From Comcast SportsNetPORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Paul Allen insists he's not going to sell the Portland Trail Blazers, but says this season is the most disappointing he's had in 24 years as the team's owner.The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft posted an open letter to fans on the Blazers' team website on Tuesday evening. In it, he reiterated what he's said all season long, that the team is not for sale."I'm working hard to get this team back on track," he wrote. "No offers have been made to buy the team and none have been solicited."The Blazers wrapped up the lockout-shortened season 28-38 and out of the playoffs. Portland is operating with an interim general manager and is looking for a head coach -- but the team has also collected up to four picks in the upcoming NBA draft and has freed up considerable cap space for free agency.Allen said he will be financially sensible with the moves the team makes."One thing we are not going to do is to spend money like there is no tomorrow, and calls to do so just don't make sense," Allen said. "I've tried that path before -- it doesn't work and is not sustainable. We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward."When the Blazers opened training camp in December, they were hit with bad news. All-Star guard Brandon Roy announced his retirement because of ongoing issues with his knees, former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden had suffered another setback with his knees, and forward LaMarcus Aldridge needed a procedure to treat a heart condition.Portland answered by signing free agent Jamal Crawford and making some other moves before Aldridge returned and the team got off to a fast start. But soon losses started to mount, and at the trade deadline the Blazers dismissed respected head coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers also traded starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, and waived Oden after five disappointing seasons."These things happen in sports. Injuries are part of the game. Sometimes you have bad luck. But as the 2011-2012 season played out, I was asking myself the same question I know a lot of you were asking: What happened to a season that had such promise?" Allen wrote. "There are no easy answers for that."Allen confirmed he has interviewed one candidate for the general manager's position personally. President Larry Miller said recently that acting GM Chad Buchanan would be considered."We're moving forward thoughtfully because we must ensure we have the right fit," Allen said. "Ideally, we'd like to have someone in place before the draft and before we decide on a permanent coach, but finding the right executive may take time."
It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.
Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.
Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.
"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."
Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.
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But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.
If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.
The Capitals never gained possession of the puck in overtime on Sunday before Travis Konecny scored the game-winner. Despite playing better than they had in their previous two games, Washington still walked away with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and only one point to show for their effort. Here are four reasons why.
A blown 2-on-1
Alex Ovechkin made a great defensive play in the first period with a steal high in the defensive zone to launch himself and Evgeny Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1. Ovechkin took the first shot which was saved by Brian Elliott. The rebound went right to Kuznetsov who was in position to tap it into the empty net, but instead, he sent the puck right back to Elliott. To be fair, it was a bit of a difficult angle for Kuznetsov, but that's a play that has to result in a goal, especially in a game as close as this one.
Elliott had a fantastic game as he denied the Caps on 27 of their 28 shots, many of which were very quality scoring opportunities. Two saves in particular stood out starting with a save on Ovechkin in the first period. The Great 8 was all alone in the slot, but Elliott managed to get in front of the puck and send up and over the net. In the second period, he made another dynamic save as he denied Nicklas Backstrom with the pad when the Caps' center managed to get his stick on the puck in the slot.
A lost faceoff in overtime
Many people wondered why Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice to start overtime, but it was another player's absence that really cost them: Jay Beagle. Beagle's faceoff win percentage of 57.5-percent puts him among the top faceoff men in the league, but Kuznetsov was the first center for the extra session. Sean Couturier beat Kuznetsov on the faceoff to start overtime and the Caps never gained possession at any point before Travis Konecny fired the game-winner past Holtby. Beagle is not the type of player you would typically want out on overtime, but when one possession can cost you the game as it did on Sunday, perhaps the Caps need to get him out there just for the opening faceoff to give themselves a better shot at gaining the first possession and thus a better chance of winning the game.
A neutral zone misplay by John Carlson
If you are going to try to hit a player with the puck in the neutral zone, you better make sure he doesn't get past you or you have put your team in a tough position. That is exactly what happened in overtime when Carlson attempted to pin Konecny along the boards. Konecny squeezed his way through the hip check immediately creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Flyers which he would turn into the game-winning goal.