Capitals

RG3 makes Redskins ground game among NFL's best

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RG3 makes Redskins ground game among NFL's best

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Robert Griffin III's look back at his 76-yard touchdown run was surprisingly analytical.

``I didn't realize how much I slowed down at the end, when was looking back at the guy,'' the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback said Wednesday. ``I was enjoying the moment. I usually don't do stuff like that. But I talked to a bunch of the players and the coaches and they said that was one of the best moments they've ever been a part of. I definitely realize how big it was and it is fun to watch it.

``But I'm done watching it now. ... I've moved on, but it's something that will live on in history, so I'm sure 20 years from now they'll still be talking about it, and that's the great thing about being able to play at the highest level.''

Twenty years from now? Griffin didn't sound like someone who was joking, nor did he sound like someone who was bragging. He's compartmentalized the moment and is ready to move on to his next hurdle - or high-jump bar. His teammates are pumped for their first NFC East game of the season Sunday vs. the New York Giants, but he claims not to be putting any extra into his preparation.

``I used to high jump back in the day,'' Griffin said. ``And my dad would always tell me you jump the same at 6-8 that you do at 6-foot. Just because it's at 6-foot doesn't mean you put less into it.''

The 76-yard dash - the NFL's longest touchdown by a quarterback in 16 years - in the 38-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings has helped make the Redskins the No. 2 rushing team in the NFL, and their 3-3 record means first place will be on the line Sunday at the Meadowlands. The Giants will be preparing for an offense that combines a scrambling quarterback, the option, other designed QB runs, a zone blocking scheme ahead of rookie running back Alfred Morris and timing routes from the West Coast passing offense.

Asked to come up with a name to describe it all, Shanahan's best effort has been ``the East Coast offense.''

``I'm not sure what the name of the offense is,'' Shanahan said. ``But we're just experimenting with what Robert can do, and we're having fun with it.''

Morris ranks fourth in the NFL, and is tops among rookies, with 538 yards rushing. Griffin is 15th with 379, easily the top quarterback. That 76-yard run was the first run of 15-plus yards allowed by the Vikings all season. The Redskins have run for at least 125 yards in every game this season, and Griffin (6) and Morris (5) are the NFL's first set of rookie teammates to each have at least five rushing touchdowns in the first six games of a season.

They make quite the tandem for opposing defenses.

``I don't think they can key on just Alfred, and that's one of the main plusses of the offense - is that they have to prepare for everything,'' left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. ``They've got to prepare for Alfred. They've got to prepare for Robert running the ball. They've got to prepare for (receiver Brandon) Banks coming into the backfield - who knows where that's going to go. I think we've done enough to keep the defenses second-guessing themselves.''

Shanahan hints that the creativity is only just beginning.

``You get a quarterback like Robert, you see what he's comfortable with,'' Shanahan said. ``And you try to run your offense accordingly. But it's a learning experience. We're going to grow with this every week. ... It's kind of fun to tinker around with a number of things - some things you haven't done before.''

Notes: Shanahan said he doesn't plan to review the Redskins' concussion procedures after the team's third concussion in three weeks. Safety Jordan Pugh left Sunday's game late in the fourth quarter with a head injury, was cleared to return, then left the game again three minutes later with a concussion. ``I think we're fine with the procedures that are intact right now. ... It's in the doctor's hands. They do a great job evaluating these people, and hopefully they always make the right decision,'' the coach said. ... Griffin doesn't seem offended that Giants DE Osi Umenyiora referred to the rookie as ``Bob Griffin'' back in training camp. ``Bob, Robert, I don't care,'' Griffin said. ``I don't really talk that much trash. Osi is a great player. He's done great things, so I can't argue with him.''

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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.