Analysis of the Washington Mystics last six quarters indicates theoverhauled roster is starting to gel, the overall play improved.However, their last second defensive execution as in literally, the finalsecond - needs some work.The Mystics (1-3) enter Sundays road contest against the Connecticut Sun(3-1) having lost two straight games just before the game clock ran out. On Friday night, Washington led Chicago by eight points with less than threeminutes remaining and 63-58 with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Two turnoversand a missed shot later the lead was no more. With the game tied, Sky centerSylvia Fowles scored the game-winning layup with 0.2 seconds as the Mysticsfell 65-63. That stomach-punch of a setback came after Wednesday's similarly ill-fatedresult against reigning WNBA champion Minnesota. The Mystics rallied from 24points down at home and led twice in the closing minutes before allowing theLynx a put back with one second remaining.There is a positive spin to offer, especially after opening the season withtwo subpar outings even though one came in a win. The ferocious second halfrally against the Lynx nearly turned epic and the effort carried over forstretches against the Sky. Of course, so did the losing."We're getting better. We just had some breakdowns at the end of thegame, Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne told reporters following the loss tothe Sky. We were up six, eight points. We just needed to close the game atthat point but we didn't."After starting the season with a week gap between their first two games,Sundays tilt will be the Mystics third in five days. Getting Langhorne, theMystics leading scorer last season, more involved in the offense would go along way toward getting a win against the potent Sun. Last season Washington lost all four games to itsEastern Conference rival.The all-star forward scored 12 points against the Sky and has reached doublefigures in all four games this season. However, Langhornes 13.5 points pergame average is nearly five points below her 2011 average and ranks third onthe team this season.Even though the former University of Maryland star didnt pass the buckregarding her down production -things aren't going well for me Langhornesfield goal and free throw percentages are in line with her career numbers.Instead, look to her number of shots as an indicator. Last season, Langhorneaveraged 13.7 field goal attempts per game. This season, 9.5. The Sun are having no problem getting the ball to their top three scorers,all former University of Connecticut stars. Center Tina Charles averages adouble-double with 20.5 points and 11 rebounds while guard Renee Montgomery(16.3) and forward Asjha Jones (14.0) handle the perimeter production. Despite receiving 20 and 12 from Charles on Friday, the Sun fell to 85-72 athome game to the undefeated Lynx.Monique Currie, out most of the 2011 season with a knee injury, scored ateam-high 15 points against Chicago and leads Washington in scoring this seasonwith 14.3 points.
Daniel Winnik acknowledged on Saturday that he was fortunate to have avoided serious facial and/or head injuries when he was struck with a slap shot Thursday night.
Winnik’s ear, which was originally described as “missing a piece”, is actually in decent shape. In fact, there’s no visible damage or scar. Trainers, he said, used glue to close up a small laceration.
“No visible missing piece,” Winnik chuckled. “The puck hit basically half ear [or] maybe a little more ear than helmet. Very fortunate it wasn’t way worse. … When it hit me, I was like s***, this could have been a lot worse. I don’t know you if guys have ever been in the freezing cold playing around and then you get smacked in the ear. It's like that stinging, tingling, numb. That’s pretty much what it felt like for five, 10 minutes or so.”
Coach Barry Trotz echoed Winnik’s sentiments. He also took the blame for making the injury sound a lot worse than it actually was.
“It wasn’t as bad as it was first reported,” Trotz said jokingly. “Anytime you get hit in the ear with a puck, it’s going to get chewed up. I really didn’t see it before, but it’s not as bad as quoted…by me.”
Winnik also said there were no concussion concerns.
“That was probably the biggest thing I dodged, was that I didn’t have a concussion,” he said.
The Capitals fourth liner added: “It was hard to eat after the game, as well. Even opening my mouth [hurt]. When [Marcus Johansson] scored and I got up, I and gave a big, ‘Yeah.’ Then I was like, ‘Ouch, crap.’”
The injury occurred midway through the third period of the Capitals’ 4-2 win in South Florida as the visitors attempted to kill off a penalty. Winnik went down to block Reilly Smith’s point shot, but ended up getting a lot more than he bargained for.
