Capitals

Alabama's Lacy, Milliner, Fluker enter NFL draft

201301081353500396062-p2.jpeg

Alabama's Lacy, Milliner, Fluker enter NFL draft

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker are entering the NFL draft after helping lead the Crimson Tide to a second straight national title.

Lacy and Milliner announced their plans to skip their senior seasons Friday at a news conference. Fluker couldn't be there for the announcement because he was traveling.

It's another exodus of talented underclassmen for a team that has won three of the past four national championships. Most of the four first-round picks in each of the past two drafts that left Alabama were underclassmen.

``I appreciate what they've done for the University of Alabama but we also acknowledge the fact that from a business standpoint, these guys are making good decisions about their future and what they can do,'' coach Nick Saban said.

Unlike recent groups of departing juniors from Alabama, only Milliner is pegged as a sure first-round pick.

He was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist and unanimous All-American after recording two interceptions and 22 pass deflections. He and guard Chance Warmack, who was a senior, are projected as the Tide's top current prospects.

``I think while I was here, I met all the goals and team affirmations that I set for myself as a freshman by winning a championship, becoming an All-American, just being part of a team that always loved to win,'' Milliner said. ``I think I fulfilled all my goals and am ready and prepared to go to the next level.''

Lacy was MVP of the national championship game against Notre Dame after rushing for 140 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He said he wasn't 100 percent healthy all season until the title game Monday night, but Lacy still ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

``We don't have a lot of years to play this position, so you have to go while you can,'' Lacy said. ``I would love to come back. This is a great place. We have the best fans, but I really didn't want to risk coming back and not having such a good year or maybe even risking injury. I've had my share of injuries this year. I feel like you've got to get out while you can.''

Lacy thinks he ``made a pretty solid statement'' in the title game, when he made a spin move into the end zone on a TD catch and on another run pushed 248-pound linebacker Danny Spond away with one hand.

Lacy was recruited in the same class as Trent Richardson, last year's No. 3 pick by Cleveland, but redshirted and then spent two seasons as a backup. He's not widely projected to follow Richardson and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram into the first round. Lacy said he was projected as a second- or third-round pick in feedback from the NFL, but was impressive in the finale. Ordinarily, Saban only recommends projected first-round picks leave early.

``I'm fully supportive of what Eddie's doing,'' Saban said. ``It's a little bit of a different situation than we've had in the past, but it's a little bit unique as well. Every one of these situations is unique to that particular individual and what his situation is. ``

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Fluker started 35 games for the Tide and was a second-team Associated Press All-American.

He was one of the Tide's top-rated signees in 2009 but came in overweight at about 395 pounds and was redshirted.

``I certainly feel like this year has been his best year as a player, and I feel that he's made a good decision about what he wants to do,'' said Saban, adding that Fluker has improved as much as any player on the team.

The mammoth Fluker, who wears a size-22 shoe, said in a statement that leaving early ``is never an easy decision when you are playing at a place like Alabama.''

``"These four years in Tuscaloosa have been the best four years of my life and I appreciate everyone who helped me along the way,'' he said.

Quarterback AJ McCarron, All-America linebacker C.J. Moseley and guard Anthony Steen have already said they're returning for their senior seasons. Saban didn't rule out other juniors possibly declaring for the draft before Tuesday's deadline.

The Tide does have promising players who have logged plenty of playing time behind Lacy and Milliner, especially. Two freshmen - tailback T.J. Yeldon (1,108 yards, 12 touchdowns) - and cornerback Geno Smith saw significant action.

``You've got people that are going to go to the NFL each year and you've got people behind them that are going to do the same things when their time comes,'' Milliner said.

Quick Links

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: