<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Capital Games]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/capital-games http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Mon, 30 Mar 2015 07:02:55 -0400 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 07:02:55 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Caps' Fehr Reads His Anti-Bullying Book at Elementary School]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 19:28:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Eric+Fehr+reads+at+elementary+school.JPG One in four kids in the U.S. is bullied. A local athlete is hoping to change that. The Capitals' Eric Fehr is the author of an anti-bullying children's book, and today, he read his book, "The Bulliest Dozer," to area kids at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. News4's Jason Pugh has the story.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Metal Detectors New Part of Fan Experience at Nats Park]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:48:12 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Nationals+Park+Metal+Detectors.jpg In just two weeks it will be time to play ball! The MLB season begins and you should expect a major change when you pay a visit to Nats Park. News4's Tom Sherwood says that for the first time metal detectors will be part of the fan experience.]]> <![CDATA[Utah to Sweet 16 After Georgetown Defeat]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 23:35:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP867223623593.jpg

Utah is headed back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade.

Brandon Taylor scored 14 points and Delon Wright added 12 and the fifth-seeded Utes beat No. 4 Georgetown 75-64 on Saturday night.

The Utes (26-8) will travel to Houston to play the winner of Sunday's game in Charlotte, North Carolina, between top-seeded Duke (30-4) and No. 8 San Diego State (27-8).

Utah hasn't advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2005, when the Utes fell as the No. 6 seed to No. 2 Kentucky. The Utes are making their first tournament appearance since 2009.

<![CDATA[Ryan Zimerman Takes Over at First Base]]> Sun, 01 Mar 2015 09:40:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009634377_1200x675_406064195985.jpg News4's Jason Pugh answers the question, "Who's on first?" for the Nats this season.]]> <![CDATA[Max Scherzer on New Season With Nats]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:54:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009614811_1200x675_405113923872.jpg News4's Jason Pugh catches up with the Nationals newest star pitcher, Max Scherzer, at Spring Training. Scherzer signed a 7-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals in January.]]> <![CDATA[Redskins DB Ryan Clark Retires]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:00:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460875198.jpg

Washington Redskins defensive back Ryan Clark announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday and will transition to a full-time analyst for ESPN, where he has spent recent offseasons contributing. 

Clark played 13 seasons, most notably for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2006-13. He rejoined the Redskins, who he played for in 2004 and 2005, last season, starting 15 games and making 69 tackles. He was selected to the Pro Bowl once and won the Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2009.

Dianna Russini will have more with Clark on News4 at 6. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[RGIII's Cast Sold for $1,522]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 14:53:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/160*160/10993432_10203970051679783_4704616145601230566_n.jpg

Robert Griffin III recently put the cast he wore on his dislocated left ankle last season up for auction, with the proceeds benefitting his Family Of 3 foundation. 

That auction just ended, with the winning bid of $1,522 placed by Rich Bruno, coincidentally a podiatry student at Temple University. 

From Bruno's Facebook:

19 months ago, I enrolled in podiatry school. At that moment, what I loved most in life was the Redskins. They’re still a huge part of me. As time has gone on though, my life has been consumed by feet, and I have loved every second of it. I love feet. I love podiatry. I love the thought of making a difference in so many people’s lives. I am also a huge RGIII supporter. When he had the misfortune of dislocating his ankle, I initially fell to the fetal position and sobbed. A lot. Then, I realized something. All of my loves in life had combined into a singular moment. I squealed like a school girl thinking about how one day, maybe I could be that specialist a player sees. It makes me want to be my very best. The fates decided to have RGIII auction off that cast, and while I will now be liquidating everything I own to pay for it, I own that cast. I own that moment forever. I could not be happier. CARRY ON FOR PODIATRY AND HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!

"The worse it smells, the happier I am, because that makes it more unique," Bruno told The Washington Post. "Some people have RGIII game-worn jerseys, and they’re stained or whatever. I might have his foot stink. That’s special to me.”

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Capital Letters: This Ain't a Scene, It's a Points Race]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 16:59:58 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460431690.jpg

Welcome back to "Capital Letters," an aptly titled and sporadic feature in which I answer any and all questions regarding the local professional hockey team. Please send all questions to @AdamVingan and follow me anyway because my mother will think that I'm more popular.

Winter Storm Octavia, as named by The Weather Channel, has left us snowed in. Instead of watching "Live with Kelly and Michael" and eating Chocolate Cheerios, I decided to answer your questions. 

Here are said questions. 

Ovechkin and Backstrom currently lead the NHL in goals and assists with 36 and 43, respectively. Not since San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals) and Joe Thornton (96 assists, 72 of which came after the Boston Bruins traded him to the Sharks) in 2005-06 has one team finished a season with the leader in each category. Backstrom currently has a two-point advantage over Ovechkin, 59-57. 

Simply based on their current paces, Backstrom will finish the season with 85 points (23 goals, 62 assists) and Ovechkin with 82 (52 goals, 30 assists), which would be the first time since 2003-04, the season prior to Ovechkin's debut, that someone other than him finished atop Washington's scoring leaderboard. (He and Backstrom each had 79 points last season, tying for the team lead.)

In case you're curious, the last member of the Capitals to lead the team in points was Robert Lang, who was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in February 2004 while tied for the league lead with 74 points

If you'll allow me to quote noted literary force Eminem, "I'd count my blessings, but I [stink] at math," so I may not be the best person to break this down scientifically. (For that, I'd ask Jon Press or Peter Hassett.) What I can tell you is that Backstrom has assisted on 45.8 percent of Ovechkin's goals since entering the NHL in 2007-08, including 25 of 36 this season, so it will be a tight race. I'm going to give the slight edge to Backstrom, though, for no other reason than I'd like to look smart in April if it happens. 

Todd's question is one that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is certainly contemplating himself as the March 2 trade deadline looms. MacLellan said last month that the play of Washington's cadre of young forwards -- Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michael Latta -- would influence his method.

Seeing as one of those four currently plays center, let's focus our attention on him. Of the aforementioned youngsters, Kuznetsov has been the most impressive since the Capitals returned from the All-Star break. In 11 games since Jan. 27, Kuznetsov has eight even-strength points (including one 4-on-4 assist) after recording seven in his previous 44 games. His seven 5-on-5 points leave him tied with Ovechkin for the team lead over that span.

His possession statistics since that date, though, are not as impressive with a 44.2 even-strength Corsi percentage, a measurement of shot attempts (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) taken by the Capitals when he is on the ice.

From a purely point-producing standpoint, we are starting to see glimpses of the dynamic player that the Capitals drafted in 2010. He has settled into his role as second-line center and gradually earned the trust of coach Barry Trotz in defensive-zone situations. If Kuznetsov continues to progress in such a way, then I think Trotz and MacLellan would feel comfortable with him as their second-line center in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Of course, if the opportunity to add a more seasoned forward presents itself, then the Capitals will surely consider it. 

Here is the $64,000 Question, or more appropriately, the $6,250,000 Question, because that's how much Green's salary is this season. As a pending unrestricted free agent that happens to be an elusive right-handed defenseman, Green is enticing to other teams, but frankly, it wouldn't make sense to trade him unless MacLellan is absolutely blown away by a package that would immediately help the Capitals.