“I was trying to block it,” Winnik explained. “Then he drags it around me and then, when he was kinda past me, I knew I had to turn my head or else it could have been a lot worse. If I didn’t turn my head, then it’s probably hitting me in the jaw or something.”
Winnik said the close call will not change his attitude on visors and/or ear protection. He’s the only Capitals player who doesn’t wear a visor. He also does not don the plastic ear tab that comes with the helmet.
“My face has been banged up a lot over the years and I still haven’t worn a visor,” he said. “I’ve probably broken my nose like 15 times or something. I just can’t wear it.”
Asked if his wife, Taylor, has urged him to wear the visor or ear tab, Winnik said: “No, she’s fine with it. We both know whenever my playing days are done I’m going to need some facial surgeries somewhere along the way.”
MORE HOCKEY: LINDSAY COLLISION HITS OF THE WEEK
Five wins in a row – it’s almost hard to fathom considering how dire the Redskins season looked after losing to the Dallas Cowboys in September dropped Washington to an 0-2 record. Now, after winning four straight, the ‘Skins are firmly back in the NFC playoff picture and have the chance to tack on another win Sunday in Detroit. The game is indoors at Ford Field so weather won’t be an issue, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., but all the coverage starts on Redskins Kickoff at noon on CSN. These are the storylines we will be watching most:
- Hit the gas – In wins over the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins got out to early 14-0 leads. Only the team then coughed up those leads, allowing both squads back into games that instead should have been blowouts. If Washington can build an early lead on the road will be a big advantage, but they need to continue to pile up points and not let the Lions hang around.
- Cage the Lions – Detroit’s offense is quite effective, in fact the Lions rank No. 12 in the NFL in points-per-game, three spots ahead of the Redskins. QB Matt Stafford is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has thrown 14 TDs through six games. The Redskins defense, however, has been nearly dominant in their last two games and hasn’t given up an offensive touchdown in the last seven quarters.
- No Reed option – Diagnosed with a concussion after the win in Baltimore, Redskins tight end Jordan Reed will miss the Lions game. He also missed the Eagles game, which saw the ‘Skins roll up nearly 500 yards of offense. Reed is a dynamic threat at tight end, but without him, veteran Vernon Davis stepped in against Philly and had two catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Losing Reed is a blow for the ‘Skins, but they should be able to continue to pile up yards and points without him.
- Statistically speaking – There is an interesting disparity looking at the Lions and Redskins offensive stats. Detroit is scoring more points than Washington, yet the Lions are gaining significantly less yards per game and yards per play. Jay Gruden’s squad ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards per play, Detroit ranks 14th. Washington is tied for 5th in yards per game, the Lions are 18th. Obviously, Sean McVay’s offense is moving the ball better than Detroit, but red zone issues have been consistent for the Redskins. The numbers point to an explosion of touchdowns, could this be the week?
- No (big) mistakes – Last week against the Eagles, the Redskins defense stifled Carson Wentz and held Philly’s offense mostly in check. The sole reason that game was close were big plays – a pick-six touchdown by Malcolm Jenkins after intercepting a Cousins pass and a kick return touchdown. Defensively, the Redskins have significantly improved at eliminating big plays. Against Detroit, special teams and the offense must focus on not giving up big plays or turning the ball over.
Numbers & Notes:
- Opposing offenses have been able to run on the Redskins, but Detroit comes into the game with just the 26th best running attack in the NFL.
- Ryan Kerrigan will make his 87th consecutive start on Sunday – tied for third most among active NFL linebackers. Kerrigan has never missed a start in his career.
- Against Philadelphia, Matt Jones ran for 135 yards, a career high, and the most Redskins rush yards since Alfred Morris went for 139 against the Vikings in November 2013.
- Dustin Hopkins has made 15 field goals this season – 1st in the NFC and tied for first in the NFL.
- On punt returns, Jamison Crowder and the Redskins are averaging 18.8 yards-per-return, which ranks 1st in the NFL.
- The Redskins offense ranks 1st in the NFL with the fewest amount of 3 & Out drives.
- If Kirk Cousins passes for 300 yards on Sunday, that will mark his 15th game with 300 passing yards, and he will take second place in Redskins history for most 300-yard games, moving past Joe Theismann.
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