Capitals

Greinke says he chose Dodgers over Rangers

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Greinke says he chose Dodgers over Rangers

LOS ANGELES (AP) Zack Greinke showed up alone to a mid-November meeting at Dodger Stadium, asking as many questions as he answered. When he left three hours later, the pitcher thought he may have found his new team while the Los Angeles Dodgers brass knew they had to land the top arm on the open market.

They did, signing Greinke to a $147 million, six-year deal that is the richest for a right-hander in baseball history. The Dodgers beat out Texas and the rival Los Angeles Angels, for whom Greinke pitched last season.

``He's the one we wanted,'' said Magic Johnson, a partner in Guggenheim Baseball Management, which bought the team last spring. ``A guy of Zack's ability and also his commitment to his craft, they don't come on the market too many times. We're so thrilled to have him. Dodger pride is on the way back.''

Greinke's introduction on Tuesday culminated a more than $200 million spending spree by the Dodgers in which they also signed South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin, who got a $36 million, six-year deal. The club also spent $25.7 million on a posting fee that gave the Dodgers exclusive negotiating rights with Ryu.

``Nobody worried about the Yankees when they were doing this and winning,'' Johnson said. ``We're here to win.''

The Dodgers haven't won the World Series since 1988, but that didn't discourage Greinke.

``Besides the money, the No. 1 (reason) was they have a team that could win a World Series for several years,'' he said.

Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, and Ryu give the Dodgers eight starting pitchers under contract for next season, joining 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

The Dodgers were eager to bolster their pitching this winter knowing that Billingsley (elbow) and Lilly (shoulder) are coming off operations.

``A lot of things have to come together,'' Greinke said. ``You can't just throw names on a team and be good. If everyone comes back healthy it should be a good ride. They could be good for every year of my contract, so there is no rebuilding.''

With Greinke locked up, the Dodgers plan to discuss a contract extension with Kershaw, who can become a free agent after the 2014 season.

Casey Close, Greinke's agent, said Texas was in the hunt for his client until the end.

``At one point, I was favoring Texas,'' Greinke said before the negotiations made him change his mind.

The Angels didn't make it that far, according to Greinke, who said his former team ``never really got into it when the details came.''

``There's a point where every team has to have a stopping point and they obviously reached it,'' he said. ``I'm not mad at them. I don't think they're mad at how I went about things.''

The 29-year-old righty started last season with Milwaukee and was later traded to the Angels, going a combined 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA. He is 91-78 with a 3.77 ERA in nine seasons with the Brewers, Dodgers and Angels.

In 2009, Greinke went 16-8 with a major league-leading 2.16 ERA for Kansas City, and he'd like to recapture that form.

``I was consistent that whole entire year,'' he said. ``Most years I'll start strong and hit a roadblock.''

Greinke impressed Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, president and CEO Stan Kasten and manager Don Mattingly simply by showing up alone to their meeting.

``He was stunning. It was probably the best free-agent meeting I've ever had,'' Colletti said. ``I can't remember one that didn't bring an agent or friends. If the questioning got a little tough, they had a fallback.''

Greinke showed he'd done his homework on the Dodgers, discussing younger players in their system, his strategies for retiring everyone in the team's lineup, and what the club would be like in three years. He saw Dodger Stadium as the kind of park that would allow him to be a fly ball pitcher.

``This was always a place I wanted to play,'' he said. ``I loved it there (in Anaheim), so I assume this will be just as good.''

Kasten impressed Greinke with his plans for the organization and what the pitcher said was ``his ability to keep so many things under control.''

``I don't want to make his head too big, but I thought Stan was the smartest person I ever talked to,'' Greinke said. ``With him in charge, I thought they had a chance to keep things going good.''

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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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