January 21, 2020

OPINION: Washington Capitals have too many holes to trade for one “difference-maker”

On Wednesday, Mike Harris of The Washington Times espoused his opinion that the Washington Capitals should shake things up and trade for a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman. Presumably, Mike was talking about the “Rod Langway” type of Norris winner, and not the type of candidate Mike Green was when he was twice-nominated.

I’ll let Mike explain himself: [Read more…]

Redskins get elusive first win as defense finds its footing

The Washington Redskins finally got their elusive first win of the season by playing solid defensive football and taking advantage of turnovers Sunday afternoon against the Oakland Raiders. The Redskins defense played their best game of the season, against an admittedly depleted Raiders squad, and the offense executed well enough to qualify the win as a “team” victory. And not a moment too soon.

The Redskins came out of the gate a little bit sluggish to start the game, with consecutive three-and-out series, perhaps due to crossing three time zones to play this one. The sluggish start was compounded by a special teams blunder, as a blocked punt by Rashad Jennings after the Skins second series was recovered by Jeremy Stewart in the end zone for a quick 7-0 Raiders lead.

After another Redskins three-and-out on the following possession, Raiders QB Matt Flynn, starting for the injured Terelle Pryor,  threw a strike to rookie TE Mychal Rivera for a 18-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a two score lead early on. But on the drive, the Raiders lost starting running back Darren McFadden to a hamstring injury, and that would play into the Redskins hands the rest of the day.

Those two quick scores by the Raiders apparently triggered a wake-up call for the Redskins.

On the next possession, the offense went hurry-up no-huddle and marched down the field. The drive stalled at the Oakland two yard line, however, and the Redskins settled for a chip-shot field goal by John Potter.

That must have energized the defense as well.

On the ensuing Raiders possession, David Amerson read Flynn all the way, jumped a route, and picked off a pass intended for Raiders leading receiver Denarius Moore.  Amerson took it untouched 45 yards for the Skins first score of the day.

With McFadden out, the Raiders went to a more pass-happy attack, which enabled the Redskins defense to come after the immobile and indecisive Flynn. The Skins pressured Flynn all day, recorded a season-high seven sacks, and forced two Flynn fumbles to go along with Amerson’s pick-six.

The defense didn’t allow another point, shutting out the Raiders offense for better than three quarters, as the Skins scored 24 unanswered points to walk out of Oakland with their first win of the year.

Going into the bye week, the Redskins should feel good about getting their first victory of the season. Their 1-3 record places them one game behind the Dallas Cowboys (2-2), who lost on the road at San Diego, at the top of the division. Both the Eagles and Giants lost in Week 4 as well, setting the NFC East as the worst division in the NFL right now, with no team having a winning record.

What’s more, if the Cowboys lose in Week 5 to the high-powered Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, the Redskins would then have an opportunity to go into Arlington in two weeks and battle with the struggling Cowboys for the division lead.

It appears that mediocrity is going to rule the division this season. If the Redskins can use the two solid weeks of practice surrounding the bye to get Robert Griffin III even more up to speed with his offense, and give the rookies in the secondary two more weeks to feel comfortable in the schemes, there’s little reason the Skins can’t rebound to still be a factor in the division.

District Sports Page staff intern Brandon Enroth contributed to this report.

Washington Capitals 2013-14 Preseason Season Roundtable, Part I

Opening night of the 2013-14 season for the Washington Capitals is less than a week away. With that in mind, the District Sports Page Caps staff and contributors will take a look at several key areas that will affect the Caps season as they get ready to start play in the newly-formed Metropolitan Division.

The second half of our roundtable will post Monday.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page; Katie Brown, Caps Staff Writer for DSP; Abram Fox, former Caps Page Editor at DSP, Erika Schnure, RinkRebel.com and DSP contributor; Ted Starkey, Caps author and contributor to DSP; Sky Kerstein, 106.7 The Fan and DSP contributor; and Harry Hawkings, RocktheRed.com. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals place D Tomas Kundratek on waivers

The Washington Capitals reportedly placed right-handed defenseman Tomas Kundratek on waivers Wednesday, with the plans to send him to Hershey if he clears waivers. The rest of the league has until Thursday at noon to make a claim.

