Capitals

Wilfork enjoying another standout season

Wilfork enjoying another standout season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) His numbers don't leap off the page. They never do.

Yet as he has done throughout his entire nine-year career in New England, Vince Wilfork is leaving an unmistakable imprint all over the Patriots this season.

The only defensive player still on the roster from any of New England's championship teams is once again living up to the billing as one of the best nose tackles in the league. Wilfork is a stalwart force in the center of the Patriots' defensive line who's been instrumental in their much-improved rushing defense.

``I could care less about stats,'' Wilfork said earlier in the year. ``The only stat I care about is the W. We win, and I'm happy. We lose, and I'm not.''

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork wasn't too jolly following New England's 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Monday night that snapped the Patriots' seven-game winning streak.

After back-to-back games against two of the top teams in the league - the first a possible AFC championship preview against the Houston Texans and last week's showdown a potential Super Bowl matchup - New England travels to Jacksonville to face the struggling Jaguars.

And after playing two teams that have combined for 22 victories, Wilfork isn't about to look past 2-12 Jacksonville.

The Jaguars, like every other team on New England's schedule, likely will find it impossible to overlook Wilfork.

``A lot of people might look at their record, but you can just tell, they just line up and they play football. They're old school,'' Wilfork said. ``They line up and they try to do things right and you can just tell, when they do the things right, they move the ball, they make plays.

``It's going to be challenging for us.''

Attempting to block Wilfork is always a tall order.

Just ask Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, whose job is to help handle Wilfork each and every practice.

``Going up against (a guy) like that, you've got to play your best football. He's a tough player to defend,'' McDonald said. ``He's a great football player. He's a good leader. He's a guy that's been around the system for a long time and he does a lot of things well.

``He's a hell of a football player.''

When the stage is biggest, Wilfork seems to shine the most. Take two weeks ago, for example.

The mammoth man in the middle was credited with four tackles, one for a loss, a sack, one pass deflection and a forced fumble, igniting a stunning blowout of the first-place Texans in front of a national television audience.

He also was almost single-handedly responsible for bottling up running back Arian Foster, who for the third straight season has eclipsed 1,200 yards but managed just 46 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots.

Wilfork didn't even need to be standing on his large feet to make one of the more memorable tackles of his season, either. On the second offensive play of the game, Wilfork was blocked to the ground, but still managed to clamp his massive mitts around Foster's shin, dragging him down for a 1-yard loss.

``He's a unique player,'' McDonald said.

Wilfork by no means is your average pass rusher, barreling down the middle rather than from the side, and has totaled fewer sacks in his career (15) than some players have this season alone.

But then again, nothing about the four-time Pro Bowler is typical.

The surprisingly mobile veteran is enjoying a standout season for New England with 42 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, a pair of sacks and six passes defended.

``The athletic ability he has and the size he has is very rare, and just his passion for the game,'' McDonald marveled. ``Guys that have been around the league a long time like that and still have amazing passion and work as hard as he does, he's going to be successful.''

The offensive line also is benefiting from his presence.

``Going up against a guy like that . that rare athletic ability and size, the power he has, the quickness, it's definitely going to make you better,'' McDonald said. ``He's going to make everybody around him better, too.''

Wilfork is a major reason the Patriots have forced a turnover in 25 straight games and lead the league in turnover differential at plus-22, seven more than second-ranked Houston.

``That's one of the things that we do. That's one of our goals. That's one of the things that we work very hard toward. And it's paying off for us this year,'' Wilfork said. ``Hopefully we can continue to get our offense the ball. There's no other offense I would want to get the ball than inside (quarterback Tom Brady's) hands. The more we get our offense the opportunity with the ball, the better we'll be as a team, and we understand that.

``Our goal is to go out and create negative plays and create turnovers and give our offense the ball back.''

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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