Capitals

Oregon overcomes injuries to move to No. 1

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Oregon overcomes injuries to move to No. 1

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Oregon's defensive line was so depleted that backup tight end Koa Ka'ai and two other freshmen were pressed into emergency duty.

Big-play running back Kenjon Barner was bottled up all night so freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota put the game on his arm.

Oregon overcame numerous hurdles to beat California 59-17 on Saturday night to move into the top spot in The Associated Press poll with just three weeks left in the regular season.

``That's always been our philosophy,'' coach Chip Kelly said of the ``next man up'' mantra. ``We really got tested with it today. Our guys did a nice job. I can't say enough about what that young defensive line did.''

The Ducks (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) were without four of their top five linemen coming into the game and then lost defensive tackle Taylor Hart in the first quarter to another injury.

While Isi Sofele and the Golden Bears (3-8, 2-6) were able to run the ball effectively for 2 1/2 quarters, freshman Arik Armstead forced the interception that turned the momentum in the third quarter and the banged-up defense kept Cal off the scoreboard for the final 25 minutes of the game.

``Just because they're low on the depth chart doesn't mean they're not going to play,'' safety Brian Jackson said. ``They showed that today. They were able to step in with the big boys. They came in and we didn't see any letdown. I saw different numbers and different names in front of me but I didn't see any difference in the play.''

The Ducks survived the litany of injuries to the front four and a possibly season-ending injury to safety Avery Patterson to win their 13th straight game and move into the top spot in the poll following Alabama's 29-23 loss to Texas A&M earlier in the day.

The only other time the Ducks held the top ranking came in 2010, when they were No. 1 for seven weeks before being passed by Auburn late in the final regular season poll in 2010.

Oregon, No. 2 Kansas State and third-ranked Notre Dame are the only undefeated FBS teams left who are eligible for the postseason and are fighting for the two spots in the BCS title game.

But that's not what the Ducks are worried about right now.

``That's what's so good about this team,'' said Josh Huff, who had three TD catches. ``We don't pay attention to the rankings and what's around us. We just play Oregon football. We'll pick our heads up in December and we'll see where we're at.''

Before that happens they need to navigate a treacherous closing stretch of the schedule, starting with a home game next week against No. 14 Stanford. A visit to No. 15 Oregon State and a possible spot in the Pac-12 title game follow, but the big concern now is the Cardinal and their powerful running game behind Stepfan Taylor.

The Bears rushed for 236 yards - the most allowed all season by the Ducks - with most of the damage coming in the first three quarters.

``It was getting a little frustrating,'' Jackson said. ``Stanford is a running team. We know what to expect next week.''

What made those losses on defense easier to overcome was the strong performance by Mariota. Most of the focus on the Ducks offense was on Barner last week after he rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns against Southern California.

But he never got going against a Cal defense focused on shutting down the run and even left the game briefly with a right hand injury that he refused to talk about after the game.

Barner was held to 65 yards rushing on 20 carries - his lowest output against an FBS team this year - and the Ducks managed a season-low 180 yards on the ground, their lowest total in a conference game since 2010.

But with Mariota throwing for a career-high 377 yards and a school record-tying six touchdowns, the Ducks still managed to set a major college football record by scoring at least 40 points for a 13th straight game.

``At the end of the day we still had a good game,'' Barner said. ``I'm not the type of person that has to be the guy. Josh Huff deserved everything that came his way tonight. Marcus continues to impress, guys just continue to step up and do their job. As far as me having a tough game, I'm not worried about it. We came out with a win. That's the most important thing.''

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4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

4 keys for the Caps to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

It all starts Monday!

The Vegas Golden Knights will host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as both teams look to take early control of the series.

Can the Caps steal one on the road to start? Here are four keys to winning Game 1.

Win the first period

The Golden Knights have not played a game since May 20. While rest can benefit a team at this time of the year, there is such a thing as too much rest and over a week would certainly qualify. If there is absolutely any rust in Vegas’ game to start, the Caps need to take advantage.

T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas crowd have already built a reputation in year one. The atmosphere is going to be electric, but the Caps can combat that with a good start to the game and by scoring first.

Vegas is 10-1 when scoring first this postseason. If they are able to come in and get on the board right off the bat in the first period after seven full days between games, that does not bode well for the Caps’ chances.

Don’t allow Marc-Andre Fleury to pick up where he left off

Fleury is having a postseason for the ages, but it’s hard to believe momentum is simply going to carry over to a new series after such a lengthy break. Players are not simply going to pick up where they left off and play as if there’s no rust to shake off. The need to get to Fleury as early as possible.

What that means is getting traffic in front of the net, making him move, contesting rebounds, making him feel uncomfortable as much as possible and generating quality offensive chances.

The Caps can do is starting flinging pucks at the net and giving him easy saves. Getting 12 shots in the first period would be great, but not if they are all perimeter shots for easy saves that help bring Fleury's confidence back to where it was in the Western Conference Final.

Limit the turnovers

Turnovers are blood in the water for Vegas. The high-effort, high-speed style of play of the Golden Knights has caught several players off guard at points this postseason. No one can afford to be casual with the puck at any point in this game because Vegas has a knack for turning those turnovers into goals.

Winning Game 1 on the road will be hard enough without giving the Golden Knights at any help.

Shut down the top line

Only three players have reached double digits in points for the Golden Knights in the playoffs: Jonathan Marchessault (18), Reilly Smith (16) and William Karlsson (13). What do these three have in common? They all play on Vegas’ top line. To compare, the Caps have seven players in double digits.

Much has been made of Vegas’ offensive depth and their ability to roll four lines, but the play of Fleury in net has really masked how much this team relies on its top line for offense. The Caps need to get Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against them and focus on shutting them down. Force the Golden Knights to win with their other three lines and see if they can.

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MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

MacLellan on facing McPhee in Stanley Cup Final: 'It's a little awkward'

LAS VEGAS—One of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s Stanley Cup Final centers on a couple of men who make their living behind the scenes: Brian MacLellan of the Caps and his counterpart with the Golden Knights, George McPhee.

They’ve known each other for 40-plus years, dating back to their time as bantam teammates in Canada. And, starting Monday, they’ll be on opposing sides, with hockey’s Holy Grail at stake.  

Caps fans, of course, are familiar with McPhee’s work. He served as GM in Washington from 1997-2014 and drafted 13 players who are currently on the Caps’ roster. McPhee was also the Caps’ rookie GM the last time the franchise appeared in the Final 20 years ago.

But here’s what Caps fans might not know about the connection that MacLellan and McPhee share:

  • They were born in a few months apart in 1958 in Ontario.
  • They captured the Canadian Jr. A championship as members of the 1977-78 Guelph Platers.
  • Both were on scholarship at Bowling Green from 1978-1982.
  • They played together with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.
  • And, finally, they worked side-by-side in Washington from 2000-2014. After working his way up from the scouting ranks, MacLellan replaced his managerial mentor, who had been let go following a disappointing season.

 

“It's kind of a weird experience,” MacLellan said. “We kind of have been texting back and forth how strange it feels to have this line up the way it has. It's a little awkward, but it's going to be a fun experience, I hope.”

At one point, MacLellan got choked up when talking about his relationship with McPhee, who’ll become the first GM in the expansion era to face a former team of which he served as GM.

“We played junior together and then we both went to Bowling Green on scholarships, so we lived together,” he said, fighting back tears. “It was fun.”

MacLellan also acknowledged that the two weren’t as tight—for a time, at least—after he replaced McPhee four years ago. McPhee also hinted at some strain, though he said the two men had dinner at the most recent GM’s meetings.

“Not as close, I don't think,” MacLellan said of his relationship with McPhee following McPhee’s dismissal. “A little bit of communication here and there. But I think it just took a little time for things to evolve. I think he needed a break from the game, needed a break from how it went down for him here and it just took time.”

When the two negotiated during last year’s expansion draft, which saw McPhee pluck promising you blueliner Nate Schmidt from Washington’s roster, MacLellan said the two old friends keep things “businesslike.”

“He was all business,” MacLellan said. “He wasn’t giving in on anything.”

Although McPhee drafted most of the core players who delivered the Caps to this year’s Final, MacLellan also deserves credit for getting this team over the second round hump. Among his first acquisitions were defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, a pair of vets that helped shore up a shaky defense. MacLellan also added forwards T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller via trade in recent seasons and, this year, added defenseman Michal Kempny, a particularly shrewd move that bolstered a blue line that needed a little tightening.

As weird as the next few days will be for MacLellan as he faces his old friend, it figures to even more strange for McPhee, who will look down from the GM’s suite on Monday and see not one, but two teams that he built on the ice. McPhee also pilfered a handful of current and former front office employees from Caps, including Goalie Coach Dave Prior, while building the Golden Knights.

Indeed, the history between MacLellan and McPhee runs deep. But for the next couple of weeks, they’ll put aside their decades-old friendship as their clubs battle for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
 

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