“We’re in the business to win,” MacLellan told Mike Vogel last month. “What message would it send? If we continue on the path that we’re on, I look at us as a serious contender to win our division. What message does that send to the team if you’re sending Mike Green away for a prospect and a pick heading into the playoffs? I’m not going to do that. I want to win. He’s a part of our team. It’s a luxury to have him as a fifth defenseman who can move up and who is a first power play guy.”

Think about the Capitals' third pairing if Green is traded. The status of Dmitry Orlov's injured wrist that has kept him on injured reserve all season is still uncertain and Nate Schmidt's scapular fracture continues to heal, though he is "hoping and praying" for a possible return this weekend for the Hershey Bears. That would leave a duo of Jack Hillen and either Steve Oleksy or Cameron Schilling, which wouldn't elicit the same respect from opposing teams as Green would. 

With a legitimate chance to win the Metropolitan Division in a wide-open Eastern Conference, I don't believe Green will be traded. I also don't believe he will be re-signed since his contract preferences will likely be too expensive for the Capitals to commit to. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Caps Are New Dads]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:02:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009464684_1200x675_398341699553.jpg Four Washington Capitals spoke with News4's Dianna Russini about what it is like to be new fathers.]]> <![CDATA[RGIII Announces Wife's Pregnancy ... ]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:46:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/0212-rg3-baby.jpg

On his 25th birthday, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took to social media Thursday

Via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Griffin let the world know his wife, Rebecca Liddicoat, is pregnant. 

The couple married in 2013. It's unknown how far along Rebecca is, but Griffin expressed excitement with the hashtag #BoyorGirl.

Photo Credit: Twitter/@RGIII
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Boom for Washington Capitals Players]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 11:01:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/caps-dads-lead-image-11.jpg Break out the Washington Capitals onesies! In the past year, four Caps players -- Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr and Braden Holtby -- have taken on a new challenge: Dad.

Photo Credit: Washington Capitals/NHLI via Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Drake Grabs Pierce's Arm During Late-Game Play]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:13:54 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/463095048.jpg

The Wizards lost to the Raptors on Wednesday on DeMar DeRozan's tiebreaking shot with 12 seconds left. Washington called timeout to set up a potential game-tying (or game-winning) play, which Paul Pierce would initiate on an inbounds pass.

Pierce just so happened to be standing directly in front of rapper/entertainer Drake, the Raptors' "Global Ambassador." Drake lightly tugged at Pierce's arm before the play, which Pierce was having none of.

As spoiled above, the Wizards missed the shot, losing 95-93. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Four Caps "D" Have Played Every Game ]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:31:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/171*120/462968406.jpg

The question about to be asked of Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson required some precautionary jinx-proofing, like knocking on his wooden locker.

"Maybe just don't ask it," Carlson joked. 

Carlson is one of four Capitals defensemen -- Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner the others -- who have appeared in all 54 of Washington's games. Across the NHL, the Capitals and Nashville Predators lead the league in regards to defensemen having played in every game. 

As in any professional sport, there is a tinge of luck involved. Carlson and Alzner, for instance, have played in every game since the start of the 2010-11 season.

"I've been bumped up and bruised along the way, but I've been able to push through it," Alzner said.

There is more to it than that, though, they say. It begins with off-ice preparation. The Capitals signed Orpik to a maligned five-year, $27.5 million contract last summer to provide a much-needed bruising presence and infuse the locker room with added leadership. Orpik is widely praised for his dedication to fitness, which his fellow defensemen have incorporated into their respective routines. 

"I think everyone's pretty dedicated," Carlson said. "From top to bottom, everyone's dedicated in their own ways, everyone's different in how they prepare, how they get ready, how they take care of themselves. ... I think when Brooksie came here, he brought a lot of other things besides his play on the ice. His preparation is second to none, so I think that trickles down. People pick up on it and everybody wants to do the same things and get better and I think he's helped a lot with that off-ice stuff. He's one of the best. He's been doing it forever at preparing himself."

Another factor is how Washington is instructed to play by coach Barry Trotz, particularly in the defensive zone, where defensemen are most vulnerable. Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden have stressed constant communication and support, which allow the defensemen to quickly move the puck and avoid contact through what Trotz called "bump-and-absorb techniques." 

"We have a pretty good plan," Trotz said. "There's teams that have specific plans, the way they play. Some teams rely on pure skill of the player to figure that out on their own as they go along. We're probably a little bit of a hybrid. We don't do the same thing all the time, but we have a plan for four or five different scenarios. Players have been very good at reacting at it. ... I think it saves the player from being surprised. You don't get as many big hits as some teams do."

So far this season, the Capitals have used eight defensemen, tied for the second-fewest in the NHL. By comparison, Washington had dressed nine defensemen through five games last season and 14 total, which led the league. That sort of stability has positively impacted the Capitals. 

"If you can get those guys in the lineup every single night, then your team's going in the direction that it planned to go in," Alzner said. "We're extremely happy we've been able to play like that, build chemistry and feel the season out a little bit more as it goes along. When you sit out for five, 10 games, whatever, you kind of lose track of how things are going and a little bit of the feel for the team."

"It's always nice to see people play their first games and stuff like that and people come up and have an impact, but that's not really the goal for a team, I think," Carlson said. "You start with whoever you like the best and the more you can stick to that, the probably better off you are in the long run."

Fingers crossed. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[... and Spars With Heckling Fans on Instagram]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:46:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460875334.jpg

It was a day just like any other. Robert Griffin III posted a video Monday on Instagram of him singing along to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." 


Jamming to MJ on the way to get that work in this morning #BillyJean What you working with this morning?

A video posted by Robert Griffin III (@rgiii) on

But that impromptu singalong was not received well by a few commenters.

"This is why you will be cut after next year in Washington," @cperezrn said. "Why you weren't even mentioned as the future. You are a 'QB'. Act like one."

Griffin responded.

"If giving back to the community and training for football at the same time is frowned upon.....then what would you say I do Sir?" he said. "Not give back or Train? Honest Question." And then, "Oh wait...and should I not enjoy a classic song with others who Love MJ? I'm just asking for your wisdom here."

It went on like this for a while, which you can read here

Griffin's social-media presence has been used against him in arguments that he cares more about his personal brand than leading the Redskins to victories, which a self-professed military man pointed out by mentioning the letter sent to season-ticket holders last week that didn't include Griffin's name.

"Military families have class, dignity & loyalty," said Griffin, the product of a military family. "I will maintain mine. You have not shown any of those. I will keep it that way and let you go right off my page God Bless"

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ovechkin, Honda Donate Accord to Youth Hockey Organization]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 20:52:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/160*120/Ovechkin+Honda+1.JPG Caps star Alex Ovechkin is known for scoring goals, but Monday he gave a big assist to a local youth hockey program.]]> <![CDATA[Ovechkin, Honda Donate Car to ASHA]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 19:21:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/160*120/Ovechkin+Honda+1.JPG Honda presented Alex Ovechkin with a 2015 Accord Monday, which the Washington Capitals captain is donating to the America Special Hockey Association. View some photos from the event.]]> <![CDATA[Caps Miss Another Opportunity to Streak]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 10:45:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/463011614.jpg

Earlier this season, Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich recalled a message conveyed by former coach Bruce Boudreau. The NHL's best teams, Boudreau would say, enjoyed at least three seven-game winning streaks per season, asserting their dominance and solidifying their position. 

The Capitals prepared for the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday while in possession of their sixth winning streak of three games, and for the sixth time they failed to extend it to four. In a spiritless 3-1 loss that coach Barry Trotz described as "un-Capital-like," Washington sputtered offensively, mustering a season-low 14 shots, its fewest in nearly four years. 

“I think that’s a consistency thing," Laich said. "I think that’s execution and consistency. Teams that can put together eight or nine games means they're doing things right every night. I think if you win three, you probably play well in two of those and maybe one of those you sneak by and then your bad habits creep back into your game.

"Tonight we were in the hockey game even though we didn’t play our best, we’re in the hockey game at 40 minutes. Chance to close a team out, really stomp on them, and it’s disappointing not to rise above and come out with a win.”

There were few signs of erosion during Washington's latest three-game run, which started with a 4-0 whupping of the Los Angeles Kings last Tuesday, arguably its most thorough performance of the season. A 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators followed Thursday, the Capitals' second win and first since Nov. 7 when allowing the first goal. They then neutralized the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks on Friday in an impromptu start from goaltender Philipp Grubauer

Against the Flyers, it took 12 minutes for the Capitals to attempt their first shot of the game, a harmless backhander by Nicklas Backstrom from the blue line. The power play malfunctioned, scoring once on three shots in six total opportunities. Philadelphia's penalty-killing unit, by comparison, took two shots. According to Japers' Rink, Washington had not lost a game with at least a plus-5 power-play differential since Oct. 5, 2006

“You can’t get shots if you miss the net, and you can’t get shots if you don’t get pucks to the next level,” Trotz said. “We turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone, and you’re not going to get any shots. There wasn’t enough urgency in our dressing room tonight. Very disappointing.”

A much-needed practice is scheduled for Monday before the Capitals embark on a four-game road trip that will take them and their fathers to California, where one of the league's most daunting gauntlets awaits against the San Jose Sharks, Kings and Ducks. 

Since Dec. 1, the Capitals, one of five teams without at least a four-game winning streak this season, have earned points in 24 of their 31 games, including a 14-1-4 stretch that entrenched them in the Stanley Cup Playoff race. 

Even without the benefit of a lengthy run, a potential Metropolitan Division title is certainly within reach. 

"Obviously, you want to have as many wins in a row as possible," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It’s just kind of a weird coincidence that we can’t get past that. If we can keep going 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, I don’t think anybody would be upset with that. We’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunities we have."

Some, though, see the lack of a extended winning streak as something to overcome. 

"Maybe we get a little bit, without even knowing it, just mentally relaxed," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We win a couple games, we start feeling good and maybe we just kind of ease up a little bit. That's a challenge for us."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Basketball Player Hits Server, Spills Beer at Verizon Center]]> Sun, 08 Feb 2015 09:23:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462940594.jpg

Sitting at courtside for an NBA game is a bucket-list item for many sports fans. That sort of luxury does come with situational hazards, though. Like when a 6'11" center barrels into an attendant and showers you with beer.

Mason Plumlee did exactly that against the Wizards at Verizon Center on Saturday as he chased after a loose ball.

Unfortunately, the NBA doesn't call party fouls.

The Wizards did win for soaked waitress Delia Barr, breaking a five-game losing streak in a 114-77 win against the Nets.

“I’ve got a new shirt coming, but I’ll be on SportsCenter so that’s awesome … I’m on ESPN,” Barr told The Washington Post. “It’s just out of control. I just smell like a hangover.”

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Grubauer Impresses in Impromptu Start]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 19:30:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462880726.jpg

The Washington Capitals, in coach Barry Trotz's words, had been "kicking around for quite a while" the idea of giving goaltender Philipp Grubauer a spot start in the NHL. It was a matter of perusing the schedule and finding the most opportune time.

Once the March 2 trade deadline passes, teams are only allowed four non-emergency recalls, so the Capitals didn't want to waste one simply to evaluate Grubauer's progress, so it had to come before. They ultimately circled Friday, figuring that the second half of a back-to-back against a Western Conference opponent was the most conducive setting for examining Grubauer.

Grubauer, whose stout play for the Hershey Bears this season earned him an AHL All-Star selection, faced a formidable test against the league-leading Anaheim Ducks, though that would do little to intimidate him. After all, this was the same rookie that outdueled New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at Madison Square Garden in his first NHL victory in December 2013.

In his impromptu start, Grubauer performed well in Washington's 3-2 shootout victory, making 23 saves and reaffirming the Capitals' faith in him and his ongoing development. 

"Every experience that you have is really good," Trotz said. "You get to see him athletically, how he plays, is he intimidated by the big spotlight, those types of things. Those are good indicators. 

“He’s very explosive for a goaltender, very similar to [Braden Holtby] in a lot of ways. He’s got a lot of those athletic attributes and he’s worked with our people in Hershey to tighten up his game. That’s really what I wanted to see. Where’s he at, at the NHL level versus the American League level. Different shooters, pucks come off the stick a little different. He had good focus and I thought he played really well.”

With the exception of Corey Perry's third-period goal, which banked in off Grubauer's left skate because he failed to cover the near post, there was little to criticize. Grubauer only faced 25 shots, a stark contrast to his workload in 14 starts for Washington last season.

"I think it's a little more compact," Grubauer said, describing the differences in how the Capitals play under Trotz as opposed to former coach Adam Oates. "Guys do a pretty good job in the [defensive] zone and keeping shots to the outside. I think we don't give up as many high-quality chances as we did last year."

Grubauer then packed, preparing for a return to Hershey with the souvenir of another NHL victory to take back with him. A start for the Bears could await him Saturday. 

Last summer, Washington signed Justin Peters, who Grubauer nudged out of the lineup Friday, so that Grubauer could receive unimpeded playing time. Still, the Capitals wanted to see what they had and were pleased with their findings. 

“He’s a battler, a competitor, plays good all the time when given the opportunity,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Looked real poised back there. I think for his first game, I thought he played the puck exceptionally, which is usually one of those things that, his first game back up in a while, you kind of don’t want to make a mistake and he did a great job.”

“It was good,” Grubauer said. “Felt really comfortable. I don’t get a chance to play much up here, so every opportunity I want to use.”

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5-Year-Old Girl Meets George Washington]]> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 20:33:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Ava+Meets+George+Washington+Mascot+00A872D4.jpg One little girl was very upset she couldn't meet George Washington. But George Washington University gave her the next best thing.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Capital Letters: Grub-Hub?]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 11:06:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/188*120/477915799.jpg

Welcome back to "Capital Letters," an aptly titled and sporadic feature in which I answer any and all questions regarding the local professional hockey team. Please send all questions to @AdamVingan and follow me anyway because my mother will think that I'm more popular. 

If I may, let me set a scene for you.

It's Tuesday evening. The Capitals are whipping the Los Angeles Kings at Verizon Center. There I sit in the press box, Alex Prewitt a few seats to my right, spinning journalistic gold as per usual and providing more material for a second edition of "Prew Or False." To my left was multimedia superstar Chuck Gormley, indulging me by discussing the artistry of Left Shark. Oh, I was watching the game too, tweeting ridiculous observations using dated pop culture references that you all liked for some reason.

What does this have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. But while all of that was going on, general manager Brian MacLellan was also watching intently as he further evaluated his team with the trade deadline less than a month away on March 2.