Kundratek’s removal from the roster removes his $550,000 salary cap hit, giving the Caps a little more room under the cap with which to maneuver.

The move could be a pre-cursor to the team keeping Tom Wilson, the 19-year-old winger that has made a terrific impression in camp. He is not eligible to play in the AHL this season, so if he doesn’t make the Caps, he’d have to be returned to his junior team. Coach Adam Oates has made several comments that he’d like to have Wilson’s size and presence on the fourth line this season and that he’s already outgrown major Juniors, calling him a man among boys at that level.

The Caps top two defense pairing seem set, with veterans Karl Alzner and Mike Green as the top pair and John Erskine and John Carlson the second duo. The Caps then have several candidates to fill the bottom pair.

Jack Hillen and Steve Oleksy finished last season as that third pairing, but Kundratek’s overall game seemed to be a good fit to stick around as the seventh defenseman or eventually step in for Oleksy.

Then there’s Dmitry Orlov, who at one time seemed destined for top-four minutes. A series of injuries, including a concussion that saw him miss over three months last season, derailed those plans.

In Adam Oates’ pregame comments before the team takes on Nashville Wednesday night at Verizon Center, he said that Kundratek is “a good hockey player. If he gets picked up [on waivers], I hope he does well. If he doesn’t, I hope we see him again.”

Washington Capitals 2013-14 Season Preview: Defense

All week, District Sports Page has been previewing the 2013-14 Washington Capitals roster by position. Monday, Katie Brown looked at the left wingers, and Tuesday she previewed the pivots.

Today, here’s an in-depth look at the blueliners.

Karl Alzner - Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner – Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner (24, 6’3″, 213, shoots left; 48 games 1-4-5, minus-6, 14 PIMs in 2012-13) – Like his then-partner John Carlson, “King Karl” got off to a slow start last season once the lockout lifted. It’s almost as if someone in the organization told the players there was no way in hell the season was going to happen and they all sat around playing Mario Brothers or something.

Political diatribes aside, Alzner recovered to do what he does best – play against every opponent’s top lines and keep goals out of his own net. He doesn’t shoot or score very often (though he was second on the Caps in shot attempts in the second round of the playoffs, but very few players are as dependable on defense than Alzner.

The only knock on Alzner is that despite decent size, he can get pushed around a bit along the walls, and not just by bigger players. Hopefully The King spent some time back in British Columbia in the weight room this summer.

Capitals John Carlson pre-game warmups up at Verizon Center (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals John Carlson pre-game warmups up at Verizon Center (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Carlson (23, 6’3″, 212, shoots right; 48 games, 6-16-22, +11, 18 PIMs) – Carlson had an interesting campaign last season. He started off considerably, um, rusty, after admittedly not skating much during the lockout. He seemed a step slow for the first 20 games of the season, as much as anyone on the Caps did during that horrendous stretch.

Head coach Adam Oates ended breaking the Carlson-Alzner duo up to try to spur better play from both. The more Carlson played and rounded into shape, the better he got and ended up in the top three in the league in blocked shots.

Still young, Carlson could be primed to have a breakout season. He’s gifted offensively and responsible on the back end. He will log plenty of minutes this season regardless who his partner is.

John Erskine -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Erskine -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Erskine (33, 6’4″, 220, shoots left, 30 games, 3-3-6, +10, 34 PIMs) – Big John is the closest thing the Caps have to a true enforcer. He’s certainly the only player on the team, other than Ovechkin and until Tom Wilson is ready, that inspires any sort of a physical presence, especially guarding his own net.

But here’s the thing – Big John is slow, a poor skater to boot, and lacks any type of offensive skill or presence. He has a very heavy shot from the point, but can only get it off if the pass is soft or he’s left completely alone, which is usually the case as teams have no reason to fear Erskine making a play with the puck.

