Capitals

Driskel hopes he got turnovers 'out of system'

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Driskel hopes he got turnovers 'out of system'

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The best thing Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel did through the first seven games this season was hold onto the football, even if it was too long at times.

Driskel had just two turnovers before Saturday's debacle against Georgia.

He had four against the Bulldogs, mistakes that were critical in the 17-9 loss that likely cost the eighth-ranked Gators the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.

Driskel watched the game twice since and said Monday what everyone already knew.

``I can't turn it over four times myself,'' said Driskel, who hopes to bounce back Saturday against Missouri. ``Hopefully I got it out of my system. You've got to learn from mistakes. Got the mistakes out of the way, learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes again.''

The worst game of Driskel's career came at the worst time for Florida, which could have wrapped up a spot in the SEC title game.

But it also exposed several offensive weaknesses that had been somewhat masked during the team's undefeated start: protection issues that start with the offensive line and include the inability of running backs and tight ends to pick up blitzes; and more dropped passes and inexact routes by receivers.

All those issues have Florida ranked 100th in the nation in total offense and last in the SEC in passing.

``It's not falling on one person's or one position's shoulders, I can assure you of that,'' coach Will Muschamp said. ``It's a combination of things and it's something that we, as a staff, have been working through the entire season and knowing that we need to continue to work on it and improve with it. I do think we've made some strides, but it certainly wasn't good enough Saturday.''

It was good enough in the first seven games.

But six turnovers proved to be too much to overcome against Georgia, proving Muschamp's point that Florida has a slim margin for error.

Driskel, who completed 14 of 26 passes for 185 yards, threw two interceptions and lost two of his three fumbles. Wildcat quarterback Trey Burton botched a handoff, and tight end Jordan Reed fumbled near the goal line in the closing minutes. Reed lost the ball while trying to leap two defenders, ending Florida's chance at tying the game.

Reed, who caught five passes for 74 yards, was in tears on the sideline afterward.

``The guy was trying to make a play,'' Muschamp said. ``Does he need to have better battle security? Sure. ... No one player or one play lost the game. The guy was trying to make a play, a guy who plays with great effort and passion. He made a couple of really nice plays on the drive.

``We would not be in that position if it weren't for him. The guy is trying to make a play. So, easy to sit and criticize when you're sitting in the stands. Get in the arena and play.''

Muschamp defended Driskel, too.

``Could he have made (better) decisions? Certainly. He recognizes that,'' Muschamp said. ``We also need to play better around him. We need to protect better. We need to be more precise with our route running. We need to do a better job of running the football. There are a lot of things that revolve around that position that we can do a better job of.''

Florida averaged 233 yards rushing in the first six games of the season. But the Gators have managed just 170 yards on the ground the last two weeks combined.

Mike Gillislee ran 19 times for 37 yards against South Carolina, and finished with 77 yards on 22 carries Saturday.

Opponents are stacking the line of scrimmage in hopes of taking away Gillislee and forcing the Gators to try to move the ball with Driskel.

``I think people have done a better job of adjusting to some of the things we're doing,'' Muschamp said. ``You know in our league they catch up pretty quick with you as far as the things you're doing. ... We got whipped at the point of attack, quite frankly. We need to win some of those. You've got to win some one-on-ones in this league.''

And the Gators need to limit turnovers, something they had done so well until Saturday.

``You got to learn from your mistakes and move on,'' Driskel said. ``You watch the film, you get your coaching points and you move on and try not to make the same mistake twice.''

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A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

WASHINGTON — Barry Trotz stood on an the unfamiliar visitors’ bench and scanned the rafters at Capital One Arena as the national anthem played. 

It had to be around here somewhere. He looked to one side of the scoreboard and then the other. Finally his eyes locked on the 2018 Stanley Cup banner hanging in the south end of the arena, a testament to a season he will remember the rest of his life. 

"I was just focused on the game. Until the national anthem, I didn’t even know where it was,” Trotz said. “I was looking on the other side, around the clock, and then I turn around and there it is. That’s a proud moment for everybody involved: ownership, Ted Leonsis, and [Brian MacLellan] in management, and the players and everybody, the fans. That’s the one you want.” 