"I think when you win a game like that, you get a little excited, see some different line combinations," MacLellan told Al Koken during a Wednesday morning ESPN 980 appearance. "You have some thoughts in your mind on how you can improve the team, and all of a sudden you play a game like that, and you say maybe we should leave it alone. In the end, we're going to have to make some decisions. The forward mix has always been area for me, we've got some good players, and I think if we added one piece or got the chemistry right on a couple of the lines it would go a long way to improving our team."

By now, you know that eight different players have skated with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on Washington's first line (and if you didn't, now you know). MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz were both impressed by Marcus Johansson, who took a turn Tuesday, but to paraphrase an old football saying, if you have eight first-line wings, you don't have one.

Call me crazy (though I have certainly been called much worse), but what about Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane? I preface this spiel by saying it is a totally speculative exercise, but trade rumors tend to follow Kane around, though so far they have been unsubstantiated. Jets coach Paul Maurice scratched him Tuesday for reportedly showing up to a team meeting in sweats instead of a suit

He has 10 goals, 22 points and a 52.8 even-strength Corsi percentage this season, but carries a $5.25 million salary-cap charge, which would require some movin' and shakin' from MacLellan. Of course, while Kane inhabited the Southeast Division with the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, he tortured the Capitals, scoring 10 goals in 21 career games. That segues nicely into...

How's that for a seamless transition? Self-aggrandizing aside, Peters, who won four of his seven appearances against the Capitals with a 1.67 goals-against average and two shutouts as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, has not been as impenetrable in relief of Braden Holtby. 

Peters is 2-5-1 in nine appearances this season, his 3.58 GAA and .870 save percentage eliciting groans from fans upon learning of his starts. Against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, Peters made 36 saves, but three of the four goals scored on him were the result of iffy rebound control, which he has struggled with this season.

"This business is all about results and I didn’t get the results," Peters said Sunday. "They have every right to talk and say what they want."

Peters' teammates and Trotz, meanwhile, offered praise for his effort considering the uncertain nature of his schedule, which often finds him starting the second of back-to-back games. Seven of Peters' eight starts have come in such a situation, with five of those seven against rested teams.

"The guy battles back there," forwards Brook Laich said. "We've got to pick him up. We’ve got to get him that game. ...We’re hanging him out to dry. It’s not acceptable."

But, as Peters succinctly said Sunday, "That's what I signed up for." That same day in Hershey, Philipp Grubauer pitched a 26-save shutout for the Bears. Grubauer acquitted himself admirably last season in the NHL, starting 14 games with a 2.38 GAA and .925 save percentage. He has a 2.03 GAA and four shutouts with Hershey this season, earning an AHL All-Star selection for his strong play.

So why, many of you have asked, is Grubauer there and Peters here? The point of signing Peters as a nonthreatening backup to Holtby was to provide Grubauer with ample playing time in a starting role. Peters can spectate for month-long stretches. Grubauer's development is ongoing and should continue unimpeded.

That said, that doesn't mean that the Capitals couldn't call up Grubauer to make a impromptu start that wouldn't confict with the AHL's weekend-heavy schedule, but Peters will likely remain in Washington for the rest of the season barring injury. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Refine Blueprint Against Kings]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 12:33:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462722672.jpg

A team dinner planned by Carmen Brouwer to commemorate her husband's 500th NHL game awaited, but first Troy Brouwer and his Washington Capitals teammates had to digest their 4-0 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Capitals, they of the one win in their previous seven games, had forcibly ushered the defending Stanley Cup champions from Verizon Center. The Kings slogged through the congested neutral zone as if it were a tar pit, failing to gain much traction offensively. Three of the Capitals' reconfigured forward lines scored at even strength. They were disciplined, only needing to kill one penalty. Braden Holtby, barely tested, earned his second shutout in three starts, his regulation scoreless streak nearing 200 minutes. 

If the blueprint of a consummate Capitals performance was etched against the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, coincidentally also a 4-0 win buoyed by a 27-save shutout from Holtby, it was refined against the Kings. 

"We’ve got a couple games we’ve played this year, the Pittsburgh game last week being another one, when you want to see what our game is modeled after, you look at those two games," said Brouwer, who scored twice. "When you want to refer back to past games and see how we've played and see how we were so successful, tonight is going to be one of those games on the clips that we want to watch to make sure we're getting better and continuing to do what we did tonight, and if we play the way we did tonight, we’re going to be in, if not winning, the majority of our games the rest of the way."

During the season's first month, the Capitals endured a five-game losing streak, which Brouwer admitted Tuesday morning had induced some panic. The same, however, could not be said about Washington's recent 1-4-2 hiccup, he maintained, though it certainly seemed more jarring when juxtaposed with the 14-1-4 run through December and January that immediately preceded it.

"Our team's playing very structured right now," Holtby said. "I think that little losing streak was a big wake-up call for us. Now it’s a matter of keeping it going and still realizing we have a lot of improving to do.

"I think we were getting away with things before that, and that losing streak proved that we can't get away from the style of game we want to play. ... The way we were playing wasn't our identity. We weren't making the other teams really earn the wins as much as they should have been."

In winning two of the past three Stanley Cups, the Kings relied on a bruising, chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out style, churning out line after equally dangerous line and providing little respite for opponents. In a way, the Capitals resembled that relentless team Tuesday, reminiscent of the group that recently inspired confidence and could inspire fear in the playoffs assuming they qualify. 

"We go over details and structure and order every day," MIke Green said. "It's just a matter of us sort of focusing on it. When we execute that game plan, we're pretty successful. It's just a matter of being consistent in that sense."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps' Defense Continues Engineering Offense]]> Sat, 31 Jan 2015 11:39:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462468316.jpg

Twice within the final four minutes of the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen slung the puck toward the net. There, a friendly forward -- Andre Burakovsky first, Troy Brouwer shortly after -- was stationed to tip it in, still leaving Niskanen without an even-strength goal this season. 

"I don't count that as [being] robbed. I like those," Niskanen said Friday. "I like when forwards go to the net, and it’s nice to see them rewarded for that. I'm shooting from 45-plus feet out. That thing ain't going in, unless it's screened or hits something."

Those primary assists were Niskanen's eighth and ninth of the season at even strength, a total only bested by teammate John Carlson's 10 among NHL defensemen and one that left him incredulous. 

"Really?" Niskanen responded as he digested the information. "I never would’ve guessed that."

Neither would've coach Barry Trotz, who upon processing it praised it as a barometer of the defense's success in implementing the coaching staff's directive.

"It's a good indicator that guys are up in the play, have their head up, being a part of the offense, a lot of the times you're not going to get primary assists if you're not a part of the offense," he said. "We're either doing it off the rush, or we're doing it with what we call 'OZP,' offensive zone play, where they're moving around and making good decisions and finding people open. That's a good stat to have. I did not know that. I’ll have to bring it up to them. It's an indicator. That''s one of those things that tells you you're doing what we're wanting you to do -- be part of the offense."

The Capitals finished last season tied for 22nd in the NHL with 140 points from their defensive corps, a ranking that Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden were adamantly opposed to reproducing. Washington defensemen have already combined for 110 points this season, third-most in the league.

"We've spent a lot of time building the right habits and the right details into our players and their blueline work and adding in deception and different shot selection and different ways to create shooting lanes," Reirden said. "Sometimes shooting off the net, sometimes shooting to the side of the net, high tips."

That has assisted in engineering Trotz's "low-to-high" approach in the offensive zone, wherein the forwards cycle the puck and draw opposing skaters below the faceoff circles before passing to the point.

If executed properly, it will stretch the defense, creating space for Washington's defensemen to shoot and traffic from screening forwards hunting for deflections and rebounds. 

"Forwards have been doing an awesome job getting to the net, where that wasn't always the case," Niskanen said. "That thing ain't going in unless there's some kind of traffic around there or it hits something. Just the way teams play now too, everyone collapses so much around their net. Team defense forces the other team's D to beat you pretty much. You collapse around the net, because forwards are so good around the net, short plays. Find us, try to get it around the net for them."

Returning to Niskanen, six of his aforementioned nine primary assists have been shots deflected past goaltenders. The speed of the game does not allow for much other than simply trying to get the puck past whomever is attempting to impede his shooting lane. There is a science to it, though. 

"You want to make sure you're shooting the puck hard, but you're shooting it to an area," Trotz said. "Sometimes with the traffic, the way it is, if you just bury your bead, you're burying it into someone's shin pads, you're burying it into a group of guys. Sometimes a guy, he's boxing out and he's got his stick off to the side a bit and that's what you want. We want to get pucks to the net, but we want to get them there with some intelligence and some thought."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ovechkin Propels Himself to NHL Goal-Scoring Lead]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:51:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462438194.jpg

Jason Chimera had held onto the black stovepipe hat and increasingly grungy beard for too long. With the Washington Capitals mired in a four-game losing streak, he hadn't had an opportunity to bestow the "Honest Abe" award upon a deserving teammate.

The Capitals' 4-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins finally provided Chimera with that chance and his choice was a simple one, handing the accoutrements to Alex Ovechkin for the first time. 

"Leaders lead," coach Barry Trotz said, relaying Chimera's postgame message. "And he led today."

Ovechkin scored twice against the Penguins, his third multi-goal performance in the past five games and 93rd of his career, trying Peter Bondra's franchise record. With 13 goals in 13 games, including a NHL-leading 12 in January, Ovechkin supplanted New York Rangers forward Rick Nash and Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin atop the league's goal-scoring leaderboard. 

"I just think when Alex is determined, the way he is, lately, he creates much good offense," Trotz said. "He's dangerous. Every night you look at the stat sheet. If he scores or not, he's got 10 shots. There's guys in the league who go a month without 10 shots sometimes. I think he's having fun... He's been doing a really good job."

Much of the focus on Ovechkin this season has pertained to his commitment to the more unglamorous aspects of hockey, but his ability to improve upon his already unworldly offensive talent is also worth praise.

The Capitals record 55.4 percent of unblocked shot attempts when he's on the ice at even strength, a significant uptick from last season's 47.8. One more goal will give him 30, making him the fifth player in NHL history to score at least that amount in each of his first 10 seasons, joining Hall-of-Famers Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Mike Bossy.

His second goal Wednesday, a scorching one-timer from the left circle on the power play teed up expertly by Mike Green, was quintessential, but his first was reflective of the down-and-dirty mindset Trotz encourages his players to adopt. 

With Jay Beagle assuming his recurring role opposite Ovechkin, Washington's first line adopted a cycle-heavy approach. Strong puck management eventually led to Karl Alzner flinging a puck toward the net. As the sequence unfolded, Ovechkin floated toward the front of the net, establishing position and deflecting Alzner's shot underneath Marc-Andre Fleury's right arm. 

"He's not 20 years old anymore, so going down the wing and making those fancy moves and dekes, guys know what to expect and he's had to adjust," Green said. "I think he's done a great job. It's playing within the system and getting pucks deep. When he has an opportunity like tonight to go in front of the net and get a tip on net, it just shows the diversity in his game and how he's evolved."

As always but especially now, Ovechkin must be considered a frontrunner for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal-scorer, which he could win for the third straight season and fifth overall. Leaning on a few old favorites while simultaneously adding to his repertoire will get him there. 

"I think overall he's a better player," Nicklas Backstrom said. "He works all over the ice and that helps him in creating offense."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards to Give Out Gortat Action Figure]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 19:58:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-01-30_1336.jpg

If you've ever wanted to add a Washington Wizard to your shelf full of action figures, Saturday is your lucky day.

The Wizards are giving away Marcin Gortat action figures to the first 19,000 fans who attend Saturday's game against the Toronto Raptors. The game is already almost sold out, and now the team is selling standing-room only tickets for the fourth time this season.

Gortat has become one of the Wizards' most popular players since joining the team in 2013. Last summer, he re-signed with the team for an additional five years and a reported $60 million.

You can get a look at the part basketball player/part superhero action figure, complete with boots, white tights and a red cape in a promotional video released by the team.

We'll just have to wait and see whether the Gortat action figures will go as quickly as the Jayson Werth garden gnomes given away by the Nationals last year.

Photo Credit: Nicole Fierro]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Snap Skid With Emphatic Win]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 10:42:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/462436098.jpg

Brooks Laich sat at his locker after the Washington Capitals' optional skate Wednesday morning wearing a look of restlessness and frustration. 

Washington, lugging a three-game losing streak, returned from the All-Star break with a bang only because the celebratory cannon in Columbus discharged four times in a loss to the Blue Jackets. Once again, Laich lamented a lack of execution, which had slowly revealed itself during the Capitals' six-week, 14-1-4 run before overtaking them in four straight losses

So there sat Laich, looking every bit as tired as he claimed, placing emphasis on Washington's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hovered above them in the Metropolitan Division. 

“In a game we must have, our leaders, our top guys need to be the best tonight and set the tone for everybody else,” Laich said. “That’s where it starts. Top guys pull the rope, they set the tone, everybody else falls in behind." 

It was a statement that later proved prophetic. Led by their stars and supported by their ancillary parts, the Capitals forcibly broke out of their slump in a 4-0 victory.

"Up and down the lineup, I thought we played with a lot of purpose, a lot of order," coach Barry Trotz said. "We had a plan and we worked the plan. That was more of the team that I'm used to seeing."

Trotz knew that he could only harp on his team's recent pratfalls so much. He could work to identify the problems, but the onus was on the players to rediscover the consistency and commitment that had spurred them.

Washington's 2-0 lead was made possible by Alex Ovechkin, who usurped the NHL's goal-scoring lead with a nifty first-period deflection and a physics-defying one-timer in the second period, which rocketed into the net so fast it was barely perceptible. Braden Holtby recorded his fourth shutout since Dec. 20 and the Capitals blocked 23 shots after allowing 17 non-shootout goals in their past four games, including 14 at even strength.

All four forward lines played effectively, inviting Pittsburgh's physicality as melees materialized. 

"If we keep playing that physical style, with our group, once you get a lead it's hard for other teams to come back because you keep pushing and it kills their mojo," Holtby said. 'That's a lot more how we have to play."

Washington's performance Wednesday, unrelenting and complete, encapsulated Trotz's ideal vision of his Capitals, certainly welcomed after a slight deviation. 

"Right from the start we came out hard and we worked, worked as a team," Nicklas Backstrom said. "We played physical and that paid off."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fewell To Become 'Skins DBs Coach]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 20:34:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/175*120/158819187.jpg

Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will become the Redskins' defensive backs coach. 

The Giants fired Fewell, who joined them in 2010, at the end of the season, though they ranked among the NFL's top five in takeaways in each of his five seasons. Coincidentally, Fewell interviewed for Washington's head-coaching position before Jay Gruden ultimately filled it.

