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Column: Sport can help lead us down a better path

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Column: Sport can help lead us down a better path

There are times when sports bring out the best in us.

Like Victor Cruz writing a heartfelt message on his cleats, dedicated to a 6-year-old victim of the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

There are times when sports bring out the worst in us.

Not even 72 hours removed from the horror in Newtown, there were racist tweets blasting NBC for pre-empting its regular Sunday night football coverage to show President Obama's speech from that devastated community. One of the tweets apparently was sent by a walk-on player at the University of North Alabama (who quickly became a former player).

Sports, of course, had nothing to do with Adam Lanza's walking into that school and killing 26 people, most of them innocent little kids filled with nothing but hope and wonder and goodness. America needs to come to grips with truly important issues: gun control, mental illness, a violent culture among them.

Yet, we need sports - perhaps more than ever - to help us get started on that path toward being a better nation, a better people, a better world. Maybe, just maybe, in some small way the games we play can show us how to be a little nicer to each other, or at least more respectful.

The athletes can lead the way. Their actions have meaning, now more than ever.

So, instead of ranting at the ref for blowing a call, try to remember there's more at stake than a game. Instead of hitting someone after the whistle or getting so enraged that injuring the guy in the other uniform seems a worthy option, try to remember there's more at stake than a game. Instead of standing triumphantly over a vanquished foe, trumpeting themselves at the expense of someone else, try to remember there's more at stake than a game.

So many are watching.

Given the huge importance we place on what happens in our stadiums and arenas, sports are again positioned, just as they were after 9/11 and other national horrors, to help us uncover some meaningful purpose to an utterly senseless tragedy.

Let's not waste it this time.

There's no doubting the power of sports to lift people up, to inspire us to greater heights, to bring us together as one. There's no doubting the power of sports to console the grieving, to comfort the ailing, to make it easier to move on when we can barely find the strength for our next breath.

``Sports is one of the most effective consolations for people dealing with grief,'' said Ron Marasco, a professor at Loyola Marymount University who has written a book on dealing with loss. ``In the early stages of grief, isolation and loneliness are the biggest problems. That shared communal experience of sports is actually a very healthy thing.''

Just look at what Cruz, a receiver for the New York Giants, did during Sunday's game in Atlanta against the Falcons. He was the favorite player of Jack Pinto, one of those whose life ended on what should've been just another day at school, such a hero to the child that his family planned to bury him Monday in one of Cruz's No. 80 jerseys.

``R.I.P. Jack Pinto,'' Cruz wrote on his playing shoes, along with ``Jack Pinto, my hero'' and ``This one is for you.'' It didn't really matter that the Giants played one of their worst games of the season, losing 34-0.

Such is the power of sports.

``With a family facing that much tragedy, you want to be someone that inspires them, someone that can put a smile on their face at a time where it's tough to do that,'' Cruz said after a loss on the field but a win in life.

That said, sports must do more.

Let's have a serious discussion about all that is wrong with the games we play. The misplaced priorities. The sense of life and death when nothing could be further from the truth. And, especially, the nastiness and hatred it stirs from deep within our souls.

Not long after Cruz played with a heavy heart, we got a sampling of that other side on Twitter.

Some used social media to dole out racist vitriol against Obama while demonstrating how utterly meaningless their own lives must be, since they apparently thought the first quarter of the San Francisco-New England game was more important than a president's stirring words in Newtown.

One of the tweets was reportedly sent by Bradley Patterson, a walk-on long snapper who joined North Alabama's NCAA Division II football team during the season, though he never actually played. Now, he won't get the chance; the school said he was no longer welcome on the team, even as a blocking dummy in practice.

While those such as Patterson, who were actually willing to type out their ugly thoughts in 140 characters or less, make up a very small minority, there was surely a much greater number muttering to themselves about missing their football while Obama spoke, totally oblivious to the suffering in Connecticut.

That's why it's time for all of us to look in the mirror, to not let another tragedy pass without some meaningful change.

