Capitals

Puerto Rico sees hints of baseball revival

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Puerto Rico sees hints of baseball revival

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) On an island where the name of Roberto Clemente is emblazoned on stadiums, streets and schools, baseball is making a rally.

In the past year, Major League Baseball reported the second-highest number of signings from Puerto Rico since 2000. The U.S. territory also has seen the opening of new baseball academies and an expansion of its winter league teams, whose tournament this year is dedicated to Clemente four decades after his death.

Clemente died in a plane crash off Puerto Rico's north coast on Dec. 31, 1972, while helping deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Thousands mourned the loss of the Hall of Famer who won 12 Gold Glove awards and whose name is on the yearly honor for the MLB player who best exemplifies sportsmanship and community involvement.

``I always think of Clemente because he did so much in so many ways to help the game, people of his country, everything,'' Commissioner Bud Selig said. ``How he died was a great testament to his desire to help other human beings. He was an amazing guy. Amazing on the field, better off the field.''

Puerto Rico has since been searching for its next Clemente ever since. Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar, Ivan Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran all debuted in the late 1980s and `90s, a period regarded as Puerto Rico's golden era. The nation's influence has waned since then.

There are only 18 Puerto Rican-born players in the major leagues, the lowest number since 1968, and down from 29 in 2011 and a record 53 in 2001. The number of regular-season MLB games played in Puerto Rico has dropped from 23 in 2003 to only three in 2010. The Puerto Rico Baseball League canceled play in 2007 for the first time, citing a drop in attendance and profits.

Local baseball officials have blamed the first-year player draft for the changes. Since 1990, Puerto Rican players are required to complete high school before competing with players from the U.S. and Canada for a professional contract. The rule does not apply to other countries such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, where players can sign as free agents and where recruiters have invested millions in baseball academies.

Officials call the draft unfair, saying the island has substandard training, facilities and programs compared with the mainland U.S.

``Our boys are at a disadvantage,'' baseball historian Humberto Charneco said. ``In the U.S., there is a great methodology in preparing players, providing them guidance and advanced training. In Puerto Rico, there are no facilities to do that.''

In 2007, Puerto Rico Sports Secretary David Bernier unsuccessfully asked for a 10-year moratorium on the draft to help the island adjust, arguing that recruiters were focusing on other Latin American countries.

Edwin Rodriguez, former manager of the Florida Marlins, said the rise in popularity of soccer and basketball is also to blame, along with a lack of good baseball coaches and training programs. He dismissed the idea that the draft had led to a drop in players.

``Puerto Ricans have always had to compete against the Americans, the Canadians, the Dominicans,'' he said. ``If one is a prospect at 16, one is a prospect at 18. No one can convince me that a Roberto Alomar at 16 was not going to have the same talent at 18. That for me is very hard to digest.''

There are signs of a baseball revival.

The Puerto Rico Baseball League has added two more teams for a total of six, and this year was renamed the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League.

``In a firm commitment to Puerto Rico baseball and its fans, we will turn the league into a stepping stone to promote the development and improvement of young talents,'' said Hector Rivera, the league's president.

There was also a surge of fresh interest in the sport after 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa became the first Puerto Rican to be the first overall pick in the draft, receiving a $4.8 million signing bonus with the Houston Astros in June. Previously, the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico was catcher Ramon Castro, who went No. 17 to Houston in 1994.

``Puerto Rico baseball is rising little by little,'' Correa said. ``A lot more young players began dedicating themselves to the sport and saw that it could be done.''

Correa is a graduate of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, which receives $400,000 each year from MLB and has produced athletes who have been drafted or awarded scholarships at Division I universities in recent years.

``The talent that we're seeing now, we will likely see it knock on the doors of the major leagues in the next four to six years,'' said Lucy Batista, the school's headmaster.

Correa's achievement also has stirred interest in recreational baseball players across Puerto Rico, with teams in some towns being forced to wait in line to play at public fields. Using Correa's popularity as a platform, MLB plans to start tournaments and after-school programs across the island to further stimulate interest in the sport, said Kim Ng, the organization's senior vice president for baseball operations.

``I think that we're on the upswing there,'' she said. ``Carlos Correa being the first pick in the draft this past year is more indicative of what's going on in Puerto Rico, and I think it has to a certain extent reinvigorated the game down there.''

The importance of local academies is key. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Hiram Burgos said he enrolled in the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 10th grade and graduated in 2005.

``I developed immensely,'' he said of his time there. ``I added almost 10 miles to my speed as a pitcher.''