Oates, and presumably GM George McPhee, seem to love whatever positives Erskine brings to the blue line though. He should be candidate to sit every night, unless they’re playing Philly or Boston, but Erskine damn near earned top-4 minutes last season.

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green (27, 6’1″, 207, shoots right, 35 games, 12-14-26, minus-3, 20 PIMs) – Green led defensemen in goals last season. That really shouldn’t be a shocker. He also missed 13 games due to injury, which also shouldn’t shock anybody.

“Game Over” Green rediscovered his scoring touch last season and is certainly a boon to the team’s power play. He’s also made considerable strides in his own end. He’ll never be considered a shut-down defender, but he’s serviceable in his own end, where as a younger player he was a liability.

Oates’ offense not only encourages but darn near demands that defensemen get up in the play. Green doesn’t need much enticement to do so but he should be able to flourish in this system. With a full training camp, he should be ready to go out of the gate…as long as he can stay on the ice.

Jack Hillen - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen (27, 5’10”, 190, shoots left, 23 games, 3-6-9, +9, 14 PIMs) – The stats love Jack Hillen. No the traditional ones so much, but his even strength Fenwick (differential in scoring chance opportunities) led all Caps defensemen last season. Hillen is a decent puck-moving defenseman, but his slight build and lack of upper body strength (his listed 190 lbs is more like 170, in my opinion) make him a liability defensively and injury risk pretty much any time he steps on the ice.

It’s not a sin to be a smallish defenseman. Hillen is pretty good at what he does for not much salary. He’s a pretty decent depth defenseman that can move the puck for you a little bit. And Oates used him primarily at even strength against weaker competition.

But as you’ll read below, I think the Caps have a much better option available to them that will eventually limit the amount of minutes, and ultimately, games Hillen will contribute to the Caps this season.

Tomas Kundratek makes his NHL Debut Jan. 11 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Tomas Kundratek makes his NHL Debut Jan. 11 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Tomas Kundratek (23, 6’2″, 201, shoots right, 25 games, 1-6-7, minus-5, 8 PIMs) – Kundratek was an all-star in the AHL, going 16-15-31 in 49 games for Hershey in 12-13. He hardly looked overmatched with the big club either, and could be positioning himself for good minutes with the Caps this season.

Oates almost mandates that defensemen are paired with someone with an opposite shot, so this also may help Kundratek garner ice time. As a righty, he’s obviously seeded behind Green and Carlson, somewhere alongside Oleksy.

Considering Kundratek is a vastly superior offensive contributor over Oleksy, he might seem the apparent choice for the third paring at right-handed defense. Oleksy did an admirable job last season when pressed into duty. It will be interesting to watch if the league “catches up to him” this season. It may take an injury for Kundratek to crack the lineup, at least early in the season, but his overall game should overtake the overachieving Oleksy soon enough.

Steve Oleksy (27, 6’0″, 190, shoots right, 28 games, 1-8-9, +9, 33 PIMs) – Oleksy went 2-12-14 in 55 additional games for Hershey before being recalled due to heavy injury problems along the Caps backline in the middle of last season.

Oleksy is a hard worker and has persevered through a career that saw him playing independent hockey when most guys are in the middle of their NHL careers. He’s willing to mix it up, though he didn’t do much fighting with the big club, and he’s much more rugged physically than his actual stature might suggest.

What he can’t do is move the puck. He’s brutal offensively and he’s not a very good skater. He’s a typical “effort” guy, but his pedigree suggests that he’ll be overtaken on the depth chart by Kundratek very quickly. Still, a hard worker and good guy to have as a depth defenseman.

Dmitri Orlov sporting a black eye during warmups in January 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Dmitri Orlov sporting a black eye during warmups in January 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Dmitry Orlov (22, 6’0″, 210, shoots left, 5 games, 0-1-1, +5, 0 PIMs) – Orlov went 3-14-17 in 31 games in Hershey as he made his way back from concussion symptoms. Look, here’s the thing – I love Dmitry Orlov’s game.