Fewell will work under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Two more coaching vacancies remain on defense: outside linebackers coach and defensive line coach. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raheem Morris Leaving 'Skins for Falcons]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:22:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/136322507.jpg

Washington Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris is leaving to join the Atlanta Falcons as an assistant head coach in charge of defensive backs, News4's Dianna Russini reports.

Morris, who spent three seasons with Washington, will join what soon will be Dan Quinn's staff. Quinn, Seattle's defensive coordinator, will reportedly be hired by the Falcons following the Super Bowl, where the Seahawks will face the Patriots. 

Morris did interview for the Redskins' defensive coordinator position vacated by Jim Haslett, but the team hired Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry last week,

There will be only one holdover from last season's defensive coaching staff, according to ESPN: inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Once Wanted to Join Wizards]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:12:58 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461976392.jpg

Kobe Bryant's 19th season with the Los Angeles Lakers is likely over after recently tearing a rotator cuff, leaving doubt that the 36-year-old will be able to resuscitate his legendary NBA career.

That career was very much alive more than a decade ago, when he was already a three-time champion. Bryant has never known anything other than Lakers purple and gold, but he apparently came close to trading those iconic colors for the Wizards' humdrum blue, black and bronze. 

From The Washington Post's Michael Lee:

Bryant wanted to get away from Los Angeles, and the team he wanted to join was the Wizards, where he would join forces with his mentor Michael Jordan.

Those plans evaporated when then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin parted ways with Jordan in 2003, a year before Bryant became a free agent, but as Wizards fans pine over the idea of Kevin Durant coming to Washington as a free agent, the near-miss that was Kobe-to-DC finally can be shared.

“That’s true,” Bryant confirmed recently. “A long time ago? Yeah.”

According to Lee, "the Wizards never had the assets to discuss a trade for Bryant, so the only chance the organization would have had to make a run at him was when he became an unrestricted free agent in 2004."

"Jordan, however, wasn’t allowed to recruit Bryant because Pollin decided in May 2003, not to let him continue running the team," Lee wrote. "While Jordan’s ability to land Bryant was no guarantee, a person close to him said Jordan was 'confident' he would have made it happen."

Plop Bryant onto this roster. Championship caliber? Far from it. More exciting? No doubt.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scherzer Thanks Tigers, Fans In Full-Page Ad]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 09:09:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461998782.jpg

The Nationals signed pitcher Max Scherzer last week to a seven-year contract, adding the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner to what many already believed to be the best rotation in baseball.

Scherzer left the Tigers after five seasons and formally bid farewell to this former team in a full-page advertisement in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

"On Thursday, the Free Press received a call from the Boras Corporation (super agent Scott Boras is Scherzer's agent)," the paper said. "The corporation asked to purchase a full-page ad in today's Free Press so Scherzer could thank the fans of Detroit for his five seasons here."

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wall To Start In NBA All-Star Game]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 21:14:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461936076.jpg

Washington Wizards guard John Wall will start at guard for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 15, the NBA announced Thursday.

Wall, who received 886,368 votes to lead all Eastern Conference backcourt players, will be joined by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Bulls center Pau Gasol. He is the first Wizards starter since Gilbert Arenas in 2007.

Wall averages 17 points and 10 assists per game, the latter of which leads the league. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps GM MacLellan Discusses Free Agency]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 15:13:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/185*120/461833484.jpg

During a nearly 20-minute conversation with reporters Tuesday, Brian MacLellan marveled at how quickly his first season as Washington Capitals general manager has flown by.

Months -- how many obviously depends on how the Capitals perform upon reconvening after this week's All-Star break -- remain before this season ends, but soon MacLellan will be confronted with shaping future rosters. 

The Capitals have 11 pending free agents on their roster. Four are restricted: forwards Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Nate Schmidt and goaltender Braden Holtby. The rest are unrestricted: forwards Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti and defensemen Mike Green, John Erskine and Jack Hillen. In the minor leagues, the contracts of goaltender Philipp Grubauer (RFA), defenseman Steve Oleksy (UFA) and forward Chris Brown (RFA), all of whom have NHL experience with the Capitals, are set to expire. 

MacLellan would not and probably will not comment on specific contract negotiations, but said that he has begun to identify with whom those conversations would begin.

"I think we’ve got guys that have played well," MacLellan said. "The second 40 [games] here is going to determine a lot, too. We’re evaluating, we’re talking theoretically, but I think we need to be successful as a team moving forward too to cement what our thoughts would be going forward.”

“A lot of our guys, all of our guys have played better this year. I think the system, the structure, the coaching staff have all had a good influence on the performance of our players. To a man, I think they’ve improved.”

For those without the benefit of clairvoyance, it is impossible to predict exactly how MacLellan will proceed, though some of his upcoming decisions seem apparent. 

All four RFAs should return, with Holtby assuredly receiving a significant raise from his current two-year, $3.7 million contract after setting a franchise record with 27 straight appearances. Erskine (who underwent neck surgery in October), Volpatti (who has yet to play this season) and Hillen (who recently reentered the lineup after Schmidt fractured his shoulder blade) seem unlikely.

“Obviously, with an RFA, you’ve got a little more leverage in theory," MacLellan said. "And with a UFA, you don’t. I think it’s all situational. If we’re going to be successful and they’re a big part of our success, you don’t mind opening up negotiations early. Depending on the player and the agent, depending on their philosophy, if they like the situation, I think they're more open to negotiating before the end of the year."

Green presents the most intriguing case. He has thrived in his less strenuous role, resembling his former dynamic self. Yet it would be difficult to justify paying a third-pairing defenseman anywhere near Green's current $6.25 million salary, especially with $15.21 million of salary-cap space tied to Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson.

Green has expressed his desire to stay and MacLellan was complimentary of his season to date. 

“I think he’s been good. I think he’s been really good," MacLellan said. "I think he’s had a good attitude. I think all our defensemen have had good attitudes. We have guys that are playing roughly 20 minutes a night, the five guys. Some teams have guys playing 30 minutes a night or close to 30 minutes a night. I think it’s benefitted our group as a whole to distribute the ice time more evenly. If we’re down a goal, Mike Green’s playing a little bit more. If we’re up a goal, he’s not playing as much.

"I think if you look at it as a group, it’s been a good experience for everybody. We don’t have anybody complaining about ice time."

While functioning as the Capitals' assistant general manager prior to his promotion in May, MacLellan had experience interacting with player agents, particularly in regards to free-agent contracts. Now, he has to field calls that may be a "little more confrontational" if an agent, for example, voices his client's displeasure about his particular role. 

Former general manager George McPhee's "adversarial relationship" with agents reportedly hindered Washington's ability to find long-term solutions. MacLellan, as he has since becoming general manager, stressed open lines of communication. 

"I'm easy to get along with," MacLellan said, chuckling. "I try to go about it as being as honest as I can. This is what your player is doing, here's where I see him, here's where he needs to improve and this is what the coaches see."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Young Forwards Will Dictate Caps' Deadline Approach]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:01:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/459729512.jpg

Having steamrolled through December and most of January prior to last weekend's winless road trip, the Washington Capitals are firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoff race. It would seem likely, barring a monumental bout of inconsistency, that Washington will qualify for the postseason after a one-year hiatus. 

The Capitals' dearth of postseason success has been widely recounted, the franchise without a conference final appearance since 1998. Coach Barry Trotz was asked Monday if he thought he oversaw a "playoff team that can win" and overcome that nearly two-decade hurdle. He said yes, adding that he felt the Capitals "still need a piece or two." 

