From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Starlin Castro was barely out of his teens when he made his big league debut. Now it looks as though he'll still be donning Cubbie blue when he hits his 30s.The Chicago Cubs and their young shortstop agreed to a seven-year contract with a club option for 2020, the team said Tuesday. The deal could keep Castro in Chicago until after his 30th birthday."Only the most talented players get to the big leagues at 20," said Cubs general manger Jed Hoyer. "I'm sitting here with a 22-year-old veteran right now. That was a big part of our decision."The way it was looking, Starlin was going to be a free agent way too early. He's a big part of our future. We have four years of control with him after this year. By doing this deal, we now have eight."Castro is a two-time All-Star in just his second full major league season, and he led the National League in hits with 207 last season. Since making his major league debut on May 7, 2010, Castro has more hits than any player in the NL with 486."I want to be here for a long time and winning," Castro said. "My family (will) change, but nothing (will) change for myself. (The money is) not going to stop me from working hard every day on the field."Castro was originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on Oct. 25, 2006. Terms of the new deal were not released by the team, but published reports have placed the guaranteed money at 60 million over the duration of the extension, a figure Castro was asked about in Tuesday's press conference."It's big, especially for my family, coming from very poor people," Castro said. "Now my family is going to be better, their lives changing."Castro motioned toward his father, who was standing nearby, and said, "My dad wanted me to play baseball every time. He got me here."While Castro's raw talent has always been evident, things have not always gone smoothly for a player who skirted with trouble off the field and suffered well-publicized mental lapses on it. He was accused of sexual assault following the 2011 season, though Cook County prosecutors declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.Castro's on-field focus has also been questioned, most notably during a nationally-televised game last season when cameras captured him with his back to the plate as a pitch was being delivered.Despite the occasional bouts with immaturity, the Cubs feel Castro is going to be a foundation player for a club just beginning its rebuilding process under a new front office regime headed by vice president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer."It's been fun getting to know Starlin as a person, but also watching him play every day," Hoyer said. "Shortstop is a really hard position to fill in today's game, especially with someone who can provide it with offense."There is no question in my mind that he can play shortstop in the big leagues on a championship team."Castro whet the appetite of Cubs fans from the start, homering in his first career at-bat and setting a big league record with six RBIs in his debut. He was taken in by Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano, a fellow Dominican who helped mentor Castro at the beginning of his career."He's very important," Castro said of Soriano. "When I first got here, he took me to live in his house. He talked to me about baseball and how important baseball is for you and your family."Castro, a career .296 hitter, was batting .276 this season with 12 homers and 63 RBIs before Tuesday night's game against Milwaukee. He's struggled recently and admitted he might have been slightly distracted by the negotiations between the Cubs and his agent, Paul Kinzer."It'll be interesting to see if there is any change now that this thing is behind him and he'll be here for a long time," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "When you get that first contract, you can relax and realize that there really is only one thing to play for and that's winning the World Series."
Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.
And it didn’t.
The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.
During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.
#Caps morning skate lines ahead of Game 6:— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) May 21, 2018
So Burakovsky returns after sitting out one game as a healthy scratch.
It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.
What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”
“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured.
But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”
Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.
“I’ve always been really, really hard on myself. ...It’s kind of my problem.” — Andre Burakovsky, who added that he plans to work with a sports psychologist this summer. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/5WHsUEOJFE— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) May 21, 2018
Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.
The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.
“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”
MORE CAPITALS STORIES:
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- Top line struggles: Tampa Bay's fourth line is winning its matchup against Ovechkin
The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.
This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.
Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:
1. Get off to a better start
It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.
With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.
The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.
2. Stay out of the penalty box
Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.
So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.
If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.
Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.
3. Win the top line matchup
The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.
It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.
Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.
4. Take advantage of the power play opportunities
The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.
Not a coincidence.
Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.
5. Win the goalie matchup
Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.
Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.
Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.
But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.
Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.
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