Capitals

Coach Paul returns to Syracuse - on business

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Coach Paul returns to Syracuse - on business

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Paul Pasqualoni chuckled at the question: Will he bring his family to Syracuse this week when his UConn Huskies play the Orange?

Nope.

To be sure, this is no sentimental journey for the second-winningest coach in Syracuse history.

``This is a business trip. Really, all I can see is getting ready to play this game,'' Pasqualoni said of Friday night's matchup. ``We're not going up to central New York to pick apples, ride on the hay wagon.''

A decade ago, when he was coach of the Orange, Pasqualoni sometimes made the time to do just that with his wife, Jill, and their two young sons. But a program that had reached lofty heights in the 1980s under Dick MacPherson and in the 1990s with Pasqualoni at the helm began to become simply ordinary and then awful after the graduation of stars Donovan McNabb and Dwight Freeney.

After going 10-3 and finishing ranked No. 14 in 2001 in Freeney's final season, Syracuse played below .500. The Orange went 4-8 in 2002, Pasqualoni's only losing season, and 6-6 each of the next two years.

Former athletic director Jake Crouthamel, who hired Pasqualoni to replace MacPherson, was a staunch supporter of Pasqualoni and gave him a positive evaluation after the Orange upset then-No. 17 Boston College in the 2004 season finale. That vaulted Syracuse into a four-way tie for the Big East championship, Pasqualoni's fourth league title, and made the Orange eligible to play in the postseason.

But the win at BC was Syracuse's first victory in 11 conference road games and only served to emphasize the team's inconsistent play. Syracuse had begun the 2004 season with a 51-0 loss at Purdue on national television, the most lopsided season-opening defeat in program history.

When Georgia Tech beat Syracuse 51-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl to end the season, Pasqualoni's fate was sealed. He was fired by new athletic director Daryl Gross, who had been on the job for less than two weeks.

Pasqualoni's departure was a public relations nightmare for a school known for its Newhouse School of Public Communications. His firing came only three weeks after new chancellor Nancy Cantor had given him a public vote of confidence to return for the final year of his contract.

Pasqualoni left after 14 seasons with a 107-59-1 record, behind only Ben Schwartzwalder's 153 victories, and a 6-3 mark in bowl games.

While Pasqualoni was plying his trade in the NFL in stints with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, things deteriorated a whole lot more at Syracuse under his successor, Greg Robinson.

Robinson's first team went 1-10, the first time since Syracuse began playing football in 1889 that it lost 10 games. He was fired after four seasons, a 10-37 overall record and 3-25 mark in the Big East.

Doug Marrone, who played at Syracuse for MacPherson, is in his fourth season as head coach and has begun to rebuild the program. It's been no easy task. Despite a surprising 8-5 record and a bowl victory in 2010, Marrone is 19-24 overall and 7-16 in the conference as he struggles to transform the Orange (2-4, 1-1 Big East) into a consistent winner.

Pasqualoni, in his second season with the Huskies (3-4, 0-2), likes what he sees.

``Their personnel looks very good,'' Pasqualoni said. ``It's going to be a tough game. I'm sure they are disappointed in the number of wins they have, just like we are. But they are playing very hard and they are playing very solid football.''

This will be Pasqualoni's first trip to the Carrier Dome as an opposing coach, and he's not certain what to expect.

``That will be interesting,'' said Pasqualoni, who had more than his fair share of critics in his final seasons here. ``To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about it a great deal, other than it's a big game in our conference and it's a big game for us.''

Rest assured he's put his tenure at Syracuse far in the rearview mirror.

``Obviously, I had a lot of good years there, a lot of good experiences,'' Pasqualoni said. ``For me, it's more about the people we were with, what we achieved. I thought we achieved a lot. I thought we had a lot of great kids.

``That's not going to be some big sentimental thing for me.''

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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