Orlov could end up being the best two-way defenseman this team has. In 60 games his rookie season, Orlov went 3-16-19, +1 and exhibited terrific skating skills, a good idea of when – and when not – to jump into the play, and a little bit of snarl when the situation called or it. He also has tremendous timing on the old-fashioned hip check.

The thing that might hinder Kundratek, handedness, might play in Orlov’s favor. As a lefty, only Erskine and Hillen stand in his way to playing time. He should overtake both quickly to earn second pairing status and be well on his way to being a dependable two-way defender for the Caps for many years to come.

On the farm – Cam Schilling, Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey, David Kolomatis

Redskins defense struggled to keep up with pace of Eagles revamped offense

The scene was set for drama on the national stage Monday night. Not only did the game mark the return of Robert Griffin III from offseason knee surgery for the hometown Washington Redskins, but it was also the debut for Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, straight out of the University of Oregon with his zone-read offense. 

What no one could anticipate before was that the latter was much more prepared to take the field right off the bat than the former. 

Griffin, quite famously, never played a down in the preseason as he rehabbed the reconstruction of his right knee. Kelly’s offense, not quite as prominently though just as accurately, didn’t show anything in the preseason that would indicate that his zone-read offense would not only be NFL-ready, but as devastatingly effective as it was in the first half against a Redskins defense rife with rookies, some p laying out of position due to injury need already in the young season.               

On the opening possession, the Eagles marched down the field at an unreal pace, catching the Redskins defense completely off guard in the process. Once the Eagles reached the Redskins 25 yard line, though, the Skins stepped up and made a play. Michael Vick attempted a lateral pass to running back LeSean McCoy, but defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan knocked the pass down, making the lateral a live ball. DeAngelo Hall picked up the loose football and ran it back 75 yards for a Redskins touchdown. 

The play was reviewed to ensure that it was indeed a lateral and the touchdown stood. Despite the defense being shredded during the opening drive, the Skins were able to stem the tide with the big play and open up a 7-0 lead over their division rival. 

However, that good feeling didn’t last long. 

That one play, which resulted in the defensive touchdown for the Redskins, was the only highlight – and points – the home team scored in the first half. The defense looked sloppy and undisciplined, committing unnecessary penalties and generally being run ragged by the Eagles no-huddle attack.  Add to that several missed tackles in the open field and severe breakdowns in coverage, and the recipe added up to total disaster. 

The Eagles’ high-tempo offense resulted in less substitution time – and weary defensive linemen – for the Redskins. Vick seemed to have no trouble throwing against the Redskins secondary, which was a big question mark going into the game due to starting two rookies in their first NFL game. 

At the end of the first half, the Eagles held a 26-7 lead, and it wasn’t that close. The Redskins had no answers on defense and the offense gave them no help. Griffin was rusty, throwing two interceptions. Alfred Morris fumbled twice to allow the Eagles to dominate field possession. Lack of offensive production forced the defense back on the field before they could catch their breath. 

Asked if the Eagles surprised the Redskins with their offensive attack, head coach Mike Shanahan said, “[It was] kind of what we thought. It was what they’ve done before in the past. One thing you have to be able to do is tackle McCoy. You have to tackle Vick. I thought [wide receiver DeSean] Jackson made a couple of plays in there. They out-executed us.” 

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett made some drastic adjustments at halftime in order to slow down the impressive Eagles spread offense. It helped that the Eagles seemed to let their foot off the gas in a game they were seemingly in control of, but the Skins D did make some plays that helped spark the team. 

Down 33-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, veteran cornerback Josh Wilson forced Philly wide-out Jason Avant to fumble, which set up the Redskins at the Eagles 27 yard line. The ensuing drive lasted five plays, resulting in a 10-yard touchdown throw from Griffin to Leonard Hankerson (five catches, 80 yards), his first of two scores for the evening. 

There were more bright sides. Barry Cofield, Perry Riley, and Ryan Kerrigan all had sacks. Riley finished with eight tackles, Kerrigan with seven. The defense played much better in the second half – not coincidentally when the offense picked up its game. 

