Capitals

With odds stacked, Jets look to restore pride

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With odds stacked, Jets look to restore pride

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Mike Pettine read the quotes, word for word, and was bothered.

So, the New York Jets defensive coordinator printed out what San Francisco's Carlos Rogers said about the defense - that it appeared to quit last Sunday - and put it up on a PowerPoint presentation for all of his players to see.

No gasps. No yells. No cusses.

Just silence.

``When it comes from a peer,'' Pettine said, ``you have to kind of stop yourself.''

It's Week 5 of the regular season and the Jets (2-2) are being tested in a major way. They're still in first place in the AFC East, but injuries are stacking up. So are the criticisms, and the odds, especially with undefeated Houston coming to town to play Monday night.

Pettine says there was nothing on film to indicate the defense quit in a 34-0 loss, but it was clear that something's a little off that needs fixing.

After all, their pride is at stake.

``I don't think you can say anybody quit. I think we got worn down,'' Pettine said. ``The guys in the room know what it's supposed to look like.''

And, it's not just the defense that failed last Sunday. Far from it. The offense has hit the skids the past few weeks with quarterback Mark Sanchez playing so poorly that many believe it might be time for Tim Tebow to save the day - and the season.

``It could be one of the best things to happen to us all season,'' Tebow said after the blowout loss last Sunday.

He wasn't brushing it off or trying to be just a team-first guy. Tebow believes that maybe this adversity - including losing cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes to season-ending injuries - can be turned into a positive.

``When you have defeats like this where you get beat up and you get beaten in every phase, it really is something you can rally behind and motivate you,'' Tebow said. ``Different teams I have been on with losses like this, I feel like we've rallied behind because you don't want to feel like that again. It kind of puts you on edge a little bit.''

The Jets are a franchise that has lost a laundry list of locker room leaders over the last few years, veterans who kept things cohesive in the face of adversity: Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Shaun Ellis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Leonhard and Jerricho Cotchery, to name just a few.

Ryan stripped the captains' ``C's'' from the jerseys after last season, but insists there are still a number of players others lean on. Bart Scott, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith are among them. And, despite his increasingly tenuous job security, Sanchez also is someone the team looks to.

``All the work and effort I've put in, they know how bad I want it,'' Sanchez said. ``When it doesn't go right, I'm the first to step up and say, `Hey man, that wasn't my best and it wasn't right. I'll get it right.' They understand that and it's my job to keep pushing and leading.''

Most of the talk all week has centered on how complete a team Houston is with its smothering defense and balanced offense, while the Jets are in trouble. They opened as 7-point underdogs, but it might as well have been 37 in the minds of some fans and media.

It's really sort of like the scene from the movie ``Rocky IV,'' when Adrian yells at Rocky: ``You can't win!''

Well, he defied the odds and went out and did, and now the Jets, even this early in the season, face a critical point to change their story line. They can still lose on Monday night and turn their season around. But another blowout, and things will start getting dicey.

``I think, without question, our pride was hurt a little bit,'' Ryan said. ``Our football team, that's not a typical New York Jets game. Now, we've lost in the past, but we haven't been beat like that.''

Actually, as Ryan later pointed out, they have. Back in 2010, when the Jets went to New England in a battle for first place in the division - and the Patriots romped 45-3. New York got back up and rebounded all the way to their second straight AFC championship game appearance.

``That was probably the only game that I can remember that was worse than that game,'' Ryan said. ``We're going to come back the way we know how. We're not covering up. We're going to be throwing punches.''

The feistiness Ryan has always been known for still comes out, but in smaller spurts now than they used to. He thrives in the role of the underdog, and his teams have generally done the same.

But, he knows his team is up against the wall right now with key players out and both sides of the ball having trouble establishing themselves. So, Ryan and his coaching staff huddled for two days and gave the players off so they could come up with some ways to fix the mess. When offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo suggested the offense and defense have a ``nosebleed Wednesday'' - an extra 8-minute period of practice in which the base units go up against each other - Ryan jumped at the chance.

``I challenged our guys to really compete against each other and the only way to get better is when you go full-speed on each other,'' Ryan said. ``That's what we got back to, and that's what we did.''

The Jets talked about tackling after Ryan said during a radio interview that his team missed 17 of them against the 49ers. There were basic concepts discussed, such as players getting their bodies in better position to actually take down an opposing runner and also getting off blocks.

Fundamentals. Back to basics. Whatever you want to call it - Ryan knew it needed to get done.

``I certainly don't have all the answers,'' he said. ``I'm just trying to do what's in the best interest of our football team. We need to improve and I'm reaching out for ways to do that.''

NOTES: The Jets will honor former DE Mark Gastineau and WR Wesley Walker by inducting them into their Ring of Honor on Monday night. ``I'll probably start crying,'' said Gastineau, who made headlines for his popular sack dances and high-profile romance with actress Brigitte Nielsen during his playing days. Walker said he supports Sanchez as the Jets' quarterback, but wants to see more from him. ``To become a premier quarterback, he has got to step up,'' Walker said. ``A big issue with leadership is can he perform with the weapons he does have? I like Mark Sanchez, but he hasn't been that guy, as far as I'm concerned.'' ... ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said newly signed CB Aaron Berry and FB Lex Hilliard will have key roles on his unit.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.