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The Caps move to 4-0-2 in preseason with a 2-1 shootout victory over Boston.

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Ovechkin Scores as Caps Beat Boston

Posted on 02 October 2015 by Ed Frankovic

TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the shootout and Braden Holtby stopped both Bruins shooters to give the Caps a 2-1 victory on Friday night at the Verizon Center.

Holtby, who came on after Philipp Grubauer played the first period (6 saves on 7 shots), did not allow a single goal in 23 shots over the 45 minutes he played.

The Caps had a very sloppy and listless first period, but as the game went on they got stronger with Kuznetsov, Oshie, and Alex Ovechkin piling up scoring chances. It took a slick Kuzya pass to the Gr8 late in regulation for the Caps to finally get a biscuit past a Bruins goalie. Tuukka Rask played the first 40 minutes for the Beantown Boys and was absolutely stellar thwarting breakaways and many other grade A chances. He was a perfect 15 for 15 in the cage. Jeremy Smith was excellent as well, but he had little chance on the Ovechkin game tying goal.

The Gr8 continues to have the best shot in the league since Ovi has a fast release and can fire the puck from many different angles. Simply put, he is one of the greatest goal scorers to ever play in the National Hockey League.

There was a lot to like in this game for Washington besides the Ovechkin line and Holtby. Justin Williams was superb and had several quality chances. He had eight shot attempts while Ovechkin had 10 and Kuznetsov had eight. That’s a nice distribution in the top six.

Washington went 0 for 5 on the power play, but they moved the puck well and generated some great chances without their PP QB, Nicklas Backstrom (hip), in the lineup. I’d like to see a little more traffic on the opposing goaltender.

The Caps penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4. The biggest key to the Capitals improving in this category will be to minimize the number of infractions they take. One way to do that is to have the puck more often and adding the likes of Oshie and Williams should do that.

The defense looked decent without Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik (wrist) in the lineup. Dmitry Orlov played well and appears to have locked up the #5D spot. Nate Schmidt had a bad giveaway on the lone Bruins goal (and John Carlson didn’t help him out by breaking up the ice early and leaving Loui Eriksson all alone in front of the net), but after that he was better. Orlov and Schmidt are both guys who can rush the puck up the ice which should help fill the void left by Mike Green’s departure. Orlov can also throw some sneaky good hits.

What I didn’t like were the four fights. Tom Wilson fought Kevan Miller twice, splitting the bouts. Wilson, who logged 1:37 of PK time in this game and didn’t look out of place, needs to be on the ice for Washington and not in the box. The only positive is he did fight a legit NHL D man. As for the Oshie-McQuaid fight, that was one that no one wanted to see. Oshie laid a clean hit on McQuaid behind the net and Torrey Krug took exception to it and started shoving #77. Then McQuaid came in from behind and the next thing you know TJ is in a fight where he’s in over his head. Coach Trotz gave him credit for standing up there, but as Comcast’s Alan May astutely pointed out afterwards in the post game show, either a teammate or a zebra needs to jump in there and save Oshie. Washington can’t have one of its’ star players fighting and potentially getting injured.

The slow starts are also something that plagued this team in last year’s playoffs and they need to correct that early on this season.

Overall, the best news was the Caps are just one game away from the regular season. Noone was injured and after Sunday’s 5 pm tilt with the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center, the regular season begins at home on Saturday, October 10th against the New Jersey Devils.

Notes: Derek Roy had a solid outing and appears to be a good bet to be a Capital in the home opener if he and the Caps can work out agreeable financial terms…Center Chandler Stephenson was decent, but at 21 years old, another season in Hershey makes the most sense for him…Carlson logged 30:05 to lead Caps defensemen while Ovechkin led the forwards with 23:39…the Caps out shot attempted Boston, 53-51, and won the face off battle, 33-31…Regulars who didn’t play on Friday that aren’t injured were Andrei Burakovsky, Jason Chimera,and Niskanen.

