the puck to get it out of your own end. We need those types of players. There’s five or six of those guys that are costing us right now. Bottom line. The positives are that there are enough guys here that want to win and are playing hard. I’m really proud of those guys.”

Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau thrust all three new acquisitions, Walker, defenseman Joe Corvo, and center Eric Belanger into the line-up forcing out Matt Bradley, Dave Steckel, and John Erskine from Wednesday’s victorious roster in Buffalo. Clearly Walker was the most noticeable in just 7:33 of ice time. Boudreau wanted to play him more but because of all of the penalties in the second period he “had to sit.” Boudreau felt that Corvo (20:19) had a good game and the coach tried him on the point on the power play with Mike Green in the first period, forcing Alexander Ovechkin down low. The 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner was critical of that decision saying “the coaching sloppiness resulted in the team becoming sloppy.” Washington was 0 for 3 with the man advantage on Thursday. Belanger logged 14:50, went +1, and won 5 of 12 face-offs.

The Capitals raced to a 3-1 advantage 28:21 into the contest but they then took four minor penalties in the next six minutes, three of which were within 56 seconds. Lecavalier (two goals) scored to make it 3-2 and after Green, Laich, and Poti all took minor infractions the Lightning had nearly three minutes to tie it up and then take the lead. Then Nicklas Backstrom, on a 4 on 3 penalty kill, broke his stick but managed to throw himself in front of successive Kurtis Foster blasts and lead his team in a momentum changing sequence. The work from #19 drew a lengthy ovation from the Verizon Center faithful and Boudreau felt that moment was a major key to the victory.

“I don’t know how many other superstars would be doing that, which is what makes him special, it was definitely a turning point. They had made it 3-2 and if they score when Nick is out there they still have a 5 on 4 again and they could have gotten the lead. It’s a lot different story playing with the lead than playing from behind,” said Boudreau on the importance of Backstrom sacrificing himself for the good of the team.

The difference in this game was the goaltending. Tampa’s Mike Smith gave up five tallies on 34 shots, some of which were of the soft variety, while Semyon Varlamov (25 saves) didn’t allow any questionable goals. Three of Tampa’s goals came in the slot as a result of poor Caps coverage and the other marker was from Lecavalier on a breakaway. Varly spoke with Russian newspaper reporter Slava Malamud afterwards and Slava told me that #40 felt he should not have gone for #4’s fake that got the young goalie out of position. Malamud mentioned that goaltending coach Arturs Irbe said that is something the 21 year old goalie will learn with experience. It is good to see Varly upset about giving up that goal but to be fair to him, Lecavalier has a Stanley Cup ring, was the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft, and is still one of the top players in the game when he wants to be. Malamud also added that Varlamov is totally healthy and learned alot about positioning from Vladislav Tretiak during his time with the legendary Russian goalie during the Olympics.

After Wednesday’s victory in Buffalo, Boudreau said he thought that the Olympic guys were tired and on Thursday it looked like Alexander Oveckhin (1 assist) and Alexander Semin (-1 in 19:00 of ice time) were still a little sluggish. The Great #8, who has not scored a goal for the Caps since his hat trick against Pittsburgh on February 7th (five game drought), had a breakaway in the second period but the puck rolled of his stick as he was making a move on Smith. He had some other decent chances but the biscuit is not bouncing Ovechkin’s way right now, but the good news is the Caps continue to win.

Next up for Washington are the New York Rangers on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. That game is the second on a five game home stand that sees the Capitals take the ice every other night.

Notes: Washington won the face-off battle, 33-28. Rookie defenseman John Carlson (20 years old), after two early giveaways, set up Tomas Fleischmann for a breakaway and broke up several passes in the second period. #74 had an overall strong game and was +1 in 14:46 of ice time. For Tampa, St. Louis had three assists in 21:35 of ice time and simply brings it on every shift. I spoke with him after the game and he was very disappointed with the loss while praising the Caps. “They are a good team, they are a division rivalry, we seem to give them good games but not good enough, you have to get a win with the playoff race right now.”

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Caps Tie Club Record With 10th Straight Win

Posted on 01 February 2010 by Ed Frankovic

For the first time in nearly 26 years the Washington Capitals have a double digit win streak. Alexander Ovechkin and company fought off a third period surge from the Tampa Bay Lightning at a subdued, but once again sold out Verizon Center to capture their 10th straight and club record-tying victory, by a 3-2 margin. The Great #8 had the game winner with under seven minutes remaining and added a first period assist to run his season totals to 35 goals, 41 assists, and +35 in 47 games. Meanwhile the Caps improve to 37-12-6 (80 points) and widened their Eastern Conference lead to eight points (over New Jersey). The last time Washington won 10 games in a row was during the 1983-84 season and on Tuesday night in Beantown the Caps will try for a franchise record 11 straight victories against the Bruins.

Here are quotes, analysis, and highlights from the record tying win:

Crowd Dead: Home ice has definitely been good to the Caps this year and they are now 21-3-3 at the Phone Booth. Seven of the 10 wins on this streak have come at the often raucous Verizon Center. Today, however, was the quietest I have heard the building since early in the 2007-08 season (pre-Bruce Boudreau era). I don’t know what the deal was but the arena lacked energy. It could have been the boring style of play that the Lightning brought, it could have been the lack of first period scoring chances, or it could have been the 3pm start, who knows? One would think that just the chance to win 10 straight games would have had the fans fired up but they weren’t this afternoon. Whatever the case, the crowd that loves to “Rock the Red” typically is a huge help to Washington but it wasn’t really until the video board played “Unleash the Fury” with eight minutes left that they got into this one. Even still, the arena was at a much lower decible level than normal shortly after Ovechkin put the Caps ahead late in the third period. The head coach definitely noticed the lower decibel levels on Sunday.

“I thought the crowd was quieter than most. [Tampa] came out and all they wanted to do was check and I think they had only one or two scoring chances in the first period. It wasn’t a real up and down tempo. There were a lot of whistles and no penalties, so it was a quiet game in that respect,” said Boudreau on the lack of energy in the building.

Style of Hockey to Expect Going Forward: On Friday night the Caps had to deal with the Panthers trap and today it was an ultra conservative, defense first minded Lightning squad that the high powered Capitals had to defeat. Washington will likely face a lot of this type of play from here on out because teams are afraid of getting into a shootout with such an offensively talented club like the Caps. Boudreau spoke to his team about dealing with that going forward.

“We talked about that they are putting you to sleep and you’ve got to stay strong and this is how some teams will play that we might meet in the playoffs. They are a very defensive minded team,” added Boudreau on Tampa’s style of play.

“The first two periods it was kind of a boring game, both sides, but then in the third they started putting more pressure and they got the skill to come back from a two goal game and that is what they did tonight and they have Vinny [Lecavalier], [Steven] Stamkos, [Martin] St. Louis, all these guys that could score goals and I thought we never panicked tonight, scored the big goal at the end and just played solid D,” said Caps goalie Jose Theodore (25 saves) on the lack of flow and how is team prevailed.

“I would say they dulled the game down is the way to describe it. They didn’t want to match firepower with firepower, especially the way that our offense has been clicking so they tried to beat us another way by chipping pucks deep, keeping pucks low, falling back in the neutral zone, trying to limit our speed. I thought they did a good job of taking away our speed and our offensive chances early on then our power play gets a goal and we were able to get another one after that and just fortunate that we pulled it through at the end,” said forward Brooks Laich, who made it 2-0 Caps in the second period with his 16th tally of the season from three feet out. The goal was set up by a nice passing play between Tomas Fleischmann (2 assists) and Alexander Semin (1 assist).

“I think we are going to see that even more down the stretch here. Teams that we have been playing here are just scraping for points. So none of these teams want to get into a pond hockey game with us, they don’t want to be exchanging chances. They are clamping down and they figure the best way to beat us or get a point is to play well defensively, try to give up as least amount of chances as possible, and hang around for a point. It’s patience really, stick to the game plan, just because you don’t get one early in the game don’t get frustrated, you don’t have to go beating guys one on one on the red line. These teams are waiting for turnovers and try to have a transition game against us but it speaks to the fact that some playoff games might be like this, you are not going to score 4, 5, or 6 goals a night come playoff time so you have to be able to adjust and adapt and play in these tight games,” said center Brendan Morrison, who played the point on the first power play unit with Mike Green out of the lineup due to a three game suspension.

Sloan Excels With Green Out: Tyler Sloan (+1), who played six games in a row for the Caps before sitting out the last four tilts, was very good today in 16:30 of ice time. He  drew a tripping penalty on Alex Tanguay just 5:48 into the contest and he also made a super takeaway on the ultra talented Stamkos in the second period.

“He’s a heckuva a player and he had good speed going wide but I didn’t panic, I just kept backpedaling, I knew he couldn’t cut inside on me so he kept going wide. When you are playing the right side and you’re a left shot, your stick is on that side so it is easier to poke check,” started Sloan on the steal he made against Stamkos. “No, I haven’t, he’s a pretty skilled and he can try just about anything, I just knew he had nowhere to go, he was running out of room and he as soon as he got to the point of no return I turned and pokechecked,” finished #89 when asked if he had ever seen the 2008 1st overall pick in the NHL entry draft try that move before and how he finished the play off.

Sloan enjoyed being paired with the solid Jeff Schultz for the first time since his NHL debut.

“You know what, I think the last time I played with Schultzie was my first game in the NHL in Calgary. I don’t know if we have [played together] since then. Maybe a little bit once in awhile on the PK but not a regular shift since last year. We’re the Calgary connection. Schultzie is a great player, he is easy to play with. We both make the simple play and he is pretty defensive so it allows me to jump up in the play a little bit and use my skating,” added Sloan on his day paired with #55.

I asked Boudreau if #89’s good play carried extra merit because he has been in and out of the line-up so often.

“I think if you look at it’s hard but it shouldn’t be hard, you should be prepared and ready to play. He could have been 30 games in the minors and you come up and your stuck in the lineup and be just as good as anybody on the ice. So we practice all of the time and he’s practicing. That is one aspect of your job when you are the sixth, seventh defenseman is to stay ready because if you are not ready and you get thrown in the game and you don’t do a good job than you don’t continue to stay the sixth or seventh defenseman. That is why Quintin Laing, no matter when I put him in, I know he is gonna be great because he’s ready and he knows his roll and so does Tyler and I thought Tyler played really good, by the way, I’m just saying it’s not something extraordinary that he played good, he should be playing good,” added Boudreau on Sloan.

Goaltending Battle: Theodore was hurt on Long Island this past Tuesday night and Michal Neuvirth stepped in to keep the winning streak alive. Neuvirth’s reward, with #60 healthy again, was a trip to Hershey to try and get in five games with the Bears so he can play in the AHL during the upcoming Olympic break. Theo picked up where he left off before the minor hip injury with a solid peformance. The players are aware of how well the goalies have been playing.

