Capitals

Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

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Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

The matchup: If familiarity breeds contempt, the Mystics must be sick Atlanta. They surely must be tired of losing to the Dream, something Washington has twice since late August and hopes to avoid now in early September.\The Mystics (5-23) current seven-game skid includes a 12-point loss to the Dream (xxx) on Aug. 24 and an 82-59 thrashing six days later in Atlanta, site of Sundays contest (3 p.m.).
Washington committed 38 turnovers in the setbacks while shooting 38 percent (46 of 121) from the field. Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leading scorer and rebounder, is averaging 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals against the Dream, winners of three of four games.Atlantas success against Washington came without the services of leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, who missed time while serving a suspension for violating team rules. The Olympian has since returned and scored 30 points Friday in a loss to WNBA champion Minnesota.Ex-Mystic Lindsay Harding had 16 points and five assists in the previous meeting, leading a Dream attack that scored 24 fastbreak points compared to the Mystics eight.Last time out: Any hopes of spoiling Alana Beards return to the Verizon Center on Friday went away quickly as Washington trailed the Los Angeles Sparks by double digits in a 96-68 loss. The Mystics trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and it only got worse. Monique Currie lad the Mystics with 16 points and Jasmine Thomas added 15. Beard scored 16 points with five assists and two steals for the Sparks, who shot 61 percent from the field.Rotating centers: Ashley Robinson opened the season as the Mystics starting center, but after a slow start for the stylish center and the team, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey looked elsewhere for interior production. Michelle Snow took over the center role and immediately provided an assertive presence in the paint, pulling down 12 rebounds in back-to-back June games against New York and Indiana.However the 6-foot-5 Snows minutes have been slashed over the past three games, losing the starting gig back to Robinson in the process. She played only 11 minutes against New York and Connecticut, totaling four points and two rebounds, but Snow grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes during the blowout loss against Los Angeles.Robinson is averaging 3.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 block and 23 minutes over the last three games, slightly above season numbers of 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

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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.