"We have some guys that are, at this level, pretty good contributing players, but the playoffs are another level, and I don't know if some of our guys are ready for that," Trotz continued. "We'll see. We've still got another 40 games to go, but some guys looked like they weren't going to be ready for the first part and they got it turned around. I think we have enough pieces to be a real good threat, but our depth hasn't been really tested to the point that we need to do that."

Trotz lauded the organization's defensive depth, strengthened by the pricey offseason additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Forward-wise, he thought Washington "could use a little more." 

"That’s just waiting for guys to develop," he said. "Guys like [Andre] Burakovsky are coming, guys like [Tom] Wilson and [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and people like that.”

In addressing reporters Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan reiterated Trotz's stance, with the play of the Capitals' crop of young forwards influencing how he will approach the March 2 trade deadline. 

“We have four young forwards that we’re developing: Burakovsky, Wilson, Kuznetsov and [Michael] Latta," MacLellan said. "They’ve all been good at times and they’ve been inconsistent at times. I think we’re going to evaluate them over the next month. I think the play is going to get turned up a notch, it’s going to be a little tighter, a little more intense game.

"We’ll see how they respond to that. Most of our decisions will be made off the performance of those four guys.”  

MacLellan met with Trotz Monday, with MacLellan presenting what and who could realistically be available in the trade market, which includes "higher-profile players" that teams may be willing to part with in-season. MacLellan, though, said that the team's priority remains developing the aforementioned youngsters.

"I don't think we're going to be too assertive or too aggressive with moving any of them out or changing the chemistry of our team," he said.

The Capitals, MacLellan acknowledged, are in need of solidity on their first line, where seven different skaters have started games alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Burakovsky has assumed that position for the past eight games after Trotz recently admitted that he may have been too ambitious in attempting to convert Burakovsky and Kuznetsov to center simultaneously. 

Not many applicable players have been discussed in trade rumors. Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly and Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette have frequently been mentioned throughout the league, but neither necessarily meets that need. Kuznetsov has gradually adapted to the demands of second-line center, which has long been characterized by upheaval in Washington.

If the Capitals were to make a trade, a corresponding move to clear salary-cap space would likely be necessary. According to the now-defunct CapGeek, Washington has roughly $1.6 million available. 

"We're going to field the best team we can here," MacLellan said. "We want to win. We want to do some damage in the playoffs. I think our decision is going to be how much we want to expose our young guys down the road and can they handle it. You don't want to put them in a position where they're not ready for it. I think that's our big decision."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Coach Lonergan Keeps GW Loose With Hula Dance]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:19:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009159881_1200x675_385029187896.jpg Before a basketball game against highly ranked Witchita State in Hawaii, George Washington coach Mike Lonergan kept things loose by entering a hula contest.]]> <![CDATA[The Core 4: Stars of the GW Colonials]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:11:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009158949_1200x675_384948803678.jpg Jason Pugh takes a look at four outstanding basketball players from the George Washington University Colonials.]]> <![CDATA['Skins Hire Callahan as O-Line Coach]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 12:28:58 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/458354640.jpg

The Washington Redskins hired Bill Callahan, formerly the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys, as their offensive line coach on Thursday.

Callahan was part of the Oakland Raiders' coaching staff under Jon Gruden, Redskins coach Jay's brother.

He replaced Gruden and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XXXVII appearance. After a four-year stint coaching the University of Nebraska, Callahan returned to the NFL as a coordinator for the New York Jets and Cowboys.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Nats Acquire Escobar for Clippard]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 15:29:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/189*120/456400694.jpg

The Washington Nationals acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard, according to reports.

Escobar, traded to Oakland by the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, could become Washington's everyday second baseman, allowing Ian Desmond to play shortstop. 

Clippard spent seven years with the Nationals, functioning as a setup man and closer. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[RGIII's Ankle Cast Up for Auction]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:49:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/455438374.jpg

As a part of his "Family of 3" charity, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has put his autographed ankle cast up for auction.

Griffin dislocated his ankle in Week 2 against the Jaguars. 

"Robert was forced to wear this cast," said the item's description. "In a show of support for their teammate, the entire team signed the cast. Notable signatures include: Alfred Morris, DeAngelo Hall, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and many more."

The current bid is $300.

The auction ends Feb. 13.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Incredulous About Backstrom's All-Star Exclusion]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 20:31:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461226408.jpg

At various points throughout the season, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz has served as a pitchman for forward Nicklas Backstrom, hawking the credentials of arguably the NHL's most underappreciated superstar.

Trotz was dumbfounded to discover recently that Backstrom had never been selected to an All-Star Game, calling it a "crime." The NHL unveiled the complete roster for the event, to take place on Jan. 25 in Columbus, Saturday evening; and Backstrom was once again excluded, with forward Alex Ovechkin chosen as Washington's lone representative.  

"It absolutely blows my mind away," Trotz said after the Capitals' 3-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. "He's been our best player, I think, from start to finish. If you had to say who's been our top guy all, he's been the guy. I'm absolutely astounded that no one ever talks about him as a [Selke Trophy] guy, no one ever talks about him as an All-Star. I can't understand it.

"And he’s probably okay with it. If you know him, he’s probably okay with it.”

As Trotz expected, Backstrom, who openly prefers the solace found outside of the spotlight, expressed no disappointment. 

"I don’t really think about it too much, to be honest with you," Backstrom said. "It is what it is. Is there an honor to represent your team? Yes. But I also know there’s a lot of good hockey players in this league and it’s usually one player per [team], so that’s understandable."

Exclusionary events such as the All-Star Game incite debates about who should or should not be included. A strong case can be made in support of Backstrom.

He is Washington's leading scorer with 41 points, which ranks 13th in the NHL. Of the 13 players currently averaging at least a point per game with 40 or more points, Backstrom is the only one who did not receive an All-Star invitation

"I think Backstrom is as deserving as anybody in the league," forward Eric Fehr said. "He does absolutely everything for our team. I don't understand what else they would want him to do to be an All Star. He's a top 15 guy in points and he's a shutdown centerman. He's big for our team, and I think it's crazy that he's not on the team."

Said goaltender Braden Holtby: "That’s kind of sad, actually. He’s one of the best players in the world, so that's unfortunate.”

Backstrom, unlike his more outwardly charismatic linemate Ovechkin, does not command immense attention, which Fehr offered as a potential factor in the NHL's decision.

With the second half of the season beginning Monday against the Colorado Avalanche and days off precious and infrequent, Backstrom will gladly use the All-Star break to recharge before the Capitals, a league-best 12-1-4 since Dec. 4, entrench themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoff race. 

"Get a couple days to heal," Backstrom said. "Maybe some sun."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ovechkin Named All-Star For Sixth Time]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 09:09:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460966798.jpg

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin was selected to participate in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game on Saturday, his sixth career selection.

Ovechkin leads Washington with 21 goals, including one in each of his past five games. His six selections are a franchise record, but he will be making his fifth appearance; Ovechkin chose not to play in 2012 while serving a suspension.

Coach Barry Trotz has praised his captain's commitment to developing a more well-rounded game. 

“I think he’s playing the right way,” Trotz said last week. “When you play the right way, you’re going to have a chance to win and I think he does. I think he’s enjoying playing. I think players enjoy success, they enjoy success as much as they enjoy individually, they really love the success individually, gives them confidence, but as a group, when the group has success, they all have fun.”