Rodriguez, the former Marlins manager, said he anticipates a spike in talented baseball players from Puerto Rico in the next 10 to 15 years, thanks to the academies. And while he believes that another Clemente could be in the works, he warned against expectations that Puerto Rico would see a second golden era.

``It's not fair to compare what's happening now to the time of the Roberto Alomars, Carlos Baergas,'' he said. ``That was a cycle. It is very, very rare for that to happen, not only in Puerto Rico, but in any state in the United States.''

---

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals vs. Islanders starts Aug. 12, schedule, opponents, format, odds

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals vs. Islanders starts Aug. 12, schedule, opponents, format, odds

The Stanley Cup playoffs are finally here after qualifying and round robin play concluded in Toronto and Edmonton on Sunday.

Five months after the season paused for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NHL has whittled 24 teams down to 16. The Capitals will play the New York Islanders and old coach Barry Trotz in the first round. They celebrated winning the Stanley Cup together two years ago.

Trotz left to take the job in New York and famously said after receiving his championship ring in an emotional meeting with his former players that he wished them well and that they could win it all again "but you'll have to go through the [explitive] Island, OK?"

So 24 teams are down to 16 with games set to continue in Toronto and Edmonton. The first round begins on Tuesday. This year's road to the Cup will look significantly different than past seasons, but it won't be any less meaningful to the players pushing for the Cup.

For the latest Capitals news and analysis from NBC Sports Washington, download the MyTeams App.

RELATED: 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs opponent set: How Capitals fared vs. ex-coach Barry Trotz and Islanders

How does the bracket look?

Well, you see....there is no bracket. Not in the traditional sense. The NHL has re-seeded teams No. 1 through No. 8. So the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 12 in the qualifying round, upset the No. 5 seed Edmonton Oilers in their home city and are now listed as the No. 8 seed.

None of it really matters. Whichever four teams advance to the Eastern and Western Conference semifinals will be re-seeded again. If No. 4 Boston is the best seed remaining after the first round, it would play the lowest-seeded remaining team. In this case, No. 8 Montreal.

But we are back to a best-of-seven format. The qualifying round was best-of-five - except for the top four teams in each conference who played round-robin games against each other for seeding. That's how Presidents' Trophy-winner Boston ended up No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.

What does this mean for the Capitals?

The Capitals finished the regular season with a 41-20-8 record and 90 points. They barely claimed the Metropolitan Division title for the fifth consecutive year, edging out the Flyers by one point. They rank third in the Eastern Conference behind the Bruins and Tampa Lightning.

But they weren't playing well in February and March and looked suspect during round-robin play. Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson is injured and missed the final two round-robin games, third-line center Lars Eller left the Toronto bubble for the birth of his son and has to quarantine at least until Wednesday.

But re-seeded tournaments are inherently unpredictable and beating the Islanders could suddenly mean a second-round series against a beatable opponent instead of another date with the No. 2 Lightning.  

Where will the Stanley Cup Playoffs take place?

Eastern Conference games will continue to be held at Scotiabank Place in Toronto while Western Conference games will still take place at Rogers Place in Edmonton. These two hub cities will serve as respective bubbles for each conference. The Stanley Cup Final will join the conference champs together in Edmonton

Who is here?

The 2019 champions (St. Louis Blues), the 2018 champs (Capitals), a Bruins team that came within a game of the title last season and a Tampa Bay squad that just never can get over the hump in the playoffs. Oh – and the fading dynasty that is the Chicago Blackhawks still has some fight left in it. The Philadelphia Flyers are a legitimate darkhorse despite being the top seed. The Colorado Avalanche have so much talent just hitting its prime. There’s tons of intrigue with this tournament and it could easily go haywire. Just the way we like it.

Who is missing?

Sideny Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for one. They went out in the qualifying round to Carey Price and the Canadiens. The Pens might have a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, but the NHL loses a meal ticket.

Also gone is superstar Connor McDavid and the Oilers. All the NHL wants is its most dynamic player on its biggest stage and it just rarely seems to happen.

And say goodbye to the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose fans face a long, cold Fall for once instead of summer. The 1967 champions and their star-studded roster will have to wait until next year. Again.

