Dave Johnson: 3-Game Win Streak Remains Elusive


Dave Johnson: 3-Game Win Streak Remains Elusive

Saturday, February 20, 2010, 10:30 PM
Wizards-Raptors Highlights and Flip's Response

By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comToronto----One is the loneliest number but for the Washington Wizards three is the hardest to get. With a 20-7 run to close the game the Toronto Raptors secured a 109-104 victory and spoiled the Wizards bid for its first three-game winning streak of the season.For the second time in three games Andray Blatche led the Wizards in scoring with 24 points. In an effort to get the game back from the Raptors, Blatche scored six of his points in the final 1:21 of the game including a strong post move on Andrea Bargnani that led to a layup to bring the Wizards to within three points at 105-102.We had opportunities, said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. We played hard and put ourselves in a position to win. We just could not make that big shot to withstand their momentum.Fort Washington, Marylands Jarrett Jack led the Raptors with 23 points and eight assists and proved to be the catalyst in the Raptors comeback. With 6:35 left in the fourth quarter the Wizards had a 97-89 advantage when Jack returned to the game.Jack then took over by scoring eleven of the Raptors final 20-points.The Wizards struggled with Jacks drives to the basket and at one point he scored seven straight points to cut a nine-point Wizards advantage to two points at 100-98 with 3:54 to go in the game. Then Bargnani, who added 18 points on the night, changed the game with his length as he frustrated the Wizards by protecting the rim. With 3:33 remaining, Bargnani blocked a Blatche layup attempt that would have given the Wizards a four-point cushion.Instead Hedo Turkoglu scored two of his 16 points on a driving reverse layup on the baseline to tie the game at 100. Then it was back to the defensive work of Bargnani as he blocked a Randy Foye layup attempt that would have given the Wizards the lead back with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter.Bargnani denied the Wizards again with 1:54 left on the clock as he rejected an Al Thornton drive to the basket to preserve the Raptors 105-100 lead. The Wizards did not settle for jumpers. They attacked the basket but the seven-foot frame of Bargnani was a problem.Still the chances were there for the Wizards. Again attacking the basket, Blatche was able to weave around Bargnani and work the baseline for a reverse layup attempt with 41-second left. Instead Blatches shot bounced several times on the rim but did not fall and the Raptors lead stayed at 105-102.With 14.9 seconds left Turkoglu saved the game for the Raptors. Turkoglu is known for his dramatic game-winning shots, but this time it was a rebound that proved decisive. Amazingly Jack missed a driving layup but Turkoglu was able to wiggle and grab the rebound to again allow the Raptors to stay in front 105-102.The Wizards just could not find a way to fight through the fourth quarter on a night when they did so many things well. The ball again moved as the Wizards recorded 20 assists marking the third straight game they reached the 20-assist mark as a team.The Wizards also again showed resilience on defense. The Raptors have now scored at least 100-points in twenty straight games, but in the third quarter the Wizards become more disruptive on defense and forced the Raptors into six turnovers.The energy on defense allowed the Wizards to turn a seven-point half time deficit into a three point advantage at 88-85 heading into the final quarter. While Raptors shot 50-percent from the field in the third quarter, the Wizards outscored them 31-21 and did not allow any second-chance points.The loss to the Raptors marked the sixth-time this season the Wizards failed to extend a winning streak to three games

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20 Burning Capitals Questions: Will Radko Gudas be an upgrade on the ice over Matt Niskanen?

20 Burning Capitals Questions: Will Radko Gudas be an upgrade on the ice over Matt Niskanen?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at the addition of defenseman Radko Gudas in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that sent away Matt Niskanen after five seasons with Washington. Will that move pay dividends? Or lead to some regrets? 

The Capitals had a problem entering the summer. They needed to shed salary to make sure they could take care of their biggest priorities: Adding depth scoring, re-signing at least some of their own free agents and handing forward Jakub Vrana a decent raise. 

For months it was clear defenseman Matt Niskanen was the obvious player to go. He cost $5.75 million per year against the salary cap for the next two seasons. His play was admittedly not up to par for much of last season. 

Niskanen was a reliable second-pair defenseman for much of his time in Washington after signing a seven-year contract in 2014. He and veteran Brooks Orpik arrived from Pittsburgh that year and helped transform a blueline that had lost its way and, eventually, they were key members of the 2018 Stanley Cup championship team. But at 32 and with signs of decline obvious, the Capitals were ready to move on. 

On the surface, a straight flip between Gudas and Niskanen appeared to favor Philadelphia. Niskanen is the one who plays tough minutes against top competition. Gudas for a long time was considered little more than a goon on the ice, a player with an edge who repeatedly crossed the line with controversial hits and brought little to the table offensively. But while signs in 2018-19 showed Niskanen declining, Gudas was playing his way into a larger role with the Flyers. 

They are wildly different players. Niskanen at his best is still a defenseman who can make plays under pressure, skate the puck out of trouble and contribute offensively with 32 points or more his first three years in Washington and never fewer than 25. Gudas had 20 points last season and his career-best is 23.

But the questions isn’t whether you’d rather have had Matt Niskanen of 2014-2018. The question is who would you rather have at the current price for 2019-20? Gudas’ improvement at what he does well and Niskanen’s fade have made that a far more interesting question. 

Niskanen will cost Philadelphia $5.75 million for his age 32/33 and 33/34 seasons. The Flyers better hope he has a rebound season in him. And to be fair, Niskanen did play better the final two months of last season.

But Gudas costs the Capitals just $2.35 million this year because Philadelphia agreed to retain 30 percent of his salary. That savings of $3.4 million was enough to sign back free agent forward Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million) with money left over. That, in turn, allowed Washington to use its limited cap space to add free-agent forward Richard Panik ($2.75 million) and give Vrana his RFA pay bump at $3.35 million. They did have to trade Andre Burakovsky to Colorado instead of letting him sign his qualifying offer ($3.25 million).

But all of that financial flexibility started with Gudas. Is this a better blueline? In part that depends on Nick Jensen. The Capitals at least start the season believing Gudas can continue in the role best suited for him – an above-average third-pair defenseman. There is value in that. Advanced metrics clearly show it’s difficult for teams to get quality scoring chances with Gudas on the ice. Put that in context: He’s usually not on the ice against the opposition’s best. But he shouldn’t be with the Capitals, either. 

Jensen was the player acquired at the trade deadline and immediately given a four-year contract extension. He played the heavy minutes for Detroit last season against better competition and should settle into the second pair on the right side with Washington. If he can’t, that’s its own problem. But if Jensen is the player he was with the Red Wings then it limits Gudas’ exposure and he should thrive as a clear upgrade over the rotating second-year crew that played that position last year (Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey) before Jensen arrived just before the Feb. 25 trade deadline to pick up those minutes.  

The Capitals will still fret about his heavy penalty minutes and his known penchant for getting suspended. But a team that bled high-danger scoring chances even the year it won the Cup needed someone who could help change that. If it comes at an offensive cost, well, few teams are better positioned to withstand a few fewer goals and assists from a defenseman who hardly played on the power play anyway. That’s John Carlson’s gig and he is one of the NHL’s best at it.

It’s an interesting trade. Washington needed the financial flexibility this year and next when goalie Braden Holtby and center Nicklas Backstrom are free agents and will need raises. Gudas comes off the books and that will help. Niskanen would not have. 

At 29, Gudas is also almost four years younger. He doesn’t have the distinguished track record Niskanen does, but that’s not the player he’s replacing. Maybe Niskanen rebounds with the Flyers closer to his career norms and Gudas plays to his relatively limited ceiling or costs Washington games with penalties and/or a suspension. But given the Capitals’ roster as constructed, the cost and Niskanen’s age, it was probably a worthy gamble. 


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Former Redskins backup QB Mark Sanchez retires from NFL to become ESPN analyst

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Former Redskins backup QB Mark Sanchez retires from NFL to become ESPN analyst

Mark Sanchez's days as an NFL quarterback have finally come to an end.

The short-lived Redskins QB backup will retire from the NFL to take a position as a college football analyst on ESPN, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

Sanchez, infamously known as the "butt fumbler," played two games for the Redskins last season after Colt McCoy suffered a season-ending injury. During those two games, Sanchez threw three interceptions and had 138 passing yards.

Josh Johnson ultimately replaced Sanchez and finished out the year as the QB for the Redskins.

Sanchez's career initially seemed incredibly bright. He was drafted fifth in the 2009 NFL draft by the New York Jets where he led them to back-to-back AFC Championship Series appearances during his first two seasons. But his tenure with the Jets only lasted two more seasons before bouncing around the NFC East from 2014-18 until finally landing with the Redskins.