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Eagles get their man; Kelly lands in Philadelphia

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Eagles get their man; Kelly lands in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Moments after Chip Kelly's plane landed, he was handed a new Eagles visor and received a warm greeting from fans gathered at the airport.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Coach.

The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, just 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon. The 49-year-old Kelly, known as an offensive innovator, becomes the 21st coach in team history and replaces Andy Reid, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 4-12 season.

He'll be introduced at a news conference Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Eagles' practice facility.

``The challenge is what I was excited about and that's why I came,'' Kelly told a group of reporters upon landing in Philly. ``I was sold on the Eagles the first time I met them, it was my ties to Oregon that made it hard. But the Eagles are the Eagles. This is the NFL.

``My dream is to just win, and with the Eagles, this was the best opportunity for me to win. I never thought a long time ago that I was going to be able to coach in the NFL but I'm excited about the opportunity.''

General manager Howie Roseman gave Kelly the white Eagles visor, the trademark hat he wore at Oregon. Kelly then got a glimpse of what this team means to this city.

Not only were Roseman and president Don Smolenski waiting for him on the runway - they arrived with a police escort - there were fans, decked out in green, waiting outside on a cold, dreary night.

``I know it's a rabid fan base,'' Kelly said. ``I hope they don't boo me. It's an exciting time and I'm ready to get to work.''

Kelly, who was 46-7 in four years at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in a two-day span after leading the fast-flying Ducks to a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 3.

The Eagles are known to have interviewed 11 candidates, including two meetings with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All along, Kelly was thought to be Philadelphia's first choice in a long, exhaustive process that took many twists.

``Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,'' owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. ``He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.''

On the day he fired Reid, Lurie appeared to be describing Kelly when he said he wanted to find a ``real smart, forward-thinking coach'' who is ``strategic, a strong leader, very comfortable in his own skin.''

The enigmatic Kelly reportedly was close to signing with the Browns after a long interview Jan. 4. He met with the Eagles for nine hours the next day, setting up a soap-opera scenario in which the Eagles were competing with Browns CEO Joe Banner, their former president and longtime friend of Lurie who left the organization after a falling out. But that roller coaster ended when Kelly opted to remain - temporarily - in Eugene, Ore.

The Eagles interviewed two other high-profile college coaches - Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly. Both elected to stay with their schools.

Bradley was considered by many to be the leading contender, though former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and former Ravens coach Brian Billick were in the mix.

That all changed when Kelly had a change of heart.

Kelly built Oregon into a national powerhouse in a short time. The Ducks went to four straight BCS bowl games - including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago - and have won three conference championships.

Kelly originally went to Oregon in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for now.

Oregon finished last season 12-1. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 loss to Stanford Nov. 17.

Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens said Wednesday that Kelly called him at 7:15 a.m. PST to tell him he had changed his mind: ``He wasn't sure if that opportunity would present itself again, so he felt this was the right one at the right time.''

Mullens now faces a coaching search amid recruiting season.

``I've turned the page,'' Mullens said. ``I was surprised when I got the call this morning, but as the leader of this organization, my focus is on moving forward and that's what we're doing. I'm laser focused on what's next, and that's finding the right fit to lead Oregon football.''

It's unknown whether the possibility of NCAA sanctions based on Oregon's use of recruiting services factored into Kelly's reversal. He indicated in Arizona that he isn't running from anything.

``We've cooperated fully with them,'' he said. ``If they want to talk to us again, we'll continue to cooperate fully. I feel confident in the situation.''

Kelly doesn't have any pro coaching experience, but aspects of his up-tempo offense are already being used by New England and Washington.

The Eagles fired Reid after two forgettable years. A late flurry brought the team to an 8-8 finish last season, but this season, Philadelphia endured an eight-game losing streak, and dropped 11 of its final 12. A 3-1 start soon washed away, and Reid's 14-year tenure ended not long after. Within a week, Reid was Kansas City's new coach.

Still, Kelly has tough shoes to fill. Reid won more games than any coach in franchise history and led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five conference championship games and one Super Bowl berth.

Kelly and the Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft as well as some talented players on offense who could fit his scheme. Running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin seem like ideal matches. Quarterback Nick Foles, however, isn't.

``I've never run the zone read,'' Foles said after the season. ``I'm more of a dropback guy. I've been under center. I've been in the gun. If I can adapt, I want to. But I'm not a zone-read quarterback. Some people are gifted with different things. That's just not one of my skill sets. I can work on the speed in the offseason and get better with that. But I've always been a dropback guy in the pocket. I've been able to make plays on my feet throwing the ball or running for a first down.''

On the other hand, Michael Vick could be perfect. But it's unlikely the Eagles would want to pay the $16 million they'd have to shell out for an injury-prone quarterback, who will be 33 next season.

Kelly had high praise for Foles after Oregon beat Arizona 56-31 in September 2011.

``I'll tell you what; I'm glad Nick Foles is graduating,'' Kelly said at that time. ``I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid's a warrior. He's as good as anyone in the country.''

Others interviewed by Philadelphia were former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Atlanta assistants Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

The first Eagles to react to Kelly's hiring on Twitter were defensive players.

Defensive end Brandon Graham wrote: ``Happy to have Chip Kelly!! Now it's time to get to work!''

Safety Kurt Coleman wrote: ``Welcome Chip Kelly to the Eagles family. Can't wait to see what he brings to the team in 2013!''

As he walked by the fans at the airport, Kelly, dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt, stopped to sign some autographs and share some laughs with the faithful.

It indeed was a long journey. But if Wednesday is any indication, Kelly appears to fit right in with Philadelphia.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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A Blues, Bruins Final proves that anything can happen once you make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

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A Blues, Bruins Final proves that anything can happen once you make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place on Monday at 8:00 p.m. ET (NBC) and it will feature two teams that no one saw coming. The St. Louis Blues were dead last in the NHL as late as Jan. 3 and still managed to navigate their way through the Western Conference. The Boston Bruins had the third best record in the NHL this season, but are still considered a surprise because they are not the Tampa Bay Lightning.

One of those two teams will now lift the Stanley Cup as champions in a postseason that should serve as a reminder that when it comes to hockey, you only need to make it into the playoffs. From there, anything can happen.

“It’s just how close it is,” Braden Holtby said at the Capitals’ breakdown day. “Everyone’s been saying it forever – or I guess since the salary cap era more – you just have to make the playoffs. You have a good a chance as anyone because you look at teams outside from Tampa, it’s a few games here and there and the standings are all mixed up. Once you get there, anyone’s got a chance and you’ve just got to see what you can do to be better than the others.”

The first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs established that this was going to be a crazy postseason with a number of crazy upsets in the early rounds.

In the west, the Colorado Avalanche won four straight after losing Game 1 to douse the conference-winning Calgary Flames. The Nashville Predators were no match for a Dallas Stars team whose president was swearing at his top two players back in December. The defending conference champion Vegas Golden Knights lost a 3-1 series lead then a 3-0 third period lead in Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks who scored four goals on a major power play.

The Blues, meanwhile, led by a rookie goalie and interim head coach, defeated the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and won three games in Winnipeg to do so. It took double-overtime in Game 7 against the Stars for St. Louis to finally emerge victorious and the Blues also stifled the Sharks in the conference final who looked like a team of destiny after benefitting from several horrendous officiating mistakes and who was playing to get future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thornton a Cup before he retires.

The East side of the bracket looked like a mere formality with the Lightning expected to cruise through the conference after one of the best seasons in NHL history. Instead, they did not win a single game and were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Obviously, as a whole, Tampa was way better than everybody else,” Matt Niskanen said. “Taking into consideration an 82-game season they were way better than anybody, but when you get into a playoff series and it’s just one-on-one that’s where weird things can happen. There’s a lot of things that go into a playoff series that can kind of negate the skill difference or the perceived level of play. And you saw it quite often this spring, actually.”

Tampa Bay was one of two sweeps in the first round of the playoffs as the John Tavares-less New York Islanders also swept the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders would then get swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round—playing in the playoffs for the first time in a decade—and the Hurricanes would share a similar fate in the conference final losing in just four games to the Bruins.

As crazy as these results may be, however, this season is hardly an anomaly. The NHL is known for its unpredictable postseasons and only eight Presidents’ Trophy winners have gone on to win the Cup since 1986 when the trophy was first awarded. Seven times the Presidents’ Trophy winner has been eliminated in the first round.

“You would think it’s ‘Oh, boy, this is a weird spring,’” Niskanen said. “But hockey is a weird sport like that. Who the heck could predict what’d happen in the first round? And there’s a reason for that. It’s hard to win. Seven and eight seeds are not lay-ups like maybe they were sometime in the past. I don’t know how long ago that was, but they’re certainly not a lay-up right now. Usually the team that wants it the most, plays the best, is going to win whether it’s a one or an eight seed.”

It is a known fact that in hockey, regular season success only gets you into the playoffs, but it does not mean all that much when you get there.

“I always said it and I think it shows right now that anything can happen,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “Your only goal should be getting into the playoffs. The No. 1 seed can lose to the No. 8 seed easily, so I think that shows this year and shows how good this league is, how tight everyone is.”

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Nationals Roundup: Rout of Miami guarantees series win for Nats

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Nationals Roundup: Rout of Miami guarantees series win for Nats

The Nationals used Sunday's nine-run offensive outburst to skate past the Marlins, 9-6. The win marks the team's first three-game winning streak of the season. 

Here are your news and notes surrounding the 2019 Washington Nationals as they head into Monday's series finale against the Miami Marlins. 

Players Notes:

NATIONALS (22-31): 

Erick Fedde's second start of the season went well for the 26-year-old. He pitched five scoreless innings of four-hit baseball, walked three Marlins and fanned four. 51 of his 83 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Washington erupted offensively Sunday. Howie Kendrick enjoyed a 3-for-5 afternoon, including a solo shot and three RBIs.  Anthony Rendon's 6th inning triple marked his first of the season, and brought two across the plate. 

Juan Soto's 8th inning single marked his 10th game (tied career best) in a row he's reached base safely. 

James Borque made his major-league debut Sunday, and it did not go as planned. He fell short of completing one full inning, surrendering four earned runs on three hits and walking two Marlins. He threw 29 pitches. 

MARLINS (16-34):

Miami starting pitcher Caleb Smith was bounced after just three innings. The Nats knocked him for five hits and cashed in for five runs. The 27-year-old entered Sunday's start with a 2.38 ERA. 

Neil Walker had a 2-for-5 afternoon which featured his 8th inning 2-run home run that got Miami on the board. 

Injuries: 

SP Jeremy Hellickson: hamstring, expected to be out until at least May 31

RP Justin Miller: shoulder, expected to be out until at least May 31

SP Anibal Sanchez: hamstring, expected to be out until at least Jun 6

OF Andrew Stevenson: back, expected to be out until at least May 24

1B Ryan Zimmerman: foot, expected to be out until at least Jun 1

RP Koda Glover: elbow, expected to be out until at least Jun 6

RP Trevor Rosenthal: viral infection, Expected to be out until at least May 27

RP Austen Williams: shoulder, expected to be out until at least Jun 13

Coming Up:

Monday, 5/27: Nationals vs. Marlins, 1:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Tuesday, 5/28: Nationals @ Braves, 7:20 p.m. ET, SunTrust Park

Wednesday, 5/29: Nationals @ Braves, 7:20 p.m. ET, SunTrust Park

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