Capitals

Mariano Rivera has a torn ACL ... and another issue

753840_617x262.jpg

Mariano Rivera has a torn ACL ... and another issue

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mariano Rivera hobbled up to the podium on a pair of crutches he's quickly grown tired of, ready to reveal more news about his health. This time, it was something more serious than a torn knee ligament. Rivera has a blood clot in his right calf, the latest medical problem for the longtime New York Yankees closer who injured his knee last week while shagging fly balls during batting practice. Rivera is on blood-thinning medication intended to dissolve the clot and said Wednesday he is OK, though he was scared when he received the diagnosis. He needs to spend at least a week or two strengthening his right knee before he has surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament -- but he said that would have been the case regardless of the blood clot. Strengthening the knee now will help when he begins his rehabilitation program after the operation. He must stop taking the blood thinners 24 hours before surgery, he said. The 42-year-old Rivera, baseball's career saves leader with 608, said he can guarantee he will work hard and do "whatever it takes" to return next season. But if his leg doesn't come back strong enough, then he will take it as a sign that it's time to retire. "If it's my call, I don't want to leave the game the way it happened. ... My will and my desire is to stay," Rivera said, adding that he was leaning toward pitching in 2013 even before the injury. "The traveling, I hate it. And the game, I love it." Rivera was injured last Thursday in Kansas City, tearing his ACL and damaging the meniscus in his right knee, when he stumbled and fell while chasing a fly ball during batting practice, a regular part of his pregame routine. He is expected to miss the rest of the season. The following day he announced he was determined to get back on the mound next season and he was examined Monday by three doctors at two New York hospitals as he prepared to decide where to have knee surgery. While he was being examined, Rivera mentioned to the doctor that his right calf was "sore and painful." He was diagnosed with a blood clot and spent Monday night in the hospital, beginning treatment right away. That was the complication Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, referred to this week when discussing Rivera's schedule and prognosis. Cashman would not elaborate Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. "I was more concerned with the blood clot than the knee. For a minute I was like, what else is going to happen?" Rivera said. "I was scared because I never hear good things about blood clots. ... I take it like, OK, what do we have to do?" In the worst cases, blood clots can be life-threatening if they travel to the lungs. Rivera said he's not sure what caused the clot, and he didn't even ask. "I know that I've got to deal with it," he said. "They don't know if it happened before or after the trauma of the injury." Rivera planned to speak to his doctor later Wednesday and he will soon go back for a check-up. He hasn't decided on a doctor to perform the knee surgery yet, but he said the clot will not affect the date of the operation. "I really believe if Mo wants to continue to play, he'll play," manager Joe Girardi said. "I mean, obviously he's got to go through a process of rehab here, but I don't see any reason why that's not going to happen and he's not going to get through that, so I look forward to seeing him back in a Yankee uniform." Rivera appeared in good spirits at a 25-minute news conference before the Yankees played the Tampa Bay Rays. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans, he sat down carefully at a table with a microphone and managed a familiar smile as he faced a room full of reporters. "I just feel old. Walking with these crutches is not fun at all," he said. Later, he joked that would begin running again in 5 or 10 minutes. "I didn't even have chance enough to taste the season," Rivera said. "It will be hard to just put it down and walk away." Rivera said he'll be at the ballpark as much as possible to help his teammates however he can this season, but for the first time in his life he thinks he needs to be a bit "selfish" and focus on his rehab. He said he watched nervously from his couch at home as fill-in closer David Robertson loaded the bases Tuesday night before saving New York's 5-3 victory over the Rays. "It's still tough, though, mentally. These games don't help me. He did a good job," Rivera said. "I was sweating and screaming. It was difficult, but I was screaming at Robby on the TV." And when he returns, Rivera said he'll resume shagging flies during batting practice. "Oh, no doubt about it," he said. "I don't know what the Yankees will do. They might need to tie me up."

Quick Links

Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Braden Holtby reveals the real reason for his struggles last season

Last season was by far Braden Holtby’s worst in the NHL.

With a .907 save percentage and 2.99 GAA, Holtby was not even considered the starter for the Capitals heading into the playoffs. While his overall numbers were low, things really spiraled at the start of February.

From February 2 to March 6, Holtby managed a save percentage of only .878 and gave up a whopping 4.32 GAA. It was the worst stretch of his professional career.

There have been many theories as to the cause of Holtby’s struggles. From 2012-13 through last season, only one goalie played in more games than Holtby’s 340. After Philipp Grubauer took over, Holtby thrived in the postseason.

But neither goalie coach Scott Murray or Braden Holtby believe the issue was fatigue.

“You don't want to overuse a No. 1 guy, but [Holtby’s] a guy that has proven he can play some games and be productive,” Murray said.

The real issue, in Holtby’s mind, was the changing culture of the NHL and its focus on offense.

“It's a skill-based league now, not a toughness based league,” Holtby told NBC Sports Washington. “I see that in the league trying to take players out that play a physical game. It's hard. It's strange for us that grew up kind of loving that game because of the toughness and the heart that it took and different ways to win games. It's hard to see that kind of softness come through. That's one of those things I struggled with last year and I think you grow up and try and just ignore it and control your own game.”

It’s no secret that the NHL is trying to increase scoring with changes such as making goalie pads and pants smaller and referees calling games tighter leading to more penalties and less physical play. The league’s efforts seem to be working - in the 2017-18 season, the average goals scored per team jumped up by 10 percent.

Here are the average goals per game per team in the NHL from the 2010-11 season through 2016-17:

2010-11: 2.79
2011-12: 2.73
2012-13: 2.72
2013-14: 2.74
2014-15: 2.73
2015-16: 2.71
2016-17: 2.77

In every season during that stretch, the average fell between 2.71-2.79. In the 2017-18 season, however, that average jumped up all the way up to 2.97.

Successful NHL goalies are expected to have a save percentage over .910 and a GAA below 2.50. But what happens when that standard changes? For Holtby, he struggled to evaluate his own performance. He felt he was playing well, but the numbers told a different story.

“That was one of the real challenges last year, especially through the first four months or so,” Holtby said. “We try to evaluate it every game the same based on every play and not how the game is and it felt that, both [Murray], [goaltending director Mitch Korn] and I felt that I was playing better than I had years passed and the numbers just weren't obviously showing that and it became frustrating and that started to creep in my game. That's kind of a main reason why you saw the drop off in February.”

If the issue was not fatigue, however, then why was time off the solution?

According to Murray, it wasn’t.

“It's always good to have rest, but I think more importantly he had to reinvent himself a little bit and reestablish his foundation that got him here in the first place which is a blue-collar attitude,” Murray said. “I'm going to work and I'm going to stick to what I'm good at, my habits and make sure they're good and let some of the outside stuff go. I think that was just as important as rest, kind of that reset button and understanding who he was and what got him there and getting back to that.”

It’s an important lesson that Holtby will have to remember for this season as scoring has jumped up yet again even over last season. In the first month of play, the average number of goals per game per team has climbed to 3.10. Should that trend stick, it will be the first time the average has gone over 3.00 since 2005-06.

“You know there's going to be more goals, more chances,” Holtby said. “Just focus on every play and just leave out the rest because those are things you just can't control. That's just life.”

 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
 
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
 
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: