Capitals

It's official, Andersen is new Wisconsin coach

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It's official, Andersen is new Wisconsin coach

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Several schools tried to lure Gary Andersen away from Utah State.

Wisconsin finally got him.

Andersen was officially hired as the Badgers' new coach Thursday, and will be formally introduced at a news conference Friday morning. He replaces Bret Bielema, who left the Badgers for Arkansas this month.

``I don't know if I can really have a word for how excited I am to be at Wisconsin and have this opportunity,'' Andersen said in a video on Wisconsin's website. ``I know I'm humbled, I know I'm blessed.''

The 48-year-old Andersen just completed his fourth and best season at Utah State. The 18th-ranked Aggies finished 11-2 with a bowl victory against Toledo and won the Western Athletic Conference. One of those losses was at Wisconsin, where the Aggies missed a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds to allow the Badgers to escape with a 16-14 win.

It's been a remarkable rise for a program that had been near the bottom of major college football for years, and stuck in distant third in its own state behind BYU and Utah. The Aggies won nine games in the previous four seasons before Andersen took over. The last football coach to finish his tenure in Logan, Utah, with a winning record was Phil Krueger who went 21-12 from 1973-75.

Andersen drew interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky last month, but decided to pass on those opportunities and received a contract extension from Utah State.

When Wisconsin called, however, Andersen couldn't resist.

``It all came together,'' he said in a video on Wisconsin's website. ``By no means was I sitting out there going, `I've got to have a job, I've got to have a job.' But as soon as this one popped open, to me, this was a special, special place.''

Before Andersen left Logan, Utah, however, he called his players - all 107 of them - so they would hear the news that he was leaving from him and not on TV or Twitter.

``I couldn't tell them yet that I had taken the job,'' Andersen told UWBadgers.com. ``But I told them if I was offered the job I was going to take the job. There were a bunch of tears and hard conversations.''

Andersen replaces Bielema, who left Wisconsin on Dec. 4, three days after the Badgers routed Nebraska to win the Big Ten title and a school-record third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. Athletic director Barry Alvarez has agreed to coach Wisconsin in the bowl at the request of the players.

Though the Badgers' 8-5 record going into the Rose Bowl is their worst since 2008, Andersen is inheriting a team loaded with talent through Wisconsin will lose Montee Ball, who set the major college record for career touchdowns this year and tied the single-season mark last year, along with linebacker Mike Taylor and standout defensive backs Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith.

The Badgers still have James White or Melvin Gordon, who rushed for a total of almost 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jared Abbrederis has led the Badgers in receiving each of the last two seasons, and Joel Stave showed promise before the freshman broke his collarbone. Disruptive linebacker Chris Borland, who is second with 4 1/2 sacks and 95 tackles despite missing two games, also is expected back.

And while this will be Andersen's first job in the Midwest, one Big Ten opponent has no doubt he can succeed. When Alvarez was considering Andersen, he called Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who had Andersen on his staff at Utah in 2004, when the Utes went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl.

``(Meyer has) had some very good assistants,'' Alvarez said on UWBadgers.com. ``Urban told me that Gary is in the top five of all of them; he's the real deal. I said, `Would he fit here? Would he fit in the Big Ten?' He said, `Absolutely.'''

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.