Capitals

Stony Brook now has a man in the middle

Stony Brook now has a man in the middle

NEW YORK (AP) Stony Brook senior Tommy Brenton has one season left to make the NCAA tournament so he's making freshman Jameel Warney hurry up and help.

Brenton, a 6-foot-5 forward, is one of those players who fills every column in the stat sheet and is one of those players whom every coach wants on his team.

Warney, a 6-8 forward, has had a great start to his college career, something Brenton is hurrying along.

``I kind of gave Jameel the summer to be a freshman,'' said Brenton, who became the school's all-time leading rebounder last week. ``Once the preseason started, he was a sophomore. Hopefully by conference play he'll be a junior and then at the championship he'll be a senior. You've got to grow up quick here. I'm not letting him be a freshman and make those mistakes.''

Warney hasn't made many. The native of Plainfield, N.J., has started all nine games for the Seawolves (7-2) this season, averaging 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 61.5 percent (40 of 65) from the field.

He sounds like he wants to take advantage of having four seniors and four juniors to learn from. They all were on the Stony Brook team that lost to Vermont - at home - in the America East championship game last March.

``It's a learning experience every day,'' Warney said. ``Learning from Tommy, Dave (Coley), the upperclassmen, how to play hard every possession. At the start of the season I was nervous, but these guys, they're composed so it forces me to be composed about everything I do.''

Warney doesn't play like a freshman, something coach Steve Pikiell expected when he recruited the 255-pounder.

``The day he signed the national letter of intent I was comfortable with him. He's a real good player. He's got great hands. He's a terrific passer and he's got a nice temperament about him for a freshman,'' Pikiell said. ``And he's a worker, so I'm real pleased with that because you never know that when you get a kid out of high school. He watches film, he tries to improve. . We threw him right to the wolves and that's the way it is. I told him that when I recruited him. He's done a great job.''

Warney started right away and had eight points and five rebounds in the opening win over Marist. In Game 2, against Mount Ida, Warney made all eight of his field goal attempts - a school record - and pulled down nine rebounds.

``After the first game, I said that I'm going to be a contributor to this team,'' Warney said. ``Even though I'm a freshman, I can help in big ways.''

His first double-double was a 19-point, 11-rebound effort against Cornell. He's starting to steal the seniors' spotlight and they are fine with that.

``He's growing. He's getting better and better as each game goes on,'' Coley said. ``It's good to have someone like him down low.''

Pikiell was Jim Calhoun's first captain at Connecticut. The Seawolves played the Huskies pretty tough last month, leading 33-26 in the second half before falling to a UConn 3-point barrage, 73-62. There was no talk of moral victories after the game. Maybe it's Warney who has helped sharpen the Seawolves' attitude.

``When he touches it, he can score. I feel great about it because people are going to double-team him and he's the best passer on our team,'' Pikiell said. ``He's a tough matchup for people and his game is evolving.''

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

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.

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.

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.”

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

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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