“It is nice to have a couple of guys that you can throw in there. That is a cursed blessing because you have a couple of goalies that are playing well right now but there is only one of them that can play each game so I think it is a good competition. They are pushing each other to play better in net and for us, as players, there is nothing better than playing in front of hot goalies,” added #21 on the excellent goaltending Washington has been receiving during the winning streak.

Face-off Domination Aids Win Again: The Caps once again won the face-off battle, 31-23, but I hadn’t seen today’s ending before. With goalie Mike Smith (28 saves) pulled for an extra attacker the Bolts pressured late and forced several face-offs in Washington’s end. Dave Steckel (5-6 on the day) is the Caps number one man from the dot and he won a draw with 10 seconds left. Tom Poti, who had a solid outing on Sunday, iced the puck taking the game clock down to 2.4 seconds. That set up one final draw for the Lightning to try and tie it. Tampa, as I pointed out to John Keeley (On Frozen Blog) who was sitting next to me in the press box, had been cheating on face-offs all evening by leaning in early. Lecavalier must have assumed he could do it again for this final draw but it all blew up in his face and he was given a penalty for pushing it too far with the officials. Boudreau explained what he saw from his vantage point on the bench.

“Obviously they kicked him out and he didn’t want to get kicked out and he had a few choice words for the linesman. I think they were going to let it go but he just persisted and persisted and that is when they gave him the penalty. I think the referee was just protecting his linesman from getting abused and once that happens and the face-off is down the other end it takes all of their chance of winning the game or tying it up away,” said the 2007-08 NHL Coach of the Year on how the game finished.

“Usually if you are cheating they will give you a warning, if you cheat again they will throw you out, that is kind of the protocol and they might give some leniency to guys that have been around a little longer than that. That is the general rule of thumb. They’ll let you encroach a bit but if you are totally crossing the line then they’ll throw you out,” said Morrison on how draws are usually monitored in a given contest.

Why Are the Caps Winning So Often?: This Caps squad has a lot of talent, no doubt, but in the last month things have really gelled and Washington has become a real dominant team. The club is healthy up front for pretty much the first time all season and the line combinations have been stable over the course of the last 11 games so those are contributing factors. But it is more than just health and set lines, according to Laich and the vetern center, Morrison.

“I think we are starting to learn. I think our team is starting to mature and you’ve seen that in this streak. I thought the game we played in Pittsburgh when we were tied going into the third and then we got up two goals in the third I thought we really sufficated them. We took control of the game and we didn’t get into a run and gun, risky hockey game. We are being more disciplined, not giving up so many power play chances, so I think we are starting to mature and I think that is why you are starting to see a winning streak build up there,” said Laich, who stressed before the season that Washington must learn to stick to their system if they want to win a Stanley Cup, like Pittsburgh did last June.

“We aren’t thinking about 11 or 12, it’s all about the process. If we come in and take care of things night in and night out, things will take care of themselves,” finished Morrsion on why the Caps have been able to win 10 games in a row.

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ESPN Fails Again – Names ’04 Trojans Greatest CFB Team of the Decade Ahead of ’01 Canes

Posted on 21 January 2010 by stevenlink

So the “greatest” sports network on the planet announced its “Team of the Decade” for college football.  With so many great teams to choose from, ESPN decided to go with…the 2004 USC Trojans?  I don’t disagree that the ’04 Trojans were an amazing football team, but they were not the greatest of the decade…that title my friends, belongs to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

I am not saying this based on my obvious bias towards the Hurricanes, but rather through logic and sound reasoning.  And I am willing to go that extra step and state that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were probably the greatest collegiate football team of all time.

Normally I do not allow things like this to bother me as much as this one is, however, just imagine if ESPN broadcasted and named the top NFL defense of this past decade the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.  Would you not be furious that the 2000 Ravens defense was not number 1 but rather a “close” number 2?  Yea, I thought you would agree with me.

Here is the link to ESPN’s article written by Pat Forde: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=forde_pat&id=4841759

Now I am not a published journalist and I like Pat Forde’s work, but I would have spent a little more than two or three sentences to explain why you chose the rankings for each team.

Not only is it a quick, I guess you call it this, analysis about each team, but the reasoning that is used is flawed.  First of all, the article makes the argument that Miami played an easier team in the BCS Championship, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, than the USC Trojans did, the Oklahoma Sooners.  Forde states that, “The Hurricanes produced an astonishing amount of pro talent and stampeded to a perfect record — but they were also slightly lessened by facing an underwhelming Nebraska team in the 2002 Rose Bowl.”

Last time I checked, neither teams, coaches, nor a playoff determined who would play in the BCS Championship game, but rather 5 computers made the decision at that time.  Isn’t this the same argument that Forde and others at ESPN have complained about for years regarding the BCS, that the BCS is imperfect?  If they complain about how imperfect the system is, then why are they holding this fact against the Hurricanes??  Way to think this all the way through guys and gals.  Sounds like Lou Holtz may have gotten to you…

If you compare the two championship games that USC and Miami played in, both teams dominated their opposition.  Forde states in his analysis of USC’s game against Oklahoma that, “The score was 38-10 at halftime for a USC team that combined dazzling offense…and brutal defense…”  However, does he make mention of Miami’s game at the half?  At halftime in the 2001 BCS Championship game, Miami was leading Nebraska 34-0…34-0!!  The final score was 37-14, but it was not indicative of how purely dominant Miami was on the football field.  Andre Johnson was catching touchdown passes as if he was already at the combine showing off his speed and hands, while Clinton Portis was storming through Nebraska’s defensive line like a fat-kid through a buffet line!!  I mean right there, using that logic, both teams are equal.  The only difference is that Miami turned it off after the half and decided not to run the score up unlike the Trojans.  If Miami wanted to, that score could have been over 60 points by the end of the game…and it is not like Miami did not score 60 plus points that season.