However there were three players that stood out with disappointing nights. 

Rookie Baccari Rambo finished with six solo tackles and four assists. Granted, he was needed to make a lot of plays as the Redskins last line of defense as free safety, but at times he looked a step slow against the Eagles up-tempo game plan. He also had a couple of missed tackles in the open field against the shifty McCoy, which continues a pattern that plagued him in the preseason. 

Linebacker Brian Orakpo, returning from his season-ending torn pectoral muscle of last season, was not much of a factor against Jason Peters, the rather average starting left tackle for the Eagles. Most of the night, Orakpo was absent from the Eagles’ backfield. Instead, he spent much of his time trailing the play, trying to chase down Vick or McCoy from behind. 

And then there was DeAngelo Hall. 

Hall made the big play with the fumble recovery. There’s no doubting his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. There is also no doubting his penchant for making dumb mistakes and blowing coverage. The Eagles’ first touchdown was a direct result of Hall getting beat to the post by Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Hall looked like he thought help was coming from the safety, but he has to know in that situation the safety is a raw rookie. 

“[I] spoke with a couple guys back there,” Hall said. “Like I said, we’ll go back to the drawing board. I don’t even know exactly what went wrong; it was supposed to be a couple guys [on coverage]. But it is what it is. [The Eagles] came out, executed their game plan and they got a win.” 

Hall also took a personal foul penalty with a horse-collar tackle of Jackson along the sideline later in the second quarter. Jackson gained 14 yards on the play; Hall’s unnecessary penalty added 15 yards to the play, which pushed the Eagles to the Skins 31 yard line. Two plays later, Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for 28 yards to increase Philly’s lead.

Overall the performance by the Redskins defense was sub par in the first half, and clearly improvements need to be made. But they played much better in the second half, allowing just seven points, while the offense started to click and take some of the pressure off the clearly struggling-to-keep-up defense.

There will be some growing pains with the defense this season. Rambo and fellow rookies E.J. Biggers and David Amerson are all going to be counted on to play big minutes in the secondary, especially if continually injured Brandon Meriweather can’t get back on the field for the Skins. But Haslett and the defensive coaches need to figure out how to get more pressure up front to take some of the heat off the raw and inconsistent secondary.

Monday night’s first half was a perfect storm of high-level execution by the Eagles and lack of execution — and maybe a little lack of preparation — by the Redskins, especially breaking in three rookies on the back line. The Redskins defense will get better with experience. Will Chip Kelly’s offense do the same? Or will teams be able to better game plan for it now that there’s full-speed film on it? These teams match up again later in the season in what will certainly be an even more intriguing matchup.

[District Sports Page intern Brandon Enroth contributed to this article]

Washington Capitals End-of-Season Roundtable, Part V: How would you rate the defense?

With the conclusion of Washington Capitals season, too early yet again, it’s time for appreciation, evaluation and critique. In this seven part series, the Caps staff at District Sports Page, and a few friends, will be taking an in-depth look at what went right, what could be better, suggest some changes and grade out the team position-by-position.

Our panel: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief of DSP; Abram Fox, Caps Team Editor of DSP; Katie Brown, Caps Beat Writer for DSP; Sky Kerstein, 106.7 The Fan and DSP contributor; Ted Starkey, SBNation.com and DSP contributor, Adam Vingan, NBCWashington.com; and Harry Hawkings, RocktheRed.net.

PART I: What was the Capitals’ biggest accomplishment this season?

PART II: What was your biggest disappointment about the Caps this season?

PART III: What single adjustment would you advocate for next season?

PART IV: How would you rate the offense this season?

PART V: How would you rate the defense this season?

DAVE: D. I thought, pretty clearly, the blueline was the Caps’ biggest problem this season. In the very beginning everyone was a liability, including the normally stalwart Karl Alzner. I don’t know if it was adjusting to Adam Oates’ system, or the layoff from the lockout (remember, not a single member of the defensive corps played competitively during the lockout), but until about 25 games in, everyone was just getting in each others’ way, pucks were bouncing off skates into their own goal almost every night, and breakouts died in the neutral zone because no one knew what to do with the puck.

When Mike Green came back from his yearly injury absence, things got much, much better, but that because there was nowhere else to go. Green ended up leading the NHL defensemen in goals scored, but teams still keyed their forecheck on clobbering Green any chance they could. John Carlson ended up in the top five in the league in blocked shots, but according to most of the fan base he should have been a candidate to be sent back to the minors early in the season. Pundits wondered for a while, without irony, if Carlson did indeed peak in juniors. Alzner rebounded from his slow start to put together another solid defensive season and even insinuated himself in the play more often this season, and was tied for third on the in shots on goal in the playoffs. Not that Karl being third on the team in shots on goal is a good thing.

The others? A hodgepodge of has-beens, journeymen and never-weres. Tom Poti proved to the team — and probably the league — that his career has come to an unceremonious conclusion. John Erskine enjoyed something of a renaissance, but was completely exposed during the playoffs. Roman Hamrlik, employed by the Caps for a good chunk of the season, was sent packing to sit in the press box at Madison Square Garden instead of Verizon Center. The #fancystat folks loved Jack Hillen’s contribution, but it was really hard to see that translate to success on the ice, and his lack of physical stature left him open to punishment. Steve Oleksy provided some depth, but he’s a career minor league journeyman for a reason, and those reasons were evident if willing to look for them.

Dmitri Orlov and Tomas Kundratek were banished to Hershey, and for the life of me I don’t understand why, especially in Orlov’s case. But both should see plenty of time with the Caps next season.

About the only thing that was legitimately encouraging on defense this season is that Jeff Schultz, finally, took his proper place in the press box after about mid-way through the season. I fully expect the Caps to try to trade the 6’6″ liability, if not simply buy him out under the amnesty clause in the CBA.

ABRAM: 6/10. The defense gets the same rating as the offense, even though they weren’t as good, because Washington’s D corps was working with much less talent. Steven Olesky, a career minor-leaguer, became a stalwart on the back line, and Jack Hillen and John Erskine both earned a great deal more ice time than a putative playoff team would prefer. The Caps were in the bottom half of the league allowing 2.71 goals/game, and allowed a deflating 32.3 shots/game. In the playoffs the defense made a marked improvement, cutting the scoring down to 2.29 goals/game, and limited shots as well, cutting that number down to 29.3/game, fifth best in the league (though it should be noted that five of the top eight teams in that stat were also eliminated in the first round). Notably, the team’s penalty kill stepped it up in the playoffs, finishing the playoffs with a 92.9% kill rate after ending the regular season in the bottom of the league at 77.9%.

KATIE: Aside from Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson, the blue line was not stellar this season. John Erskine, who signed a contract extension this year, seemed a step or two behind or looked lost for as many times as he blocked a shot or jumped in the crease to save a flying puck. Jack Hillen rebounded from injury and proved to be reliable, and Steven Oleksy, called up from Hershey earlier in the season, provided an inspirational story and a little bit of grit. Overall, the defense wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either, so mediocre with flashes of brilliance should sum it up.


TED:B. Defensively, the Capitals are thinnest, with the top two of Mike Green and Karl Alzner being reliable, but John Carlson was wildly inconsistent this season. John Erskine and Jack Hillen weren’t really the answer, either. While Dmitry Orlov was in Hershey, the bottom end of the Capitals’ defense was part of the breakdown in the series against the Rangers.

ADAM: I’m not sure if I can simply give an entire defensive corps a grade, but I was impressed by the team’s depth. Twelve defensemen played over the course of the regular season, which at one point was a league-high. Karl Alzner and John Carlson continued to grow, while Mike Green looked like his old self again near the end of the season. Jack Hillen was solid when he wasn’t injured, and Tomas Kundratek, Dmitry Orlov, Cameron Schilling and Steven Oleksy proved that the Capitals’ blue line pipeline is strong.

