Capitals

No. 3 Wildcats still playing like underdogs

No. 3 Wildcats still playing like underdogs

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) It may seem odd that an undefeated team, ranked third in the country and barreling toward the BCS title game, would consider itself an underdog.

Old habits die hard at Kansas State.

``We're always going to consider ourselves the underdogs just because of what everybody says all the time about us and how we're not the best athletes and everything else,'' punter Ryan Doerr said. ``I don't think really much has changed to that.''

Despite its recent success, including wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech the past two weeks, Kansas State still has much to prove.

Voters in the coaches' and Harris polls have them slotted behind unbeaten Oregon, and Notre Dame is giving chase, and that poses a problem with the two polls making up a big chunk of the BCS rankings that determine who plays for the national championship.

``We still have a lot of people doubting us,'' fullback Braden Wilson said. ``That's one of the things that drives us. We still think about that. We still use that.

``But at the same time, whether people are telling us we're going to win or telling us we're going to lose, it's not going to change how we approach the game,'' Wilson said. ``When people are doubting, it's just a little more motivation.''

It's easy to find examples of how players have developed this underdog mentality.

Kansas State rarely gets big-name recruits, and most of the players making up the roster were rated three stars or less out of high school. So they're saddled with a reputation of being not quite as fast, not quite as big, not quite as strong as many other schools.

Maybe those perceptions are why Kansas State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 last year by the league's coaches, only to win 10 games. Or why the coaches still guessed the Wildcats would finish in the bottom half this season.

So while Kansas State (8-0, 5-0) is undefeated heading into Saturday's game against Oklahoma State, players are more than happy to keep their underdog status.

``It's a good mindset for this team to have because it doesn't allow us to overlook anybody or any game,'' wide receiver Curry Sexton said. ``Obviously you don't want to start getting high on yourself because that's when you get knocked off.''

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he does not believe in underdogs, because the competitive balance in the Big 12 is too great to say anybody is an underdog.

More important to Snyder is whether his players consider themselves to be the favorite.

That's why he consistently mentions the nail-biting nature of Kansas State's 10-7 win in the 2011 season opener against Eastern Kentucky, and why he reminds players that this year's 14-point victory over North Texas was probably about half of what the margin of victory could have been.

For Snyder, it all goes to prove two points: No team can be taken for granted, and odds-makers do not make one iota of difference.

``Somebody's betting money somewhere and established a point spread, and I guess they win a certain portion of the time to end up making money,'' Snyder said, ``but they're wrong an awful lot of the time.

``The point is, we see them, we know what kind of football team they are. Everybody that plays them knows what kind of football team they are.''

To everybody outside of the Vanier Football Complex, the Wildcats still seem to get overlooked. To those inside, that's just fine.

``I think this team is very confident but not overconfident,'' Sexton said. ``We feel like we can win every ballgame, but we're a team that doesn't allow our confidence to get in the way of what we need to do on the field.

``We realize that we are what we got, and we go out there on Saturdays and we just have to do our jobs,'' Sexton added. ``Underdog or not, we're just going to play like the underdog.''

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3 stars of the game: Burakovsky's big night propels Caps to the Stanley Cup Final

3 stars of the game: Burakovsky's big night propels Caps to the Stanley Cup Final

For just the second time in franchise history, the Capitals are Eastern Conference Champions. They will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup FInal after a dominant 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Alex Ovechkin gave the Capitals the lead just 62 seconds into the game. It was a lead they would never relinquish as Braden Holtby recorded his second consecutive shutout.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will be Monday in Las Vegas.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Andre Burakovsky: It's been a rough year for Burakovsky, but all that was erased on Wednesday with his brilliant two-goal performance to lead the Caps.

The Caps were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the Lightning were buzzing, outshooting the Caps 8-1. They had all the momentum until Burakovsky stole a bouncing puck from Dan Girardi and fired a quick shot far-side for the beautiful goal.

Burakovsky added a second goal later in the second as John Carlson banked a pass off the boards to launch him on a breakaway. Burakovsky coolly shot it through the open five-hole of Vasilevskiy to make it 3-0.

It's incredible to think that Burakovsky had not recorded a point yet this postseason prior to Game 7, was a healthy scratch for Game 5 and was talking about seeing a sports psychologist over the summer after the morning skate for Game 6.

2. Braden Holtby: The goaltending for much of the series was Andrei Vasilevskiy who led Tampa Bay's comeback in the series with his phenomenal netminding. He was outplayed in the most important games by Holtby, however, who recorded shutouts in both Game 6 and Game 7. The last goal the Lightning scored in the series came 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5. That's 139:27 of continuous play and 60 straight saves for Holtby.

Holtby was phenomenal in Game 7 with big save after big save as the Lightning pushed to tie. His biggest save came in the second period when he denied Alex Killorn on the breakaway. The score was just 2-0 at that point.

This marks just the fifth time a goalie has recorded a shutout in Game 6 and Game 7 in a playoff series.

3. Alex Ovechkin: It took Ovechkin just 62 seconds to put the Capitals ahead and it turned out to be the goal that sent Washington to the Stanley Cup Final. How fitting for it to be Ovechkin to score the game-winner?

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.

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