This brings me into my next point, why not also use the regular season to determine the greatest team?  Why just the championship game?  Did the other 11 or 12 games not count?

Below I have laid out the opponents and results for each team.  Notice I have also labeled whether an opponent either Miami or USC faced was ranked at that the time of the match-up.  Before you look, I want you to pay careful attention to the amount of games that Miami and USC won by only single-digits, how many shut-outs each team had, and how many teams Miami and USC faced that were ranked nationally.

2004 USC Trojans:

8/28 – Virginia Tech – W 24-13

9/11 – Colorado State – W 49-0

9/18 – BYU – W 42-10

9/25 – Stanford – W 31-28

10/9 – #7 California – W 23-17

10/16 – #15 Arizona State – W 45-7

10/23 – Washington – W 38-0

10/30 – Washington State – W 42-12

11/6 – Oregon State – W – 28-20

11/13 – Arizona – W 49-9

11/27 – Notre Dame – W 41-10

12/4 – UCLA – W 29-24

BCS Championship 1/4 – Oklahoma – W 55-19


2001 Miami Hurricanes

9/1 – Penn State – W 33-7

9/8 – Rutgers – W 61-0

9/27 – Pittsburgh – W 43-21

10/6 – Troy – W 38-7

10/13 – #14 Florida State – W 49-27

10/25 – West Virginia – W 45-3

11/3 – Temple – W 38-0

11/10 – Boston College – W 18-7

11/17 – #14 Syracuse – W 59-0

11/24 – #12 Washington – W 65-7

12/1 – #14 Virginia Tech – W 26-24

BCS Championship 1/3 – #4 Nebraska – W 37-14


As you can see, Miami clearly had the more dominant regular season.  The Canes’ defense shut out opponents three times to USC’s two.  Miami played 5 ranked teams while USC played only 3.  And most importantly, USC had to win 4 games by single digits while Miami had to only win 1!!  Uno!!  That right there shows dominance!!  Plus, did you notice how Miami scored over 60 points not just once, but twice that year?

Now to the players…  Again, I do not disagree that USC had players that were very good in college, but comparing them to the players and product that the 2001 Hurricanes churned out, is nothing to compare.  However, I am going to compare because I want to prove my point even more.

The article spouts off about some great players on the Trojans.  On offense: Matt Leinhart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil, Duece Lutui.  On defense: Lawrence Jackson, Mike Patterson, Shaun Cody, and Lofa Tatupu.

Sure these kids were good in college, but when they got into the NFL, almost all of them earned the mark of being OVER-RATED.  How many are Pro Bowlers and how many are NFL stars?  Let’s go one-by-one shall we?

Matt Leinhart – He got drafted in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals and was suppose to be their young savior.  The Cardinals bring in the ever-ageless Kurt Warner to back-up Leinhart and teach him how to be a NFL quarterback.  But wait, who is starting for the Cardinals now?  Who was the quarterback that took them to their first ever Super Bowl appearance?  Was it USC’s Leinhart???  Nope, it would be the back-up they brought in who out-performed Leinhart in almost every aspect of the game…Leinhart = Over-rated

Reggie Bush – Not only is he still under investigation regarding the alleged NCAA violations he broke while at USC, but who would have thought that the most electrifying running-back (RB) in college football would be the second-string RB on the New Orleans Saints?  The fact that he is known more for his punt and kick-off returns in the NFL rather than his RB skills and prowess, is embarrasing enough.  Also, the kid can’t stay healthy…Reggie Bush = Overrated

LenDale White – Okay, so he had one good season, but he’s still a dud.  He is a not a starter and will not be a starter anywhere else.  Even after he lost those 30 pounds or something this past offseason he still can’t outrun a 340 pount defensive lineman…

Steve Smith – Congrats Mr. Smith…after about 3 years or so in the NFL you have finally emerged as a legitimate wide-receiver.  Some thought it would never happen.  I still think you should credit Mr. Manning for how he used you as his safety net.

Dwayne Jarrett – You’re kidding me right?  Anyone reading this blog know what team this guy plays for??  If you guessed the Carolina Panthers, then you know your NFL.  He was drafted to replace Mushin Mohammed who left the Panthers for the Bears.  After Mushin’s contract was up with the Bears, the Panthers quickly brought him back because Jarrett has been a complete bust.  Dwayne Jarrett = Overrated

Ryan Kalil, Duece Lutui??  Need I go any further with two players that 90% of NFL fans have never heard of?

And now for the amazing defense…  Out of the list of names listed, only one has made a semi-name for himself and that is Tatupu.  Don’t tell any Seahawk fans this, but he is an overrated Middle-Linebacker who does not have the strength or speed to be dominant in the NFL.  Does anyone know what teams Lawrence Jackson, Mike Patterson, or Shaun Cody play for?  If you do, please report that information to the USC Booster Club as they have been missing.

This is just an utter travesty to place this team before the Miami Hurricanes of 2001.  If you were to match up the 2001 Canes versus the 2004 Trojans, I guarantee that the 2001 Canes would win.  And if there was not the pass-interference call in the 2002 BCS Championship game against Miami (that was an improper flag) Miami would have won that Championship and should also be ahead of the 2004 Trojans.  I digress…

Here is a list of players that played on Miami’s 2001 team and that are so well-known, that I do not need to list and explain them like I had to with the Trojans.

Clinton Portis (WAS), Jeremy Shockey (NO), Andre Johnson (HOU), Kellen Winslow Jr. (TB), Bryant McKinnie (MIN), Jerome McDougle (PHI), William Joseph (NYG), Vince Wilfork (NE), D.J. Williams (DEN), Jonathan Vilma (NO), Phillip Buchanan (DET), Sean Taylor (R.I.P.)…and last but not least ED “The Real Deal” REED!!!  Oh…I think he plays for the Baltimore Ravens.  And I could go on, but I have decided not to…

This blog has gone on long enough…but this is just outrageous!  It once again proves that ESPN knows nothing about sports, other than how to televise them.

The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are by far the greatest team of the past decade, and are arguably the greatest team ever assembled in the history of collegiate football.  How about them apples Lou Holtz?!?!? HAHA!!

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Ovechkin Notches Two, Varlamov Blanks Bolts, 3-0

Posted on 07 December 2009 by Ed Frankovic

Alexander Ovechkin returned to the line-up tonight for the Washington Capitals and he came back with a flurry notching two goals in a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau has been getting great goaltending lately and Monday was no different as Semyon Varlamov was outstanding once again making several big saves en route to 26 total stops on the evening for his first shutout of the season. #40 is now 12-1-2 in goal. The Caps have now won 12 straight games against the Lightning, wow! This was Washington’s sixth straight win and they now lead the NHL with 44 points at 19-5-6.

Here is the period by period analysis followed by the post game analysis:

End of 1st period: Caps 0 Lightning 0

Well the intensity was down early in this one with the Great #8 back on the ice. Washington had three power plays, and it had been red hot, going  7 for 18 recently, but it went scoreles in period one with Brooks Laich hitting the post on the first PP attempt for the Caps best scoring chance. On the other end, Vincent Lecavalier had some good chances, including a great two on one opportunity that he shot wide on. #4 has had a tough season so far but claims he has been getting scoring opportunities, so look out if he gets it going. Martin St. Louis had a strong period for the Bolts but this low energy period was won by both goaltenders.

End of 2nd period: Caps 3, Lightning 0

The Lightning drew a Washington penalty with Mike Green getting called for a slash at 5:12 but the Caps did a nice job of killing off the infraction despite some late giveaways by Dave Steckel and Chris Clark. Once the Caps got to even strength Alexander Semin and Ovechkin went in on a two on one break and #28 made a beautiful pass to set up Alexander the Great and he one timed it home. For the 22nd time in 30 games this season, the Caps would tally first. Washington then took another slashing call, this time on Semin, and the Caps had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 on a shorthanded rush but Laich, after a great set up from Brendan Morrison, missed a tap in at the left post. St. Louis then appeared to have a breakaway but he took his eye off of the puck and it trickled into the corner. Shortly thereafter Lecavalier almost had another breakaway after a Caps turnover but John Erskine dove and made a great poke check to knock the puck behind the net.

Varlamov was super solid up making some sparkling glove saves on Kurtis Foster on the two Tampa power plays. Washington then got a lucky bounce after Tomas Fleischmann made a nice steal in his own end and carried the puck into the Tampa zone. #14 tried to throw it on net but the puck deflected up in the air off of a Bolts stick and it fell right to Eric Fehr in front and he slammed it home to make it 2-0 at 12:32 of the period. When you go to the net good things usually happen.

Wide open hockey then ensued with both teams trading chances and then Lecavalier tripped Ovechkin at center ice to put the Caps back on the power play. The Lightning were playing with fire giving Washington another chance on the man advantage and when former Cap Jeff Halpern turned the puck over and cried for a penalty, Semin and company went back down the ice 4 on 2 and Ovechkin ended up scoring at the left post to make it 3-0. The Great #8 now has 20 goals in just 22 games (he has missed 8 games – 6 due to injury and 2 to suspension). Shots in that period were 16 for Washington and 14 for the Lightning.

End of 3rd period: Caps 3, Lightning 0

Early in period three the Caps had a two on one break with Ovechkin and Semin and the Great #8, instead of shooting, passed to #28, but he missed the ocean. That would have ended the game right there. Ovie probably should have shot there but he was being unselfish trying to return a favor to his friend Sasha. Steve Downie followed with a nice chance and Varlamov stopped him five hole but Fehr took a hooking infraction. Instead of Tampa taking advantage, the Caps got two shorthanded scoring chances with Semin nearly converting on a fancy curl and drag (Smith made a great save) and then Fleischmann went in from the left wing but Smith denied him.

Varlamov continued to play well and he made a super ten bells save on a two on one down low just over five minutes in. A scary moment for Caps fans then ensued as Mike Green went flying up the ice and David Hale tried to shoulder him and he got #52 in the face on the follow through with his elbow. Green would get up and be okay and then he drew a tripping penalty when Lecavalier took him down. But Washington was tentative on the power play and Ryan Malone almost scored on a hard charge to the goal but Varly stopped him as #12 went crashing in to him. Varly appeared to bang his leg on the post but fortunately he appeared to be okay.

The contest seemed to lose energy and the Caps coasted to an easy win to go 7-0 in the Southeast Division in 2009-10.

Here is the post game analysis:

Varlamov was great and so was Ovechkin tonight as the Russian duo led the way in this one against a Tampa team that was supposed to be improved. The Lightning are better but they were really horrible last year (drafted 2nd overall last summer). I thought Rick Tocchet’s club would play with more energy but they just look listless at times. Lecavalier is definitely in a big time scoring slump and looks like he wants out of there.

Back to Varly, he continues to improve and his glove hand was superb tonight. Looks like the combination of new goalie Coach Arturs Irbe and an equipment change (lighter glove) has really helped him. He also is becoming more and more positionally sound in net and I really only saw one bad rebound tonight but he didn’t over react on that one and ended up making a second save. Still, look for Theodore in net on Wednesday as #60 is hot too and Boudreau has to rotate his goalies in an Olympic year with a compact schedule.

Boy was it fun to have the Great #8 back on the ice tonight! He is pure entertainment. Here is Ovechkin’s stat line: 2 goals, 7 shots on net, 5 missed shots, and 5 hits in 22:02 of ice time. If he stays healthy I believe he will end up leading the league in scoring despite missing 8 contests. Semin, Ovie’s Russian comrade, had 2 assists, 7 shots on net, and 7 missed shots logging 21:33 of ice time.

Shaone Morrisonn returned from injury (c0ncussion) tonight and had a solid 16:05 of ice time. In fact, the entire Caps defensive crew played well and they continued a recent trend of making excellent break out passes and that allows Washington’s deadly transition game to get into high gear. Milan Jurcina was a scratch tonight while Karl Alzner was returned to Hershey so the Caps are pretty loaded on the blue line (and don’t forget 19 year old John Carlson).

Next up for the Caps are the Sabres in Buffalo onWednesday night.

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To Draft or Not To Draft

Posted on 17 April 2009 by Nicholas Miskelly

To Draft or Not To Draft 

As draft day approaches I have begun to think in greater depth about what the Ravens should do with their first pick. The Ravens have traditionally been one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to drafting and evaluating talent.  The great Ozzie Newsome always puts this team in the best possible position to draft value with a pick and never based on need.  He has done it again this year. 

After the season was over the Ravens had a lot of decisions to make.  They had to decide who to re-sign, who to let go, and for those who left, how would they be replaced?  We saw the likes of Bart Scott, Chris McAlister, Jason Brown, and Jim Leonhard all leave via free agency.  But after that we saw Ozzie reload as only Ozzie can.  He brought in Matt Birk at center, Foxworth at corner, and L.J Smith at tight end to sure up potential weaknesses or thin areas for the Ravens.  He also resigned Samari Rolle and signed Chris Carr to the team to make sure there was great depth in the secondary and coverage on the special teams unit.  Heading into the draft this team is complete and does not have any glaring need that must be addressed early in this draft.  Furthermore this team has a wealth of young talent that they did not have room for last year with the likes of Prescott Burgess and Tavares Gooden.  This team is in as comfortable of a position as any team heading into the draft.  This is why they must consider adding Boldin to the team.  He may very well be the one missing piece. 

While the Ravens do not typically like to trade their top pick or a bulk of their picks in a draft, this year might be the year to do so.  I know the Ravens have only six picks this year but if you give up your first and your third round picks you will be gaining more value in Boldin than you would be giving away with what could come in with those two picks.  Wide receiver is the hardest position to fill in the draft and more times then not the pick results in a bust.  The game is so much more physical at the NFL level it is just impossible to project how well receivers will do and which ones will be a bust.  Boldin is a perfect example.  He was a second round draft pick because teams could not project how well he would do.  This year looks to be a crap shoot again as teams try to guess which wide-out is worth taking.  The Ravens are one of those teams and by trading for Boldin it would eliminate all of the guesswork. 

Look at this way:  Who might the Ravens draft with the 26th overall pick?  Most projections I have seen have the Ravens looking at a corner or, you guessed it, a wide receiver.  Thanks to Ozzie’s great offseason the Ravens have added depth and talent to their secondary.  A corner pick here is no longer a must but rather more like a luxury.  A wide receiver for this team makes the most sense, so why not get the best? This years best available is not Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks(I think is the best in the draft), Kenny Britt, or even Darrius Heyward-Bey.  That is right, the best wide-out available this year is Boldin.  The Ravens fans want him.  The Ravens need him.

Boldin is young, only 28, and can help this team for another 5 years.  He will come in and have an immediate impact on this offense, especially on Joe Flacco.  The other benefit of getting Boldin is that you would not have to wait for him to develop.  He is ready to go on day one.  Let’s face it the Ravens are not getting any younger on defense and guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed do not have the years left to wait for a rookie to develop.  Flacco is also emerging into a star and we do not need to hold him back while waiting for the rookie WR to develop.

Traditionally the Ravens have not been afraid to pull the trigger to trade up in the draft to get guys they felt were important to this team and may not be available when it is their turn to draft, ala Joe Flacco.  So why not pull the trigger this year.  Just because Boldin is not in the draft does not mean we should write off the idea of dealing our picks.   

Give up the picks and bring Baltimore a star thus narrowing the gap between the Super Bowl champions and the Baltimore Ravens!!! 


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Breakfast with Jim Schwartz and the NFC coaches

Posted on 25 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The NFL Owners Meetings are about to wrap up out here in Dana Point, Calif. later this afternoon and the final day brings the opportunity to dine and schmooze and interview the NFC coaches, which of course took me to the table of new Detroit Lions coach and longtime WNST.net contributor, Jim Schwartz. As an Arbutus native and Mt. St. Joe grad, I feel I owe it to Baltimore (as well as to Schwartz’s many friends and relatives) to get as much of the video up as possible.

I’m running to grab a plane but I have about an hour’s worth of great stuff — ranging from draft perspective to the 0-16 Lions to Schwartz’s view on Mark Teixeira and his new time management techniques. It might take me two days to get all of the videos up on the site but they’ll be coming soon and I’ll be releasing a few a day for the next week.

I’ve literally shot 2 1/2 hours worth of notable interviews, including more stuff with Rex Ryan, Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Mike Smith and tons more footage of yesterday’s sitdown with John Harbaugh, who had his brother Jim and dad Jack here for the last few days as well. It was my first chance to meet Jack Harbaugh, who might be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Just wonderful family, the Harbaughs!

The main focus of the last few days from the NFL’s perspective has been the impending start to negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. I could sum it all up, but Don Banks of SI.com did a very nice job in yesterday’s column. In short, the word “Armageddon” has been thrown around here in regard to a potential work stoppage in 2011 with the uncapped year looming large in 2010.

It’s been three great days here in Southern California and, as always, I learned a lot, listened a lot and asked a lot of questions. I’ll be bringing it all back and onto the air at AM 1570 and here at WNST.net over the next few weeks as we prepare for the April 25 draft.

It’s really amazing at an event like to see the Ravens alumni of coaches fare so well in the NFL.

Even with Brian Billick and Mike Nolan no longer in the fraternity the list is extraordinary and makes me proud to be a Ravens fan.

From Ted Marchibroda’s staff: Jim Schwartz, Ken Whisenhunt, Marvin Lewis and Eric Mangini are head coaches.

From Billick’s staff: Lewis, Rex Ryan, Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith all had tables and held court the last two days.

And of course, there’s John Harbaugh who is always upbeat, positive and genial in dealing with folks.

It’s almost like a purple reunion, especially when you consider David Modell has been here with his usual comedy routine, insights and his awesome 3D company, 3eality. I’m a big fan of David and I miss his presence with the team. Of course the last place I ever thought I’d run into him was at an NFL event but he was here and in fine spirits.

I’ll be checking in over the next few days and it was nice to see the Terps ladies advance in the NCAA Tournament. Anything to keep my mind off of the Orioles pitching at this point!

Off to the airport…

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Live from Southern California…

Posted on 23 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a chilly trip all the way around. It’s cold in California this week. It was freezing at Dodger Stadium last night and Laguna Beach is no better.

I’m spending the next three days here in Dana Point at the NFL Owners Meetings, chatting with coaches, executives and owners from around the league. Most of the media has commented that it’s “quiet” here this week, with no major rules changes or negotiations to be held. The only potential “landmark” concept is the notion of making the regular season a 17 or 18-game affair, with the elimination of those dreadful preseason games. It appears that changes to overtime possession aren’t coming right now. There’s too much support to keep the current (yet flawed) system.

But it’s truly the calm before the potential financial storm as the NFL Players Association has named its new leader in DeMaurice Smith last week.

Commisioner Roger Goodell is addressing the entire contingent this morning with a “State of The NFL” speech, which no doubt will be addressing the sagging economy and the paramount issue of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, which could be a dog fight over the next 18 months as both sides are preparing for a tremendous battle that could go either way.

Lockouts, strikes, posturing – it’s all on the table as both sides look to divvy up the riches and spoils of a league that has basically had 25 years of labor peace and prosperity. Right now, the players get 59.5% of the total revenue pool. The owners want to make it less; the players, of course, want more. We’ll be following this story for the next two years but this is the beginning of a long race that will decide the fate of the league for the next decade.

I spent the evening last night up in Los Angeles (about an hour north of here) at Dodger Stadium at the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Team USA and Japan. Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest night for Brian Roberts in field but he did begin the game with a grand home run off of Dice K. I caught up with Brian Roberts, Davey Johnson and Jeremy Guthrie prior to the game and saw more celebrities than I can name. The videos are just to the right of here in the wnsTV video vault.

Because of the “Angelos ban” I never had the chance to meet of chat with Guthrie. He was a super good guy and was truly excited about wearing a USA jersey. My five minutes with him made it very easy to pull for him when he takes the ball at Camden Yards in two weeks.

(And for the record, I had no idea Kelsey Grammar was such a nice guy. I did, however, fully confirm that Alyssa Milano is smoking hot!)

Dodger Stadium is still a religious experience for any baseball fan and it’s nights like last night that really make me love my job and my career in sports. As I’ve been posting my baseball book about my Pop and his love of the game, it’s nights like last night that remind me about why I chose to do this for a living 25 years ago.

I also ran into some very old and dear friends from the “early days” with the Orioles. Dr. Charles Steinberg and Evelyn Ehlers – both “lifer” Orioles fans and Baltimoreans are working in the Dodgers’ front office. Former Ravens V.P. Dennis Mannion is now the president of the Dodgers. And Baltimorean Jamie McCourt (nee Luskin, as in Jack Luskin, the “cheapest guy in the town”) is the C.E.O. of the team, owner by her and husband Frank McCourt.

It’s almost like the Dodgers are Baltimore’s West Coast connection.

I’ll be shooting videos here on WNST.net, blogging and potentially grabbing some guests for Drew Forrester, Bob Haynie and Ray Bachman, who will be filling in for me all week from 2 til 6 p.m.

I’ve already chatted with virtually every NFL coach that has a Baltimore connection and John Harbaugh told me that his brother – former Ravens QB and current Stanford head coach Jim – and his dad will be here this afternoon. We’ll be doing a little wnsTV of that in the next 24 hours.

It’s also the first NFL Owners Meetings for longtime WNST supporters, Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz, who will both make some time for Baltimore.

Stay tuned…I’ll be working hard here in California.

Did I mention the weather kinda sucks?

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Ravens sign former Eagles tight end L. J. Smith

Posted on 17 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Several media outlets are reporting that the Ravens have signed veteran tight end L.J. Smith to a 1-year, $1.5 million deal to potentially join Todd Heap in the team’s corps. Read more here…

This might’ve been moved forward by John Harbaugh’s years with the Eagles. Strangely enough, Harbs hasn’t attemted to raid any of the Philadelphia roster over the past 13 months.

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Loyola ends up short and falls to Manhattan

Posted on 07 February 2009 by Chris Bonetti

The Loyola College men’s hoops team went on a 16-4 run late in Saturday evening’s MAAC match up with Manhattan, but the Jaspers were able to hang on late and pick up a huge road win 72-65 in Baltimore.  The loss is the Greyhounds’ second consecutive and drops them under .500 in league play at 6-7 and to 11-14 overall.

It seemed as though Loyola had completely bottomed out with 5:47 left to play in front of their home fans, but they were able to turn it on with smothering defensive intensity and with a Marquis Sullivan 3-ball the Greyhounds found themselves down just 1 with 1:28 left to play.  During the run Coach Jimmy Patsos used a lineup featuring a 6’4 Brad Farrell as its tallest player.

Give him his credit when it’s due… Coach P. pushed the right button sacrificing size and muscle for shooting range and quickness in employing an effective full court press.  On the floor for Loyola during the run was Rudolph, Harvey, Barney, Sullivan, and Farrell.

However how many times have we seen  a team come all the way back late, but can’t for whatever reason, be it fatigue, time, or whatever, get the game tied or go ahead.

Farrell knocked down a pair of FT’s with 23 seconds left to pull Loyola within 2 at 67-65 but that would be the closest the ‘Hounds would get under a minute.  As Farrell’s second free throw was in the process of tickling twine Manhattan guard Chris Smith broke the length of the floor beating the Loyola defense and was hit in stride with a long touchdown pass.  Smith went up strong, Brian Rudolph would catch-up, but Smith (younger brother of J.R.) dunked with one hand and ended any chance of a comeback.

Coming of a 28% shooting performance at Fairfield Sunday, the Greyhounds’ offense once again struggled to get on track.  Most glaring tonight was the 13 free throws they missed.  Going 18-31 from the line is never acceptable; leaving that many points on the table is deadly and especially frustrating considering Loyola leads the MAAC and ranks in the top 20 nationally in FT%.

Sullivan, the senior guard, drained 5 triples and led four teammates in double figures with 15.  Farrell and the MAAC’s leading scorer Jamal Barney had 12 while Brett Harvey chipped in 11 off the bench.

Both Loyola and Manhattan were tied coming into the contest with a MAAC record of 6-6.  The loss knocks them down to a sixth place tie with Iona.

Loyola will now go on the road Monday night and take on conference heavyweight Siena.  The Saints were handed their first MAAC loss Saturday at Rider after running off 12 straight to start the season.  The ‘Hounds can play with them, for whatever reason they match up relatively well.  Last season Loyola beat them 2 out of 3 while earlier this year a more talented and veteran Saint team had to scratch for a close road win at Reitz. Tip time will be 7pm.

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Towson hoops: Tigers rally for big win

Posted on 03 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

Trailing throughout the entire game, Towson rallied for a gritty come-from-behind win over James Madison on Saturday night at the Towson Center, edging the Dukes, 58-57.

James Madison led 33-27 at the half and had a 5-point lead at 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Towson led early in the game at 5-3, then didn’t have the advantage again until Junior Hairston hit a pair of foul shots with just under a minute to play to give the Tigers the 58-57 lead.  James Madison got the ball back with 30 seconds to play but failed to get off a shot and called timeout with 3.8 seconds to play.  Their inbounds play offered little more than a desperation heave at the buzzer and it was off the mark, giving Towson an almost-improbable win.

Hairston led Towson with 16 points.  Seldom used guard Rocky Coleman had his best game of the year with 12 points, while Jarrel Smith and Troy Franklin each chipped in 10.  Towson used only eight players the entire night.  Juwann James led JMU (8-6) with 24 points.

“We just kept on fighting until the end,” said Pat Kennedy in his radio interview afterwards.  “I told the guys we have to play all 40 minutes because it’s definitely going to come down to the final possession of the game.”

Kennedy was right on the mark with that statement.  

Towson improves to 6-8 overall and 1-1 in the CAA. 

They travel to Delaware on Monday night to take on the Blue Hens, 81-79 winners over VCU earlier today. The Tigers then come back home to host George Mason on Wednesday, then visit Northeastern on Saturday. Virginia Commonwealth makes their first visit to the Towson Center in nearly two years on Wednesday, January 14.

This Wednesday’s game vs. George Mason is “WNST Night”.  $5.00 ticket coupons are available at WNST.net and can be redeemed at the Towson Center Box Office on the night of the game.  Anyone using a coupon receives a $5.00 gift card from Uno Chicago Grill.

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