Capitals

Lot riding on Michigan-Ohio State grudge match

Lot riding on Michigan-Ohio State grudge match

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) It's hard to imagine in a grudge match like the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry that a player wouldn't take it personally being snubbed by his hometown team.

But the Wolverines' brilliant point guard, Trey Burke, swears that he's OK with being bypassed by the Buckeyes - even though he grew up in Columbus and he longed to play with his longtime best friend, former Buckeye Jared Sullinger.

``I understood that they already had Aaron Craft and they were looking at Shannon Scott,'' Burke said of his two Ohio State counterparts. ``In high school, it fueled me and made me work harder. Now I feel I'm in the best situation I could have been in. I feel like I'm in the right place. I'm happy here. I don't see anything personal.''

Even though he's coming home, he's a former Associated Press Mr. Basketball in Ohio and he'll have 25 or so friends and family cheering him on, it's likely he'll get a cold reception when No. 2 Michigan (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten) takes on 15th-ranked Ohio State (12-3, 2-1) on Sunday.

With No. 1 Duke losing at No. 20 North Carolina State 84-76 on Saturday, the Wolverines are the last unbeaten team left standing.

As a freshman last season, Burke was a bit overwhelmed by the crowd when he came back home. So were the Wolverines. Burke had 13 points and five assists in a 64-49 loss to the then-No. 4 Buckeyes.

In the rematch at Ann Arbor, Mich., he had 17 points and five assists in a 56-51 upset.

When the teams met in the Big Ten semifinals - less than 24 hours after Michigan had gone to overtime to beat Minnesota - and Burke had almost as many turnovers (eight) as he did points (five) and assists (four) combined in a 77-55 loss. He made just 1 of 11 shots from the field.

Now he's guided the Wolverines to a fast start. A win against the Buckeyes and Michigan will set a school record for wins to start a season, currently shared with the 1985-86 team.

Burke says he's grown accustomed to hostile environments after fronting the Michigan attack for a year and a half.

``I'm used to going (on the road) and getting booed by a crowd,'' he said. ``I know there'll be a lot of people who want to see me do well; and I know there's going to be a lot of people who want to see me do bad.''

There are very few rivalries as intense as the annual football grudge match between Michigan and Ohio State. Now that enmity has been carried over to the wintertime, said Craft.

``It's Ohio State-Michigan. I don't care what sport it is. It could be synchronized swimming,'' Craft said. ``You always want to win.''

Especially this time. The Buckeyes, who have won at least a share of the Big Ten title the last three seasons and five of the last seven years, can ill afford another debilitating conference loss after a one-sided beatdown at Illinois on Jan. 5.

``(The Big Ten season) is a long grind but you don't want to get into that position of hoping things happen in your favor when you're not playing,'' said Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

Matta has had his way with Michigan in his eight previous years at Ohio State, winning 16 of 19 meetings.

From the outside the game will likely revolve around how well the Wolverines can guard 6-foot-7 Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 20.3 points a game, and whether Ohio State can muster a way to stop Michigan's many scoring threats.

Burke leads the Wolverines at 18.2 points a game, with three other starters also hitting double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr. is at 16.3 and freshmen Nik Stauskas averages 13.5 and Glenn Robinson III contributes 12.6 points per outing.

Both teams have something to prove. Michigan's biggest two road wins have been over Northwestern (94-66) and Bradley (74-66). Can the Wolverines show their mettle against a rough-and-tumble ranked opponent?

And they can ascend to No. 1 for the first time since Nov. 30, 1992. That Michigan team, featuring the vaunted ``Fab Five,'' went on to a 31-5 record and lost in the national championship game before NCAA violations resulted in vacating that season.

Ohio State is 12-0 against unranked teams and 0-3 when playing teams in the AP Top 25. Do the Buckeyes have what it takes to beat someone at least as good as they are?

The rivalry provides an undercurrent for the game. Fans have been camping out - granted, in unseasonable temperatures approaching 70 degrees - to get prime seats at Value City Arena. The players have gotten texts, tweets and emails from fans and fellow students urging them to beat their chief adversary.

Matta said his team always gets a team's best shot, partly because of the Buckeyes' run of titles.

``The thing I've learned, and I like it, you either love Ohio State or you hate Ohio State,'' he said. ``There's no gray area like, `I like them.' When you've had some success, it definitely heightens the awareness.''

Burke said he's trying to distance himself from the emotion of the game.

``Last year I kind of made it a personal matchup at times. That was a sign of immaturity,'' he said. ``Now that I know what it takes to win, I'm going to try and do that and get the win.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

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