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Dave Johnson: Close But No Win For Wizards

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Dave Johnson: Close But No Win For Wizards

Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 11:14pm

By Dave Johnson
CSNwashington.comHouston----This should have been the one. Instead it was just another one.For 46 minutes it looked like the Washington Wizards were going to be able to get back in the win column Instead they suffered their 16th consecutive loss as the Houston Rockets found a way to wiggle out 98-94 victory.With the Rockets also dealing with injuries, rookie forward Chase Budinger emerged as their hero with a career high 24 points. It was Budinger who banked a shot from the top of the key over the outstretched arms of Mike Miller to give the Rockets a 94-92 lead with 28 seconds remaining in the game.Budinger then was able secure the critical rebound after Earl Boykins missed three-point shot from the wing. The Wizards were then forced to foul Budinger and with 11.6 seconds left he made two free throws to provide the Rockets the necessary cushion.Each guy tried to do it himself, noted Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. The reason we played so well for the first 46 minutes is because we shared the ball. Then we got to the last three minutes and we decided to play a different way and stand around and watch.Andray Blatche made it clear he came to play when he scored 20 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 31 points to go with 10 rebounds. Blatche carried the Wizards with Al Thornton still sidelined by a hip flexor injury and Randy Foye now on the sideline with a torn ligament in his left wrist.With 5:11 left in the fourth quarter it was Blatche who was able to pump his first and let out a scream at midcourt after he backed the Rockets Chuck Hayes into the paint and hit a turnaround jumper and drew a foul. Blatche made the free throw and the Wizards led 89-84.The Rockets then tightened on defense, while the Wizards got tight on offense with too many individual plays. The pressure especially intensified on Blatche who missed his final four shot attempts.Dray is playing well but he cant try to always do it by himself, Saunders said. Down the stretch Hayes did a helluva job on him (Blatche). He kept forcing him to take bad shots.The game featured two teams that have been forced into adjustment to their lineups. Rookie guard Jermaine Taylor made only his second career start, while the Rockets injured list included Shane Battier, Kevin Martin and Jared Jeffries.With Thornton and Foye injured and Alonzo Gee now signed with the San Antonio Spurs, the Wizards started Shaun Livingston and Nick Young at guards, Blatche at center, and Miller and Fabricio Oberto at forwards.The new Wizards lineup responded with a 30 point first quarter including 22 points in the paint. The bright start prevented the Rockets from getting their first lead until midway through the second quarter. It was an intensely competitive game. The Rockets biggest lead was only four points and the Wizards biggest advantage only 6 points. Each team played through individual struggles.For the Wizards, Miller had several good looks but only shot 4 of 15 from the field. Still he finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds and gave the Wizards their last hope when he tipped in a Young miss to pull the Wizards to within two points at 96-94 with 5.1 seconds left in the fourth.The Wizards did a good job of keeping the tempo under control With Aaron Brooks at the points, the Rockets like to run but only had 12 fast break points. Brooks did have 11 assists butwas 5 of 20 from the field as he struggled when defended by Quinton Ross.Like the Rockets had Budinger off the bench, the Wizards received a boost from JaVale McGee. In six minutes in the fourth quarter McGee made sure the Wizards did not collapse when he scored 10 points and had 5 rebounds.We have been resilient, Saunders added. It is a process. We are not talking about wins or losses. We are talking about trying to play the right way. Tonight we played the right way for most of the game but didnt when it counted the most.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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