Trotz could afford a reflective mood as he spoke after a 2-0 win against the Capitals in his first game back in Washington since leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup last June. The Islanders broke a scoreless tie with two goals in the third period just 2:26 apart. They are the surprise of the NHL after losing star center John Tavares to free agency last summer. They are all alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division now well past the halfway point of the season. 

Trotz stayed focused before the game. He arrived hours before game time and holed up in his office trying to figure a way the Islanders could win the second of a back-to-back against the rested Capitals.

At the first television timeout of the first period, Trotz steadied himself for the video tribute the Capitals put together. There, on the giant scoreboard, the indelible images flashed: Trotz at his opening press conference in 2014, promising his new team had what it took to win a championship, winning the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, laughing with his players, skating the hot laps during last year’s playoffs, lifting the Stanley Cup. The Capital One Arena crowd stood and roared for the entire break in the action.  

“My heart got full of all the good memories,” Trotz said. “I was looking up there. I was trying not to look too much because I was getting pretty close to that sensitive side of myself. But it was extremely well done and it was just great memories. Everybody was a part of something special.”

Afterward they had another mini reunion outside the Washington locker room, his home for four years. Trotz and Lane Lambert, his assistant for all four years with the Caps, chatted with players as they came out. It wasn’t as emotional as the championship ring ceremony when the two teams first met on Nov. 26 in Brooklyn. Trotz’s voice wavered as he addressed his former players before that game. This time was all laughs. 

Capitals assistant Blaine Forsythe was there and head coach Todd Reirden briefly stopped by. Tom Wilson and Matt Niskanen and Devante Smith-Pelly came over to say hello. Brooks Orpik, who had a memorable night of his own with a ceremony for playing in his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the week, leaned against a wall and chatted with Trotz and Lambert, who jabbed Caps goalie coach Scott Murray and said he better have a “hotter suit” the next time they meet, which will be in New York on March 1.

Maybe then the Islanders will have come down to earth or maybe Trotz is in the midst of another magical season. Maybe these two teams, with so much shared history, are destined to meet again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“They’ve got the same team. They’re a good hockey team. There’s no question,” Trotz said. “They’ve got lots of mettle and it starts with their leadership and [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Alex Ovechkin] and that core group….That whole group, Johnny Carlson, all the guys that have here for a long time, they’ve got lots of mettle. I’m fortunate to have another great group to work with on the Island. As I said to them, I hope we can have the same experience down the road. It’s special doing that.”

 

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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

The New York Islanders outlasted the Capitals in a defensive battle Friday with two third period goals to hand Washington a 2-0 loss in Barry Trotz's return to Capital One Arena. The loss is now the Caps' fourth straight and knocks them down to third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three reasons Washington lost.

Defense

You could definitely see the effect Barry Trotz has had on this Islanders team in this one. Last year, the Islanders were laughably terrible on defense. On Friday, they frustrated the Caps offense all night long.

New York was positionally sound all game long, forcing the Caps to the outside and limiting all of their offensive opportunities. Every time it looked like Washington had a rush developing, the Islanders got back and got in front of the puck. Every time the Caps tried to set up their offense, New York forced them to the perimeter and kept them from the high-danger areas. Thomas Greiss was there to clean up the rest as he recorded his second shutout of the season.

Washington was limited to just 19 shots on goal on the night, 15 through the first two periods.

A third period breakthrough

Braden Holtby looked very sharp for the Caps all night long in his first game since he suffered an eye injury on Jan. 12. He was finally beaten in the third period thanks to a great deflection by Josh Bailey.

Mathew Barzal showed some great puck control as he entered the offensive zone, wheeled around away from the initial defensive pressure, carried it to the high slot and fired a shot. By wheeling around, that allowed Bailey the chance to park himself in front of Holtby for the deflection.

In such a tight defensive game, you knew it was going to be an ugly goal like Bailey’s that would finally break through.

A third-period 2-on-0

John Carlson pinched into the offensive zone. When that happens, that means it’s Michal Kempny’s job to hightail it back on defense if the puck gets past Carlson.

Instead, Kempny tried to step up and to try to keep the puck in at the blue line. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck past him, and it was off to the races with him and Matt Martin on a 2-on-0. Clutterbuck called his own number and finished off the play with the goal to put the Islanders up 2-0.

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