Capitals

Lin returns to New York, recalls Linsanity fondly

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Lin returns to New York, recalls Linsanity fondly

NEW YORK (AP) Jeremy Lin returned Monday to the home he never thought he was leaving, reflecting fondly on Linsanity but not trying to recreate it.

Lin made his only trip this season with the Houston Rockets to Madison Square Garden, where he went from scrub to sensation last February during a memorable stretch of basketball that made him a worldwide star.

``It was the time of my life, just being able to play basketball and for us to win games and do it in the fashion that we did was so much fun, and energy and buzz, so definitely something I'll remember forever,'' Lin said during a pregame press conference that even drew a visit from Spike Lee.

Lin received a loud, appreciative cheer during starting lineups from fans, some still wearing the Knicks No. 17 jerseys that the team couldn't keep on the shelves last winter.

The Knicks insisted he would return, and Lin went into free agency believing it. But the Knicks declined to match the contract Lin signed with the Houston Rockets, and Lin said it was ``a little weird'' to return Monday as a visitor. Lin wouldn't talk much about the summer, beyond saying everything happens for a reason. But Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who refused to discuss Lin earlier this season, seemed to place the blame on Lin for the point guard's departure.

Lin originally agreed to an offer sheet with the Rockets worth about $28 million over four years. The terms were then amended to about $25 million over three years, the final year worth nearly $15 million but would cost the Knicks more than twice that in luxury tax payments under the harsher penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement.

So the Knicks traded for Raymond Felton, and signed Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.

``We wanted Jeremy back. I made that public back in the summer when we were going through the recruitment process, but things changed from a business standpoint and Jeremy decided to take the Houston deal and he has every right to do that,'' Woodson said.

``I think as an organization we've moved on. I mean we were able to go out now and field guys like Kidd and Pablo and Raymond, and we're excited about those three guys that we've fielded man, because they've come in here and they've put us in this position, in terms of our 18-5 record and sitting at the top of our division,'' Woodson added. ``So it's no knock against Jeremy, he did what he had to do, by making his decision and we've done what we did what we had to do and we wish him nothing but the best until he plays the Knicks.''

In reality, Lin was simply doing what he had to do as a restricted free agent, since the Knicks weren't going to make him an offer until another team had set the market for him. But he had no complaints about the way the things played out, praising Felton for the way he's played for the first-place Knicks.

``It all happened the way it was supposed to,'' Lin said. ``Going into this summer, I thought I'd be coming back to New York, but everything happens for a reason. There's no hard feelings either way and right now I'm in a different place in my life, different chapter, different city, different team.''

Lin came into the game averaging just 10.8 points, far below the 24.6 points and 9.2 assists he averaged in those first 10 games of Linsanity last Feb. 4-20. Lin may never reach that level again, and he's OK with that.

``I just need to stay focused and have tunnel vision when it comes to that,'' Lin said, ``and I don't think anybody from the Rockets organization is expecting me to recreate anything and I'm not, either.''

But he'll always enjoy thinking about it.

``It will always have a special place no matter how long I play, because that was the beginning for me,'' he said.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.