The All-Star Game will be played Jan. 25 in Columbus. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Holtby's Record-Breaking Streak Continues]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 21:12:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/187*120/461199964.jpg

Braden Holtby would play every game if he could, he'll often tell you.

He has for the past six weeks, setting a Washington Capitals franchise record Thursday with his 23rd consecutive appearance, including 17 straight starts. Against the Philadelphia Flyers, he buoyed his sluggish teammates to salvage a point in a 3-2 overtime loss.

"He's been outstanding, and again [Thursday] he was the reason why we got that extra point," defenseman Mike Green said. "Just gives us the confidence knowing that he's been that good lately, so we can just go out and play the game. He's been outstanding. I can't say enough good things about him really."

No Capitals goaltender has started as many games in a row as Holtby has since Olaf Kolzig's 18 in 2003, a mark that the 25-year-old will tie Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and overtake next week. With games against the Colorado Avalanche and Flyers on Monday and Wednesday, his streak will likely stretch to at least 20 barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance. Holtby's commandeering of the crease coerced the Capitals to loan backup Justin Peters, who has not played since Nov. 29, to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League for conditioning. 

Another round of back-to-back road games is scheduled for next weekend in Nashville and Dallas, meaning Wayne Stephenson's record of 22 straight starts set in 1979-80 will probably remain intact. Regardless, Holtby will be prepared to play as always.

"I think that's one of the benefits I've had of playing in the American League," Holtby said, referring to the three-games-in-three-days nature of the AHL. "You play every game up here and it's not near as hard as playing every two to three down there. Players play 82, shouldn't be any excuse for a goalie."

Analytical studies suggest that playing a goaltender twice in as many days "decreases their ability to perform at an optimal level." To that end, Holtby has started both games of a back-to-back set three times this season and is 0-2-1 with a 4.32 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in the latter halves (including a loss in 20 minutes of relief against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Peters' last start back in November).

"Everybody keeps throwing them towards me," coach Barry Trotz said of the aforementioned analytics. "I think there's a place for analytics. I get that. But there's also a place for the old eyeball test. It's a little bit trouble with the curve type of thing."

Holtby, 14-4-5 during his record-breaking run with a 2.25 GAA and .925 save percentage, has provided Washington with solidity in goal that has recently been absent. Concerns have been raised about his physical stamina or whether the Capitals are doing him a disservice by "riding him into the ground."

Holtby, quite frankly, doesn't care.

"No, not at all," he said. "I like to play, but like I've said before, as long as we're being successful, that's all I care about."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Werth To Have Shoulder Surgery]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:39:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456817618.jpg

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, as you can read below in tweets from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, will undergo shoulder surgery Friday.

Werth and all non-pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 25. 

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Capital Letters: Justin Time?]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 12:04:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4608543181.jpg

Welcome back to "Capital Letters," an aptly titled and sporadic feature in which I answer any and all questions regarding the local professional hockey team. Please send all questions to @AdamVingan and follow me anyway because my mother will think that I'm more popular.

Your questions.

After a season in which the Capitals' crease was characterized by upheaval, Braden Holtby has made a career-high 16 straight starts and tied a franchise record Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs with his 22nd consecutive appearance. In those 22 games, which tied Wayne Stephenson's record set in 1979-80, Holtby is 14-4-4 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts.

That has left Justin Peters without an appearance since Nov. 29, when he allowed three goals on 11 shots in first- and third-period action against the Maple Leafs. (Holtby replaced him in the second period that night.)

Five of Peters' six starts have been made on the second night of back-to-back games. Thursday happens to be the second night of back-to-back games with the Capitals facing the Philadelphia Flyers. And with Flyers goaltender Ray Emery possibly starting, maybe Holtby should sit this one out (though Francois St. Laurent is not working the game, so Holtby may not have to worry about being freely assaulted again).

The Capitals have openly discussed the possibility of loaning Peters to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League simply so he can play. The issue, however, is that Philipp Grubauer, who started 14 games for Washington last season, is currently sidelined by a lower-body injury. If Peters were to start in Hershey, that would leave Pheonix Copley as the likely recall. I think Washington would be more confident in having Peters nearby than an unproven NHL commodity in case something were to happen to Holtby.

"We're still waiting to hear what their plans are," Hershey coach Troy Mann told Tim Leone. "I think we know it's a possibility that he could come down to play a couple games. But until we get official word, it's just status quo for us."

It is astounding to me that Nicklas Backstrom has never participated in an NHL All-Star Game. In an act of shameless pluggery, allow me to regurgitate my NHL.com feature on Backstrom from October to illustrate my astonishment:

Nine players have more points than Backstrom since he entered the League. Four have more assists. None had more primary power-play assists in his first seven seasons, and only Ovechkin has more power-play points.
Five active players needed fewer games than Backstrom's 501 to reach 500 career points: Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr and Dany Heatley. He is also the first player selected in the 2006 NHL Draft to reach that milestone, and that class includes Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux. Yet Backstrom, unlike the aforementioned players, has never been an All-Star

I do not think that Backstrom will be the only career point-per-game player to never make an All-Star team because I think he will finally make one this season. He leads the Capitals with 39 points, his 27 assists are seventh in the league and he is one of 16 players currently averaging at least one point per game.

Latvia single-handedly voted Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons into the game, while the rest of the world selected a quarter of the Chicago Blackhawks' roster. The other players selected will be announced Saturday. I believe Backstrom will be one of them. He should be, at least.

Andre Burakovsky has spent the past two games playing right wing to Alex Ovechkin's left wing and Backstrom's center on Washington's first line. The 19-year-old rookie is the seventh first-line wing to play with Ovechkin this season, joining Tom Wilson, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer.

Trotz has chosen which player fills that role situationally. If he wants "work ethic" as he discussed earlier this week, he chooses Beagle. "Heaviness" means Wilson gets a turn. Burakovsky brings a "more skill element."

For the statistically inclined, here are the "With Or Without You" statistics for some of the aforementioned options, which details the percentage of total shot attempts (shots, missed shots, blocked shots) that a player controls with and without a certain teammate:

  • Burakovsky: 51.0 Corsi percentage with Ovechkin, 50.0 with Backstrom
  • Beagle: 42.5 with Ovechkin, 43.0 with Backstrom
  • Fehr: 56.9 with Ovechkin, 56.1 with Backstrom
  • Wilson: 53.4 with Ovechkin and Backstrom

Based on those statistics, Fehr is obviously the most successful in regards to puck possession (though Burakovsky's are promising in the context of a small sample size).

Overanalyzing line combinations is what we do. As do the teams themselves, apparently.

"When I first got here, guys think that coaches don't hear stuff and they do," Trotz said earlier this week. "I got a lot of, 'I don't know, this guy can't play with this guy, this guy can't play with this guy. We never play well together.' I heard a lot of that. And I was wondering, 'Who could be play with anybody?' Our system and how we play should override everything. I was determined that there's a couple units that I wanted to keep sort of pairs together, but other than that everybody could be interchangable."

If you're asking me who I think should be the first-line right wing, I like the idea of Burakovsky, who said that he, Ovechkin and Backstrom could be "dangerous" together. With his transition to center currently on hold, the skill that those three possess could definitely take over a game. I'd run with it for now.  

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>