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Caps GM Brian MacLellan Completes Caps Top Two Lines by Landing TJ Oshie.

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MacLellan Strikes Again Landing Oshie in Trade with Blues

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Ed Frankovic

As if Caps fans weren’t happy enough after last night’s signing of three time Stanley Cup Champion Justin Williams, Washington GM Brian MacLellan struck again landing top six forward TJ Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for third line forward Troy Brouwer, minor league goalie Phoenix Copley, and a third round pick in 2016.

Oshie will count $4.175M against the Capitals salary cap, which is just over $500K more than they were paying for Brouwer.

Wow! What a great move by the aggressive GM who in 13 months, along with head coach Barry Trotz, have changed the dynamic, culture, and roster of a team that was headed downhill under ex-GM George McPhee and former head coach Adam Oates.

MacLellan has now brought in two top four defensemen in Brooks Oprik and Matt Niskanen and two top six forwards in Oshie and Williams. That’s impressive given the salary cap limits MacLellan inherited from his predecessor.

It’s clear that both Williams and Oshie are excited to be members of the Capitals organization based on their conference calls with the media on Thursday. Williams indicated that his seven year old son told him a month ago “to go to Washington so he can play with Ovechkin, he’s the best.” Justin said that his son was all smiles when he woke up and heard the news. Both were thrilled to be playing with such skilled centers as Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

What’s even more exciting is that for the first time since 2009 the Caps have a legit top two forward lines. Based on the media conference call held with MacLellan on Thursday, it appears those lines will be configured as follows:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie

Andrei Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

That is an impressive top six. Is it October yet??!!

The Caps GM will now hopefully get deals done with Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson. MacLellan indicated that he’s flexible on term with Holtby, who is clearly priority one. After #70, the Capitals need to lock Kuznetsov down. As for Johansson, well his leverage just got significantly weaker. While his regular season stats have benefitted from him playing in the top six, his playoff performances and pass-first mentality is something that isn’t worth breaking the bank for. MJ90 will now play on the third line with the Caps, but he still should see power play time, if he is resigned and kept (a trade is a clear possibility).

Brouwer’s move is also significant because it opens up the third line right wing slot for Tom Wilson, who the organization expects to improve considerably, especially since he has a complete off season and training camp to get ready (Wilson was injured last summer). Third line center is still an open hole and it appears unlikely that Eric Fehr will be back to fill it. Joel Ward’s tenure in DC is clearly over too.

There are still cheap options out in the free agent market for a third line center, such as Shawn Matthias, but that will have to wait until at least Holtby and Kuznetsov are inked.

Coach Trotz told the media today that the fifth, six, and seventh defensemen spots are wide open. Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, and Taylor Chorney will be the favorites to snag those slots, but depending on how negotiations go over the next few weeks, there could be money left for MacLellan to add another defensemen, likely a legit 3rd pair right handed d-man.

Overall, the last 24 hours in Caps land have been electric. MacLellan has proven to be very aggressive and has backed up his words every time he’s talked about the areas he’d like to see the Capitals improve in terms of personnel. He’s been transparent and refreshing. The second year GM clearly gets that the Caps have to win now given how close this club came in 2015 and he’s done it without mortgaging the future.

Dare I say it again, is it October yet??!!

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Caps Make Surprising Free Agent Splash Inking 3 Time Stanley Cup Winner

Posted on 02 July 2015 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan stated that he thought that his team would be relatively quiet during free agency, and for good reason. The Caps still need to sign restricted free agents Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson and they were roughly $19M or so under the cap heading into this week.

While there were numerous deals that occurred during the early portion of NHL free agency, including the Penguins trading for Phil Kessel and Mike Green signing a three year, $18M deal with the Detroit Red Wings, MacLellan stayed true to his words throughout the majority of the day and didn’t make anything more than minor moves, re-signing restricted free agent forward Stan Galiev and depth defensemen Taylor Chorney for $700K.