So, instead of punching someone in the face down at the local bar because they trash-talked your favorite team, try to remember there's more at stake than a game. Instead of posting a vile tweet about a coach's mental capacity because you think he made the wrong call, try to remember there's more at stake than a game. Instead of screaming an obscenity at an 18-year-old kid because he dropped a pass or threw an interception, try to remember there's more at stake than a game.

This is not in any way suggesting we shouldn't strive for triumph as much as we ever did. Celebrate it, too.

Life has always been about the Ws and the Ls.

But we can play nice, or at least nicer.

That would be the best way for sports to remember Newtown.

---

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals vs. Islanders starts Aug. 12, schedule, opponents, format, odds

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals vs. Islanders starts Aug. 12, schedule, opponents, format, odds

The Stanley Cup playoffs are finally here after qualifying and round robin play concluded in Toronto and Edmonton on Sunday.

Five months after the season paused for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NHL has whittled 24 teams down to 16. The Capitals will play the New York Islanders and old coach Barry Trotz in the first round. They celebrated winning the Stanley Cup together two years ago.

Trotz left to take the job in New York and famously said after receiving his championship ring in an emotional meeting with his former players that he wished them well and that they could win it all again "but you'll have to go through the [explitive] Island, OK?"

So 24 teams are down to 16 with games set to continue in Toronto and Edmonton. The first round begins on Tuesday. This year's road to the Cup will look significantly different than past seasons, but it won't be any less meaningful to the players pushing for the Cup.

For the latest Capitals news and analysis from NBC Sports Washington, download the MyTeams App.

RELATED: 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs opponent set: How Capitals fared vs. ex-coach Barry Trotz and Islanders

How does the bracket look?

Well, you see....there is no bracket. Not in the traditional sense. The NHL has re-seeded teams No. 1 through No. 8. So the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 12 in the qualifying round, upset the No. 5 seed Edmonton Oilers in their home city and are now listed as the No. 8 seed.

None of it really matters. Whichever four teams advance to the Eastern and Western Conference semifinals will be re-seeded again. If No. 4 Boston is the best seed remaining after the first round, it would play the lowest-seeded remaining team. In this case, No. 8 Montreal.

But we are back to a best-of-seven format. The qualifying round was best-of-five - except for the top four teams in each conference who played round-robin games against each other for seeding. That's how Presidents' Trophy-winner Boston ended up No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.

What does this mean for the Capitals?

The Capitals finished the regular season with a 41-20-8 record and 90 points. They barely claimed the Metropolitan Division title for the fifth consecutive year, edging out the Flyers by one point. They rank third in the Eastern Conference behind the Bruins and Tampa Lightning.

But they weren't playing well in February and March and looked suspect during round-robin play. Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson is injured and missed the final two round-robin games, third-line center Lars Eller left the Toronto bubble for the birth of his son and has to quarantine at least until Wednesday.

But re-seeded tournaments are inherently unpredictable and beating the Islanders could suddenly mean a second-round series against a beatable opponent instead of another date with the No. 2 Lightning.  

Where will the Stanley Cup Playoffs take place?

Eastern Conference games will continue to be held at Scotiabank Place in Toronto while Western Conference games will still take place at Rogers Place in Edmonton. These two hub cities will serve as respective bubbles for each conference. The Stanley Cup Final will join the conference champs together in Edmonton

Who is here?

The 2019 champions (St. Louis Blues), the 2018 champs (Capitals), a Bruins team that came within a game of the title last season and a Tampa Bay squad that just never can get over the hump in the playoffs. Oh – and the fading dynasty that is the Chicago Blackhawks still has some fight left in it. The Philadelphia Flyers are a legitimate darkhorse despite being the top seed. The Colorado Avalanche have so much talent just hitting its prime. There’s tons of intrigue with this tournament and it could easily go haywire. Just the way we like it.

Who is missing?

Sideny Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for one. They went out in the qualifying round to Carey Price and the Canadiens. The Pens might have a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, but the NHL loses a meal ticket.

