Capitals

No. 19 Cards seeking 1st Senior Day win in 3 years

No. 19 Cards seeking 1st Senior Day win in 3 years

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville's seniors have a simple reason for wanting to win Saturday's home finale over Connecticut.

It hasn't been done in a while.

A victory would be the seniors' first in three tries under coach Charlie Strong. The No. 19 Cardinals (9-1, 4-1 Big East) can also achieve double-digit victories for the fourth time in school history, all since 2001.

Staying within reach of league-leading Rutgers entering next Thursday's showdown in New Jersey adds more motivation for one of the nation's smallest senior classes. Louisville has 13 overall and just 10 on scholarship, and half of them began their careers as walk-ons.

Since going 4-8 as freshmen they've had three straight winning seasons and seek the school's second BCS bowl bid along with a successful home send-off.

Though Strong's staff didn't recruit this group, he recognizes the groundwork they've laid for younger classes.

``When we came in, we talked about our foundation,'' Strong said. ``I just feel this group is a part of us because they've been with us for three years and they have been a part of watching this program build. You cannot ask for a stronger group of seniors with the leadership they have provided this season.''

Left tackle Alex Kupper said Strong's philosophy that the hardest workers would earn playing time allowed his classmates to seize their opportunity. He earned his scholarship after a year and a half and has started every game the past two seasons, playing at each position along the offensive line.

``The guys that stuck around, that's just what we're bred for,'' Kupper said. ``We wanted to fight through it. We wanted to see it turn around and, ultimately, it has.''

The seniors' steadiness, coupled with young stars such as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, sprung Louisville to a 9-0 start before falling 45-26 at Syracuse on Nov. 10. The loss ended Louisville's hopes of a perfect season but not its preseason goal of a Big East championship and accompanying BCS berth in the Orange Bowl.

A win over Connecticut (4-6, 1-4) - which needs two wins to become bowl eligible - would set up a de facto conference title game at Rutgers just five days later.

``There's still more to go get,'' said wide receiver Scott Radcliff, who earned his scholarship after three years as a walk-on. ``Hopefully we can get to that Orange Bowl. Just to go there - I (would) never forget that.''

Kupper wants his class to be remembered for returning the program to the heights of the 2006 season that ended with a 24-13 Orange Bowl win against Wake Forest.

``That team was the team,'' the Louisville native said. ``To be in that position, to be maybe the team that generations behind us talk about, that's really special.''

Saturday's game will be played amid rumors that Louisville and Connecticut are the leading candidates to replace Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins and Rutgers announced earlier this week that they will join the Big Ten in 2014.

The Cardinals will be without leading rusher Senorise Perry, who tore his right ACL against Syracuse and is out for the remainder of the season. Jeremy Wright will pick up additional carries after previously splitting the feature back role with Perry. Freshman Corvin Lamb will spell Wright against Connecticut's 11th-ranked rushing defense (107.6 yards per game).

Both teams are coming off bye weeks and the Huskies' mood is looking up after getting their first Big East win two weeks ago against Pittsburgh. A postseason game is only possible by knocking off the ranked Cardinals on Saturday and Cincinnati next week.

``It's the only motivation we have at this point,'' tight end Ryan Griffin said. ``We're holding on and we're a desperate team. We need these last two wins to get to a bowl and make this season a success.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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