In addition, on Tuesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets boldy traded for center Brandon Saad from Chicago, so some Metropolitan division teams appeared to be improving their forward cores.

With Joel Ward and Eric Fehr on the open market and unsigned, there was the thought that the Caps GM might be trying to bring both back to at least keep pace with some of the other teams in the division up front. It seemed that MacLellan’s patience was paying off in that regard with Ward and Fehr still available late on Wednesday night. Then lightning struck the Capitals, but in a good way.

Washington was able to ink 33 year old forward and three time Stanley Cup winner, Justin Williams, to a two year deal at $3.25M per season. The dollar amount and term are likely lower than what Ward will receive on the open market and the former King, Hurricane, and Flyer is a slightly younger player (Ward is 10 months older) with a wealth of championship experience.

Williams, who missed the post season this year with a tired Los Angeles team, is a smart player who has incredible possession numbers over the past five seasons. I watch a lot of Kings games and he is as intelligent and solid a player as they come. He can play anywhere from first line right wing to third line right wing giving the coaching staff a lot of flexibility with their lineup decisions.

While he isn’t speedy, he is very clutch, and his nickname, “Mr. Game 7,” is well earned, he’s 7-0 in those tilts (h/t @VogsCaps).

This move, combined with the promotion of Philip Grubauer to back up goalie, along with the projected improvement from Kuznetsov and Andrei Burakovsky (rookies last season), and the expected better season from Tom Wilson has the Caps positioned to be a strong contender in the Eastern Conference once again.

Sure the loss of Green will hurt some, but Washington is expecting Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt to help fill the void on the blue line. You can also expect Matt Niskanen to step up on the offensive side of the puck now that he’ll get more power play opportunities that went to old number 52.

MacLellan still has work to do to get the three big RFA’s (70, 92, and 90) signed, and he has roughly $14.4M to achieve that (h/t to @AlexPrewitt and @GeneralFanager). It would be ideal if he can ink those three and also find a way to bring back Fehr, too, since he can play third line center as well as wing.

But a day that looked to be a sad one in Caps history with the departure of Green, who was always a class guy in the community, with the fans, and the media during his 10 year tenure, turned out to be much more positive with the surprise signing of Williams.

The game is always played and decided on the ice, but the Capitals organization and their fans should feel even better about their club with the addition of a proven winner, in Mr. Game 7. Williams should help a Caps franchise that has struggled to win those contests (4-10 in game 7s) throughout their 40 year history.

Notes: Caps development camp will be held at Kettler IcePlex next week (July 7-11). All four draft picks, including first round choice Ilya Samsonov from Russia (22nd overall), are expected to attend…MacLellan signed center and face-off/penalty killing specialist, Jay Beagle, to a three year deal at a cap hit of $1.75M per season on Monday.

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Williams sisters defend Olympic doubles gold

Posted on 05 August 2012 by WNST Staff

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Back at top, Serena wins 5th Wimbledon

Posted on 08 July 2012 by WNST Staff

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

Posted on 15 June 2012 by Ed Frankovic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Want Some reasons to be Sleepless in Seattle?

Posted on 13 November 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Based solely on the Ravens’ Jeckyl and Hyde performances all season long, I’m of the opinion that no one should be perceived as overconfident today as the purple warriors awaken in Seattle with a chance to end the day as the unquestioned leader of the pack in the AFC home-field advantage race.

Oh sure, there are plenty of reasons to feel confidence brimming now the Ravens have swept the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers and are in control of their own destiny as the Bengals will next try to vanquish the black and gold demons in the early game today as Baltimore awaits the Seahawks at 4 p.m.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t smell a difficult task in Seattle, where the legendary “12th Man” will be appearing soon after kickoff to welcome Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron’s crew to the Pacific Northwest.

