Capitals

Arkansas' Powell showing off new outside ability

Arkansas' Powell showing off new outside ability

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Marshawn Powell's knee injury might have cost him most of last season. His down time, however, has provided the Arkansas junior with an unexpected benefit.

Known primarily for his work underneath the basket before this season, Powell has turned into one of the team's best outside shooters. The 6-foot-7 forward leads Arkansas (5-4) in 3-pointers made (11) and 3-point shooting percentage (50 percent), both surprising considering the source.

Powell entered the season a career 22.4 percent shooter from behind the arc, having connected on only 15 of 67 attempts. But he's hit 11 of 22 this season, including an 8-of-12 stretch over his last three games.

``I knew he could shoot 3s, but I didn't think he was going to shoot this many, or at least land (them),'' Arkansas junior Rickey Scott said. ``I'm as shocked as you.''

The secret behind Powell's sudden shooting prowess isn't all that much of a secret at all.

He credits the long hours in the gym while rehabbing from last season's torn ACL in his right knee. For much of that time, he was forced to stand on the sidelines while his teammates practiced, unable to do anything but shoot.

``I learned my touch, and I'm shooting it with confidence,'' Powell said.

Powell said he was ``definitely'' a 3-point shooting threat while a high school standout in Virginia, though he hadn't shown that ability during his first two full seasons with the Razorbacks.

He was 8 of 37 from behind the arc as a freshman during the 2009-10 season, when he was third on the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game. His percentage (25 percent) rose as a sophomore, but his attempts (28) decreased as Arkansas relied on his post offense.

Powell didn't have much of a chance last season to show his outside game in his first season under coach Mike Anderson, injuring his knee during practice after just two games. Anderson hasn't been surprised by Powell's hot shooting, which has him averaging a team-high 16.6 points per game.

``It's something he has in the arsenal; he works at it,'' Anderson said. ``It's something that people are giving him, so to me it showcases his versatility.''

The addition of a consistent outside game also has helped improve Powell's inside play. He's shooting a career-best 52.4 percent (52 of 103) from the field this season, besting the 50 percent he shot as a freshman and showing a new spring in his step.

Powell, who played primarily below the basket his first few seasons with the Razorbacks, has found plenty of operating room around - and above - the basket this season. He's shown off a variety of spin moves and dunks in his first season after the knee surgery, adding to an ever-improving array of offensive options while trying to ``take all wide-open'' 3-pointers.

``I think what (the 3-point shooting) does, it presents problems for people,'' Anderson said. ``You've got to figure out how you want to play him. I think it helps us from the standpoint, now we can really space the floor. We don't have to just clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we've got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happens.''

Powell's recent hot hand outside has benefited a team that was in dire need of some 3-point shooting help. The Razorbacks shot just 26.2 percent (27 of 103) from behind the arc over their first six games, but they've hit 29 of 63 (46 percent) over their last three.

Overall, Arkansas is hitting 33.7 percent of its 3-pointers this season, ninth in the Southeastern Conference.

``I think that's the rhythm,'' Anderson said. ``You can see the rhythm; things are starting to fall in place for our guys. They are starting to understand (how) to get the ball to the right people at the right time. Guys are shooting the ball with confidence, that's what shooting is. It's about confidence and taking shots you can make.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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