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Notre Dame can cap perfect home season with win

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Notre Dame can cap perfect home season with win

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Third-ranked Notre Dame hasn't been dominating at home this season. The Fighting Irish have been unbeatable, though, and that's not something they have been able to say since 1998.

The Irish have needed overtime to win two of those games and have won their other three games at Notre Dame Stadium by a combined 13 points. Yet they are a victory over Wake Forest (5-5) away from going undefeated at home for the first time in 14 years.

``One of our goals, a tangible goal for us, was to protect our home field. We felt, I felt, I think everybody in the program felt, that if you want to take that next step in terms of success, you got to win at home,'' Kelly said Tuesday.

Since going 6-0 under Davie in 1998, the Irish had a 52-31 record at home in 13 seasons heading this year, averaging a mediocre four wins a season and 2.4 losses. There were some embarrassing losses during that streak, including two of the three most lopsided losses in the history of Notre Dame Stadium: a 38-0 loss to No. 13 Southern Cal under Charlie Weis in 2007 and a 37-0 loss to No. 5 Florida State under Tyrone Willingham in 2003.

The only worse home loss was a 40-0 defeat to No. 2 Oklahoma in 1956.

The also lost 45-14 to Southern Cal in 2003, 33-3 to unranked Georgia Tech in 2007 and 24-23 in 2008 to a Syracuse team that had won just two games previously and had told coach Greg Robinson he was fired effective at the end of the season. Kelly had a few bad home losses of his own, losing 28-27 to Tulsa in 2010 and 23-20 to South Florida in last year's season-opener.

But the Irish haven't been beaten at home since a 31-17 loss to Southern California on Oct. 22, 2011. They've won seven straight games, the longest home winning streak since winning 10 straight from 1997-99 under Bob Davie. But the last six have been by a touchdown or less, a concern Kelly is still trying to find an answer for.

Still, Kelly dreams of the day the Irish can put up the kind of home record Oklahoma has. The Sooners are 80-5 in 14 seasons under Bob Stoops.

``We want to have that kind of legacy. We want to build that kind of dominance at home. The first step is winning all your games at home, which hasn't happened in a long time,'' Kelly said. ``So we actually talked about that yesterday, how important it is for us to finish the season undefeated at home. Our guys know that as a real goal.''

Asked if he could picture having that type of record at Notre Dame Stadium, Kelly replied: ``Yeah, if I stay employed here long enough. That's the toughest part. If you can stay in one place long enough you've got to a chance to do that. I think we've won 18 out of our last 20 regular-season games. We're moving toward that direction. Now just need to keep doing that.''

Kelly also said Tuesday that cornerback KeiVarae Russell has been cleared to play after sustaining a head injury against Boston College. Kelly also said nose guard Louis Nix III was not subject to any further penalty after being ejected from the BC game for unsportsmanlike conduct.

He also said the Irish would be counting on receivers John Goodman, Daniel Smith, Chris Brown and others to make up for the loss of DaVaris Daniels, who sustained a broken left clavicle against Boston College. Daniels is expected to miss the final two games, but is expected to be ready to play in a bowl game.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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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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