The review: Two games in, the Mystics sport a 1-1 record following 64-61 win over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. Obviously, that is ahead of last seasons six-win pace. Averaging 27 turnovers is as well. Despite losing the ball a whopping (but not franchise-record) 32 times and blowing nearly all of a 16-point second lead, Washington survived behind 49 points combined from Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie. We didnt particularly play well but we were able to come out with the win, said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 19 points. We have a lot of things to work on and we will practice and come out better. Playing the woeful Shock winless this season after three victories last year helped, but the competition is about to go up several notches.The preview: The Mystics finish their season-opening a three-game homestand against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-0). Led by former Connecticut star Maya Moore, the Lynx have won their opening games by an average of 15 points. The turnovers: The first time they touched the ball against the Shock, the Mystics coughed up possession. There was no containment for the faulty control as it spread throughout the roster each of the 10 players that received playing time had at least two. On Saturday, there were 16 in each half, at least seven in each quarter. There were bad passes and dropped throws. Dribblers lost their handle in traffic and the open court. In some cases, credit the Shocks smart use full court pressure. In other cases, pure head scratchers.Its good to win, however I am not pleased with the types of turnover or the number of turnovers, said Wizards coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, already frustrated after the team committed 23 turnovers in the season opening loss. We definitely have to make better decisions with the basketball. The turnovers were silly, I dont know any other way to put it, and we have to continue to work on that.The return: After missing the opener with a sore knee, Ajavon attacked the basket relentlessly from her wing position and sparked the Mystics early offense in the process. She took 10 free throws in the first half, sinking eight en route to 15 points before halftime. On the defensive end, Ajavon tacked on four steals.It was very nice to have Matee back, Lacey said. She provides a lot of energy and shes tough and thats what Ive asked of the team, she has stepped up and shown a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.The point guards: Usually the ball handling duties fall to this position, but the Mystics are still searching for a clear solution. One of the many newcomers on the retooled roster,Dominqiue Canty received the start against the Shock. Less than two minutes in, the 13-year veteranhad already committed three turnovers. Shefinished with five, matching Ajavon and Langhornes unwanted team-high total. Second-year floor leader Jasmine Thomas tacked on three turnovers in 13 minutes. Including Natasha Lacy, the Mystics' point guards finished with five assists with 10 turnovers.The third quarter: Lacey needs to bottle her halftime speeches or at least find a way to spread out thesubsequent good play throughout the second half. In both games, the Mystics held their opponent to less than 10 points in the third, finishing with a combined 35-15 advantage. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored the Mystics 42-23.The Lynx: Washington cannot afford to give away possessions against a Minnesota team which scores a a league-high 90.2 points per game and tops the WNBA in field goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting. Moore averages 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and has knocked down 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Seimone Augustus tops the Lynx with 19 points per game.
With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.
While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.
On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.
"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."
Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.
"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more. He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."
On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.
But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.
Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.
The Redskins week that was
Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.
Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case.
Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity.
Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know.
Tweet of the week
On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice.
Interesting. They could move back from 13, get Payne and pick up a third. Then package their second and the third to move up to get Guice early in the second. Not sure he’ll be there but not a bad plan. https://t.co/socT0f6oFZ— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS) April 17, 2018
This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman.
I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right?
—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141
In case you missed it
- Need to Know: Five pivotal games on the Redskins' schedule
- Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans
- Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018