Capitals

Wisconsin coach mum on starting QB decision

Wisconsin coach mum on starting QB decision

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin will finish the season with a new starting quarterback. Badgers coach Bret Bielema, however, prefers to keep quiet about his choice.

Junior transfer Danny O'Brien and fifth-year senior Curt Phillips are listed as co-starters on the depth chart and split snaps with the No. 1 offense in practice during the bye week. The starter will be under scrutiny as Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) prepares to visit Indiana (4-5, 2-3) on Saturday.

``I know where we're going to go,'' Bielema said Monday during his weekly press conference. ``I will say this: I think Curt and Danny last week knew that everything was being watched and monitored.

``Both of them, Wednesday and Thursday in particular, practiced extremely well. Both of them have their own set of skills but I don't think the offense changes much when they are in there.''

Bielema planned to discuss the quarterback situation with his coaching staff Monday and inform players of the decision Tuesday. He said he won't publicly name a starter. The Badgers are looking to replace redshirt freshman Joel Stave, a six-game starter who broke his left collarbone in the third quarter of Wisconsin's 16-13 overtime loss against Michigan State on Oct. 27.

One thing Bielema did share is that barring injury or a specific play designed for a certain quarterback, he won't play two of them.

``For the most part, I would say one guy in, and you hope he takes the reins and runs,'' Bielema said.

O'Brien earned the starting spot in fall camp ahead of Stave and Phillips and made three starts. Stave replaced O'Brien in the second half of Wisconsin's 16-14 victory over Utah State on Sept. 15 due to a handful of turnovers by O'Brien, and Bielema named Stave the starter going forward.

Bielema said O'Brien has gained a better grasp of ball security and game management. He likes Phillips' mobility and leadership, and noted his story is an intriguing one.

Phillip has undergone surgery three times to repair anterior cruciate ligament injuries to his right knee. He was inserted for three plays in one series during the second quarter of the Badgers' 31-14 win against Illinois on Oct. 6. Prior to that appearance, he had not played in a game since the 2009 regular-season finale.

``The perseverance and the battle he's been through to get to where he is today, kids rally around him extremely well,'' Bielema said. ``He did a lot to get to where he is, and sometimes when you have that in somebody, it's very hard to deny them the opportunity to have success.

``Curt's a runner. He's a guy that can move the football around a little bit with his arm and with his feet.''

Because Penn State and Ohio State were ruled ineligible for postseason competition and the conference title due to NCAA infractions, a Badgers win would clinch first place in the Leaders Division and punch their ticket to the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.

Wisconsin has won seven straight against Indiana, but Bielema insists the Badgers aren't overlooking the Hoosiers, who have struggled to be competitive during his seven-year tenure.

The Hoosiers, who are two games back of the Badgers in the standings, have won two straight and are fresh off a 24-21 win over Iowa.

The Badgers boast a 17-3 record during November under Bielema, and keeping the one-game-at-a-time philosophy on players' minds is important.

``When I saw this schedule come out two or three years ago, I remember looking at it and taking a rough sketch of it and realize that we have Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State at the end of the year and knew those were going to be games that mattered,'' Bielema said. ``So for us here at Wisconsin, to have a game in November matter really isn't new. From Indiana's point of view, they've earned their right to get there, and obviously they're going to want to try to defend it to the fullest.''

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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.