Capitals

Bowe's injury further opens WR void for Chiefs

Bowe's injury further opens WR void for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Steve Breaston isn't sure why he hasn't been getting on the field for the Chiefs.

He's asked why but hasn't really gotten a straight answer, or at least not an answer that he's comfortable sharing. The veteran wide receiver hasn't been active for the last several games, during which the Chiefs' pass offense has been mostly abysmal.

Breaston may finally get back on the field Sunday under the direst of circumstances.

The Chiefs will be without leading wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for their game at Oakland, depriving them of their biggest downfield threat and only reliable option. Bowe hurt his ribs last Sunday against Cleveland, and coach Romeo Crennel hinted he may be out the rest of the year.

That's going to put more responsibility on Breaston, Jon Baldwin and the rest of a wide receiver corps that hasn't exactly shouldered much of the burden this season.

``Those guys have to step up,'' Crennel said. ``We're going to work during the week and we're going to see who gives us the best chance in the game, and then those guys will be active.''

Deciding who will be active has suddenly become a hot topic in Kansas City.

Breaston, who caught 61 passes for the Chiefs last season, has been inactive for four of the last five games - and he says he doesn't know why. He only has seven catches for 74 yards in the games he has played, the ball going instead to a variety of other receiving targets.

``I don't understand it,'' Breaston said. ``It's difficult. I'm just going to keep working. As difficult as my situation is, I know my teammates are going through a difficult situation with this season. It's not just about me right now. We're going through things as a team.''

Breaston started 43 of the 85 games he's played in his career, and has 255 catches for more than 3,300 yards with the Arizona Cardinals and the past season-plus in Kansas City. Instead of putting him on the active list each Sunday, Crennel has used untested players such as Jamar Newsome and Josh Bellamy, who also contribute on special teams.

That's where this week's awkwardness began.

Crennel was asked Wednesday what it would take for Breaston to be active, and responded: ``He needs to show that he has a great understanding of the game plan and he can execute the game plan. If he can do that, then he can be in uniform.''

Yet Crennel took umbrage at the suggestion that Breaston must have been inactive because he didn't understand the game plan.

The often-amiable coach lashed out Thursday at reporters who asked him to clarify what he said the previous day, saying: ``You know what, these guys have been together and hanging together all year and I know that, hey, there's nothing good to write about, but don't assume that a guy doesn't know the game plan, that a guy's not smart or anything like that.

``I make the decision about who's active and who's not active,'' Crennel said, ``and he has not been active because it's my decision and that's what I go with. Not on the player.''

Breaston said he's understood the game plan all season, and that nobody on the coaching staff has said that's the reason he's been inactive.

``I understand our offense. They may think a different way - so be it. I can't fight City Hall,'' he said. ``I go out and work. ... Maybe wanting the ball and things like that, they get upset about that. But I understand the offense.''

He'd better have a solid grasp of it this weekend.

With the injury to Bowe, the Chiefs will be missing their leading receiver and his 59 catches for 801 yards against Oakland. That's nearly a quarter of the team's receptions and yards receiving, and Bowe has three of the Chiefs' eight touchdown catches on the year.

The rest of the wide receivers haven't been nearly as special.

Baldwin was the Chiefs' first-round draft pick last season, but he has just 18 catches for 261 yards and a single touchdown grab. Three of their top four receivers after Bowe are either running backs (Jamaal Charles and Shaun Draughn) or ex-running backs (Dexter McCluster).

None of them have provided much down-the-field danger.

``Any time you lose a guy like Dwayne Bowe, it's going to hurt you,'' Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn said. ``He's a special player. He really is.''

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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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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.