Also gone is superstar Connor McDavid and the Oilers. All the NHL wants is its most dynamic player on its biggest stage and it just rarely seems to happen.

And say goodbye to the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose fans face a long, cold Fall for once instead of summer. The 1967 champions and their star-studded roster will have to wait until next year. Again.

Who never made It

Twenty-four teams took part in the expanded postseason. The seven that did not make the cut were the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

(No. 1) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (No. 8) Montreal Canadiens

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 8pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 3pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 8pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 3pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Flyers vs. Canadiens, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*

 

(No. 2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (No. 7 ) Columbus Blue Jackets

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 7:30pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 3pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*

 

(No. 3) Washington Capitals vs. (No. 6) New York Islanders

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders vs. Capitals

Friday, Aug. 14: Islanders vs. Capitals

Sunday, Aug. 16: Capitals vs. Islanders

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Capitals vs. Islanders

Thursday, Aug. 20: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Capitals vs. Islanders, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*

 

(No. 4) Boston Bruins vs. (No. 5) Carolina Hurricanes

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 12pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 8pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, TBD*

Sunday, Aug, 23: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

(No. 1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (No. 8) Chicago Blackhawks

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 11:30pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 5:30pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 8pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 6:30pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*

 

(No. 2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (No. 7) Arizona Coyotes

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 5:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 2pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 3pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 5:30pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*

 

(No. 3) Dallas Stars vs. (No. 6) Calgary Flames Sunday

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames vs. Stars, 4:30pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Flames vs. Stars, 10:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Stars vs. Flames, 10:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Stars vs. Flames, 2pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Stars vs. Flames, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*

 

(No. 4) St. Louis Blues vs. (No. 5) Vancouver Canucks

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canucks vs. Blues, 10:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Canucks vs. Blues, 6:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Blues vs. Canucks, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*

*If necessary

Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup

An impressive showing in round robin play has the Golden Knights as slight favorites to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Capitals in 2018 in five games in their first season as an expansion club, according to one sportsbook. The Caps rank seventh with +1278 odds.

Vegas Golden Knights: +606

Colorado Avalanche: +617

Philadelphia Flyers: +617

Tampa Bay Lightning: +667

Boston Bruins: +747

St. Louis Blues: +956

Washington Capitals: +1278

Dallas Stars: +1600

Carolina Hurricanes: +1678

Calgary Flames: +1978

Vancouver Canucks: +2389

New York Islanders: +2611

Arizona Coyotes: +3078

Chicago Blackhawks: +3167

Montreal Canadiens: +3233

Columbus Blue Jackets: +3911

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020: Capitals vs. Islanders first round schedule, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020: Capitals vs. Islanders first round schedule, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals will take on the New York Islanders in the first round of the newly formatted 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After winning their round robin finale against the Bruins, Washington earned the No. 3 seed and a date with former head coach Barry Trotz. The first round of the  Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Tuesday, April 11 in Toronto for the eight remaining Eastern Conference teams. Game 1 of the Capitals-Islanders series is on Wednesday, August 12 at 3:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena. 

RELATED: 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs opponent set: How Capitals fared vs. ex-coach Barry Trotz and Islanders

Game coverage on NBC Sports Washington begins at 2:00 p.m. ET with Caps Pregame Live. After the game ends, tune in to Caps Postgame Live, with Capitals Overtime following the game broadcast. There will be extended hour-long Caps Pregame and Postgame Live shows throughout the series. 

You can watch every game on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App. Download the MyTeams app here, and then stream the Capitals playoff games right here

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF SCHEDULE 2019

Game 1: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Wednesday, August 12
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 1 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 2: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Friday, August 14
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To Watch: Stream Game 2 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 3: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Sunday, August 16
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET 
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 3 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 4: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Tuesday, August18
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 4 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 5 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Saturday, April 20
Time: TBD
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To Watch: Stream Game 5 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 6 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Saturday, August 22
Time: TBD
TV Channel: TBD
How To WatchStream Game 6 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 7 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Sunday, August 23
Time: TBD
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 7 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: