Capitals

Redskins players come to coach Shanahan's defense

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Redskins players come to coach Shanahan's defense

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Mike Shanahan's players are supporting their coach after he seemingly wrote off the Washington Redskins' season and then said his comments had been misinterpreted.

``I thought he clarified exactly what he meant, how it wasn't portrayed the way it needed to be,'' said co-captain London Fletcher, a 15-year veteran. ``He let us know exactly how he feels about this season, how he feels about the guys in this locker room. Coach Shanahan's a proven winner, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. He's not a person who gives up on a season.''

Fletcher doesn't agree with criticism of Shanahan for his comments.

``To portray him in that light is not fair to him, not fair to this football team. You get a couple of games to go your way, especially in November, you're right in the thick of things.''

But no matter what the coach said or meant, Washington faces an uphill challenge to salvage its season. After three straight defeats, the Redskins are 3-6 and back in last place in the NFC East for a fifth straight season heading into a five-day break during their bye week.

``We're frustrated to lose football games, but no one in this locker room would ever quit and there's no coach that would never give up,'' said ninth-year Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, who was re-signed on Oct. 22 after being out of the league for the first seven weeks. ``It will be good (for) our young players, our young quarterback (Robert Griffin III) to have a little bit of time to relax and get away from it and come back and really try to make a run. Hopefully we have a chance to make games important in November and December.''

Cooley starred for Washington teams that rallied from records of 5-6 in December 2005 and 5-7 in December 2007 to make the playoffs.

``It's easy to play when you're winning and everything's good,'' said defensive end Kedric Golston, who also played on the 2007 team. ``You find out the true character of a man when things are down. He probably could have said it a lot better, (but) it's not what Coach Shanahan said. It's about how we respond coming out of this bye week. It's going to be hard to come to work now. Do we have the right guys? I think we do, but until we go out and prove it, who knows?''

Defensive end Chris Baker, who rose from the practice squad in 2011 to being in the rotation this year, said Shanahan's comments about evaluating personnel rang true.

``It's an evaluation period all year,'' Baker said. ``That's exactly how it is week to week. If you're not good enough, they're going to find someone to replace you.''

The Redskins, who have lost seven starters for a total of 49 games and will be without four of those players the rest of the way, are sixth in yards and seventh in points, but only three teams have allowed more yards and only four have allowed more points. No team has committed more penalties for more yards.

``The coaches put us in the right plays and put us in the right places,'' said left tackle Trent Williams, another co-captain. ``We're just not taking advantage of them.''

Fletcher, who has started two Super Bowls and played for three Redskins coaches, maintained that Shanahan's direction is still the correct one despite a 14-27 record over two and a half seasons.

``Regardless of what his record is, we know he's creating a Super Bowl-winning environment,'' Fletcher said. ``The foundation is here. We're a lot more talented football team (than when Shanahan took command in January 2010). We have a great young quarterback. We've added some great youth to our team, more depth. ``

Notes: Long snapper Nick Sundberg, who broke his left arm in Week 1, was activated Tuesday from in-season injured reserve next week. ... Cornerback Domonique ``D.J.'' Johnson was signed to the active roster from the practice squad. ... Long snapper Justin Snow and cornerback David Jones were waived. . Right tackle Jammal Brown, on the physically unable to perform list since the eve of training camp, hopes to return to practice next week. . Strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who has injured his left knee three times since Week 2 of preseason, is expected to make his Redskins debut on Nov. 18 against Philadelphia. . Receiver Pierre Garcon said his long-ailing right foot is better but there's no timetable for his return.

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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.