Afterall, I was in attendance in Nashville and Jacksonville where the locals all but guaranteed us a happy trip into the deep South and almost-home-cooking that resulted in two of the most dreadful and disappointing outcomes in recent years – especially considering the desperate talent on  both sides of the ball. The Titans and Jaguars are headed toward nowheresville in January but for one afternoon they defended their home turf and thwarted every effort of Flacco and the Ravens’ offense.

The Seahawks appear to be short on the offensive side of the ball — is there any way they can really lose to Tarvaris Jackson? — and many have asked how they’re going to score points today at Century Link Field against a stout Baltimore defense but I will remain at best “cautiously enthusiastic” about the Ravens’ offense until I some semblance of consistency.

That begins today at 4 p.m.

Can Joe Flacco find open receivers downfield? Will the running game with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams be established early to quiet the mounting green and blue cacophony of sounds? Will the offensive line be off cadence all day and create bad down and distances?

Will the defense keep Marshawn Lynch at bay in the running game and can the defense force its usual array of turnovers and pressures on a young, inexperience Seahawks’ offense?

All good questions.

We’ll have answers at 4 p.m.

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Williams and Ayanbadejo discuss win in Pittsburgh at High Topps

Posted on 08 November 2011 by WNST Staff

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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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Maryland’s new football coach shouldn’t be hired by an apparel company

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Drew Forrester

It became official today, three days later than necessary, but official nonetheless.

The Ralph Friedgen era is over at the University of Maryland.

Strip away the wordsmithing attempts by Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and it came down to this: The school didn’t want Friedgen to coach the team anymore. Since they were locked into a deal through 2011, they sorta-kinda had to keep him around unless something or someone made it financially viable for them to part company with the 10-year coach.

Enter Vanderbilt — and James Franklin.

When Franklin took the job at Vanderbilt late last week, that absolved the Terps of a possible one million dollar payout to Franklin through the terms of his coach-in-waiting contract originally produced by former A.D. Debbie Yow.

And when Franklin started plucking coaches away from the Terps over the weekend, it made Anderson’s decision all that much easier. With little confidence that the school wanted Friedgen to run their football program after his contract expired in 2011, the decision to oust him was expedited by the mass exodus that included Franklin.

Understand?

It’s big business, I suppose, and it’s not really that “dirty” to fire a head coach, even when he just guided his team to a rather surprising 8-4 campaign and was named the ACC Coach of the Year in doing so. There’s certainly an argument that Maryland – as a football program – has fallen off the fall/winter sports radar in the DC/Baltimore corridor over the last few years. Some of that is due to the fact that the team hasn’t been very successful on the field, not forgetting this season’s success, of course. Some of that is due to the fact that Maryland’s non-conference schedule hasn’t been highly attractive. And some of that is due to the fact that Maryland’s football PROGRAM, in general, is just not that marketable — and that includes, frankly, the guy who is now formerly the head coach.

Firing Ralph Friedgen wasn’t that big of a deal. The team would have been good-to-very-good next season with him — or without him. It’s that Anderson tried to force Friedgen’s hand and make him do something — retire, gracefully or not — that he had no intention of doing just to ease the pain of having to dismiss the coach that just produced an 8-4 season.

This isn’t a great way for Kevin Anderson to start his tenure at Maryland. It might, for a while anyway, make it hard to root for the football team at College Park until the stink of Friedgen’s firing goes away in a year or two.

But there’s a more important decision looming at Maryland now.

Who gets the head coaching job?

Most people in the know are saying it’s already a done deal and that Mike Leach is a step away from getting his parking pass and painting his new office a different color just because he can.

Kevin Anderson is saying all the right things because there’s a process that needs to play out and committees have to be formed and “independent advisors” have to be retained to ensure that Maryland follows the hiring letter-of-the-law.

If Mike Leach isn’t the next coach, I’d be shocked.

But SHOULD he be the next coach?

That’s a fair question.

And despite the fact that most people close to the situation are hinting that a certain sports apparel entrepreneur is the guy calling (continued)

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