Who never made It

Twenty-four teams took part in the expanded postseason. The seven that did not make the cut were the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

(No. 1) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (No. 8) Montreal Canadiens

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 8pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Canadiens vs. Flyers, 3pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 8pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flyers vs. Canadiens, 3pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Flyers vs. Canadiens, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Canadiens vs. Flyers, TBD*

 

(No. 2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (No. 7 ) Columbus Blue Jackets

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 3pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 7:30pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, 3pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, TBD*

 

(No. 3) Washington Capitals vs. (No. 6) New York Islanders

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders vs. Capitals

Friday, Aug. 14: Islanders vs. Capitals

Sunday, Aug. 16: Capitals vs. Islanders

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Capitals vs. Islanders

Thursday, Aug. 20: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Capitals vs. Islanders, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Islanders vs. Capitals, TBD*

 

(No. 4) Boston Bruins vs. (No. 5) Carolina Hurricanes

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 12pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, 8pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Bruins vs. Hurricanes, TBD*

Sunday, Aug, 23: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, TBD*

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

FIRST ROUND

(No. 1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (No. 8) Chicago Blackhawks

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 11:30pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, 5:30pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 8pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, 6:30pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, TBD*

 

(No. 2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (No. 7) Arizona Coyotes

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 5:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, 2pm

Saturday, Aug. 15: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 3pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, 5:30pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Avalanche vs. Coyotes, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Coyotes vs. Avalanche, TBD*

 

(No. 3) Dallas Stars vs. (No. 6) Calgary Flames Sunday

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames vs. Stars, 4:30pm

Thursday, Aug. 13: Flames vs. Stars, 10:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Stars vs. Flames, 10:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Stars vs. Flames, 2pm

Tuesday, Aug. 18: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*

Thursday, Aug. 20: Stars vs. Flames, TBD*

Saturday, Aug. 22: Flames vs. Stars, TBD*

 

(No. 4) St. Louis Blues vs. (No. 5) Vancouver Canucks

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canucks vs. Blues, 10:30pm

Friday, Aug. 14: Canucks vs. Blues, 6:30pm

Sunday, Aug. 16: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm

Monday, Aug. 17: Blues vs. Canucks, 10:30pm

Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*

Friday, Aug. 21: Blues vs. Canucks, TBD*

Sunday, Aug. 23: Canucks vs. Blues, TBD*

*If necessary

Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup

An impressive showing in round robin play has the Golden Knights as slight favorites to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Capitals in 2018 in five games in their first season as an expansion club, according to one sportsbook. The Caps rank seventh with +1278 odds.

Vegas Golden Knights: +606

Colorado Avalanche: +617

Philadelphia Flyers: +617

Tampa Bay Lightning: +667

Boston Bruins: +747

St. Louis Blues: +956

Washington Capitals: +1278

Dallas Stars: +1600

Carolina Hurricanes: +1678

Calgary Flames: +1978

Vancouver Canucks: +2389

New York Islanders: +2611

Arizona Coyotes: +3078

Chicago Blackhawks: +3167

Montreal Canadiens: +3233

Columbus Blue Jackets: +3911

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020: Capitals vs. Islanders first round schedule, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2020: Capitals vs. Islanders first round schedule, date, time, TV channel, how to watch

The Washington Capitals will take on the New York Islanders in the first round of the newly formatted 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After winning their round robin finale against the Bruins, Washington earned the No. 3 seed and a date with former head coach Barry Trotz. The first round of the  Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Tuesday, April 11 in Toronto for the eight remaining Eastern Conference teams. Game 1 of the Capitals-Islanders series is on Wednesday, August 12 at 3:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena. 

RELATED: 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs opponent set: How Capitals fared vs. ex-coach Barry Trotz and Islanders

Game coverage on NBC Sports Washington begins at 2:00 p.m. ET with Caps Pregame Live. After the game ends, tune in to Caps Postgame Live, with Capitals Overtime following the game broadcast. There will be extended hour-long Caps Pregame and Postgame Live shows throughout the series. 

You can watch every game on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App. Download the MyTeams app here, and then stream the Capitals playoff games right here

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CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF SCHEDULE 2019

Game 1: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Wednesday, August 12
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 1 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 2: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Friday, August 14
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To Watch: Stream Game 2 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 3: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Sunday, August 16
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET 
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 3 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 4: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Tuesday, August18
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 4 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 5 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Saturday, April 20
Time: TBD
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To Watch: Stream Game 5 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 6 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Saturday, August 22
Time: TBD
TV Channel: TBD
How To WatchStream Game 6 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Game 7 (If necessary): Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Date: Sunday, August 23
Time: TBD
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
How To WatchStream Game 7 of Capitals vs. Islanders on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 The Fan FM)

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: