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Te'o and Manziel hit Manhattan with Heisman hopes

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Te'o and Manziel hit Manhattan with Heisman hopes

NEW YORK (AP) Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was looking forward to a break after a five-city-in-five-days tour, during which he has become the most decorated player in college football.

``I'm just trying to get a workout in and get some sleep,'' he said Friday about his plans for the night.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel seemed to have more energy when he arrived at a midtown Manhattan hotel with his fellow Heisman Trophy finalist. In fairness, Johnny Football's week hasn't been nearly as hectic, though this trip to New York city is different from the first time he visited with his family when he was young.

``It's just taking it up a whole `nother level, but happy to be here,'' he said.

Manziel and Te'o spent about 30 minutes getting grilled by dozens of reporters in a cramped conference room, posed for some pictures with the big bronze statue that they are hoping to win and were quickly whisked away for more interviews and photo opportunities.

Manziel, Te'o or Collin Klein, the other finalists who couldn't make it to town Friday, each has a chance to be a Heisman first Saturday night.

Manziel is trying to be the first freshman to win the award. Te'o would be the first winner to play only defense. Klein would be Kansas State's first Heisman winner.

Manziel and Te'o were on the same flight from Orlando, Fla., where several college football awards were handed out last night. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound quarterback was just happy the 255-pound linebacker didn't try to record another sack when they met.

``He's a big guy,'' Manziel said, flashing a big smile from under his white Texas A&M baseball cap. ``I thought he might stuff me in locker and beat me up a little bit.''

The two hadn't had much time for sightseeing yet, but they did walk around Times Square some, saying hello to a few fans. They probably weren't too difficult to spot in their team issued warm-up gear.

``We've just been talking about goofy stuff. Playing video games. Playing Galaga. Just some things from back in the day. Messing around with each other,'' Manziel said. ``Kind of seeing who is going to take more pictures. He's definitely taking that award right now.''

Te'o is already going to need a huge trophy case to house his haul from this week. He has won six major awards, including the Maxwell as national player of the year. He'll try to become Notre Dame's eighth Heisman winner and first since Tim Brown in 1987.

``I can only imagine how I would feel if I win the Heisman,'' he said.

Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997 is the closest thing to a true defensive player winning the Heisman. Woodson was a dominant cornerback, but he also returned punts and played a little receiver. That helped burnish his Heisman credentials.

Te'o is all linebacker. He leads the top-ranked Fighting Irish with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.

Klein was the front-runner for the Heisman for a good chunk of the season, but he played his worst game late in the season - in a loss at Baylor - and the momentum Manziel gained by leading Texas A&M to victory at Alabama has been tough to stop.

Manziel's numbers are hard to deny. He set a Southeastern Conference record with 4,600 total yards, throwing for more than 3,000 and rushing for more than 1,000.

Klein, by comparison, averages about 100 fewer total yards per game (383-281) than Manziel.

A freshman has never won the Heisman. Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson came closest in 2004, finishing second by Southern California's Matt Leinart.

Manziel is a redshirt freshman, meaning he attended Texas A&M and practiced with the team but did not play last year. Still, he'd be the most inexperienced college player to win the sport's most prestigious award.

``It's surreal for me to sit here and think about that this early in my career,'' he said. ``With what me and my teammates have gone through, with how they've played and how they've helped me to get to this point, it's just a testament to how good they are and how good they've been this year.

``Without them I wouldn't be here and that's the real story to all this.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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