HARRY: I give the defense a B-minus this year.  Mike Green, Karl Alzner, Steve Oleksy (seriously) and John Carlson all had good seasons individually but the bottom half of the defense, like Jack Hillen, John Erskine, Tom Poti, and Jeff Schultz were all inconsistent or downright bad.  The Capitals’ d-zone play never looked right all season; it seemed as though they were running around constantly and their penalty kill was 27th in the NHL at 77.9% and showed little improvement through the season.  In short, there was always an issue with the defense despite the solid play of some individuals, and unlike the offense, it didn’t get noticeably better as the year progressed.

Washington Nationals Adam LaRoche wins Gold Glove at first base

Adam LaRoche smiling at fans welcoming him back after missing a few games – Philadelphia Philles v. Washington Nationals, August 1, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche today was named the recipient of the 2012 National League Rawlings Gold Glove for first basemen. The defensive citation is the first of LaRoche’’s career.

LaRoche, who could be a free agent by week’s end, posted career high offensive numbers which could have garnered him more attention overall, allowing his defensive prowess to shine for the voters — N.L. managers and coaches. It also helps that stalwarts such as Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez now ply their trade in the other league.

LaRoche beat out last year’s winner, Joey Votto of the Reds, and Freddie Freeman of the Braves to earn his first career Gold Glove.

The hardware should be especially rewarding to LaRoche, who came back from shoulder surgery to post his finest offensive season to go along with his normally stellar defense as the 33-year old looks to sign a long-term contract. He’s sure to waive his option and test the free agent waters should he and the team fail to work out a long-term deal before he can file for free agency at the end of the week.

From the press release:

LaRoche led all National League first baggers this season in fielding percentage (.995), games started (149) and innings (1323.1). At 6.1, LaRoche also paced NL first basemen (min. 1000 innings) in Ultimate Zone Rating, a figure that blends the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in three categories: range runs, double play runs, and error runs combined. He also led the NL with 159 plays made and 38 plays made out of zone (OOZ).

LaRoche is the third Washington-based big leaguer to earn a Rawlings Gold Glove. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman earned the Nationals’ first Gold Glove in 2009, while Senators catcher Earl Battey earned the first of his three career Gold Gloves in 1960, his lone season in Washington. Rawlings established the Gold Glove in 1957 to reward defensive excellence.

Beyond his Gold Glove season in the field, LaRoche enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in 2012, hitting .271 with 35 doubles, a career-high 33 home runs, 100 RBI (tied career high) and a career-best 76 runs scored in 154 games. Louisville Slugger will announce their 2012 Silver Slugger recipients Thursday at 6 p.m. (ET) on MLB Network.

Can the Washington Redskins Defense Keep Pace With the Offense?

DeAngelo Hall contemplates the state of the defense in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. (photo Brian Murphy)

It’s like car maintenance—the minute you get one part fixed, another breaks down.

The Washington Redskins have shown they can score. The team that was 26th in the NFL in points per game last year is now first in a league—a league that still boasts Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and duos like Stafford-Johnson and Dalton-Green. RGIII’s rating is the second-best among rookie quarterbacks in the league. Alfred Morris is a keeper. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game Four Re-Cap: Holtby steals game; everyone makes sacrifices

Here’s all you need to know about how loud Verizon Center was in the waning moments of last night’s Washington Capitals 2-1 regulation win over the Boston Bruins, tying this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup at two games apiece, direct from an NHL press release:

“With 9.5 seconds remaining in the third period, there was a stoppage and resulting face-off in the Washington zone. During the stoppage, the game clock operator and Series Manager determined that 0.9 seconds should have been added to the time remaining in the third period and attempted to contact the on-ice officials to delay the puck drop to accommodate making the necessary clock adjustment to 10.4 seconds remaining.

“The off-ice officials were not able to attract the attention of the referees or linesmen despite sounding the horn, which was not audible due to crowd noise, and the puck was dropped.” (emphasis added.)

Yup. [Read more…]

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