The matchup: The matchup: In their final game before the month-long Olympic break, the Mystics rocked The New York Liberty on their home court. Since then, Washington has struggled mightily to win anywhere.The Mystics (5-24) look to snap an eight-game losing streak and win only their second road game of the season Wednesday in Newark, where the Liberty (12-17) are playing their home games this season. Based on how the team has played during the second half of the season and particularly during the past two games, which sounds like a daunting task. Washington lost to Los Angeles and Atlanta by an average of 26.5 points and dropped seven of 10 post-Olympic games by at least 12 points.Cappie Pondexter, the WNBA's third leading scorer with 20.3 points per game, leads a Liberty squad tied with Chicago for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. New York, coming off an upset win over Los Angeles, has taken two of three against Washington this season, including a 79-73 revenge home victory on Sept. 1 behind 20 points from Essence Carson and 16 by Pondexter. Washington committed 17 turnovers.In the recent meeting Monique Currie scored 20 points and Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leading scorer and rebounder on the season, had 19 points and 8 rebounds. After Wednesday's meeting the teams will wrap up the season series Sunday at the Verizon Center.Last time out: Just when it appeared things could not get worse for the Mystics, coming off a 28 point home loss to the Sparks, Washington endured a 93-68 beating by Atlanta on Sunday. The Dream shot 58 percent from the field while holding the Mystics, the WNBAs lowest scoring team, to a 36.5 percent clip (23 of 63). Crystal Langhorne and Noelle Quinn each scored 12 points for the Mystics, who once again coughed away possession after possession, committing 17 turnovers. Langhorne loves Liberty: The 6-foot-2 power forwards scoring has dipped this season over her previous campaign for the first time during her five-year WNBA career but thats certainly not been the case against New York. After posting a career-high 18.2 points per game in 2011, Langhorne is averaging 15.3 points despite shooting a robust 56 percent from the field. Some blame lies with her free throw shooting; the former University of Maryland star is making only 64.3 percent of her attempts, Langhornes lowest since her rookie season. Against the Liberty, the points are flowing. Langhorne has twice scored 24 points and is averaging 22.3 points in three games against New York this season while making 9 of 11 free throws (81.8 percent).
The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign. The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.
Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.
Today's move: Trading for Lars Eller
Throughout the playoff series against Pittsburgh, one thing was abundantly clear: the Caps needed more scoring depth in the bottom six.
The Caps have the skill to match any team in the NHL on the top two lines, but it was the Penguins’ third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel that truly tipped the scales in their favor.
No other team had that kind of scoring depth.
In their never-ending quest for the Stanley Cup, the Caps needed more offense from their bottom two lines.
Jay Beagle played well last season and though he wants to play on the third line, he’s a better option on the fourth. If given the choice between an average third line center or a great fourth line center, the choice is clear. Strengthen the fourth line and bring in someone who can bolster the third.
Brian MacLellan did just that by trading for Lars Eller.
Eller’s time in Montreal got off to a rocky start as he was traded from St. Louis to the Canadiens in the deal that sent hero netminder (and Capitals' playoff nemesis) Jaroslav Halak out of Montreal. He then had to deal with a constantly changing offensive lineup that at times saw him frequently matched with different linemates.
There were even times he moved from center to wing.
Despite flashes of brilliance, Eller has tallied 30 points only once in his career and has never scored more than 16 goals in a season. Yet, his offensive production is still better than that of Beagle and it should go up with a better offensive lineup and the stability he should get in Washington. He is also a very good possession player and managed to maintain solid possession numbers in Montreal despite shuffling through linemates.
Eller’s highlights and stats seem to tell two different stories.
When you watch him, he looks like a 20 goal scorer. It’s surprising that he hasn’t had more offensive production given his talent, but that may have a lot to do with the instability of Montreal’s lineup.
Washington will be different. Eller was brought in to be the third line center and, barring injury, that’s exactly what he will be. The lines will shuffle now and again with the normal ups and downs of an 82 game season, but he will see more stability in Washington than he ever had in Montreal. He will certainly not be asked to play wing any time soon.
Eller is an offensive threat with fantastic stick-handling abilities. He drives possession and has good positioning even without the puck on his stick. He checks off every box on the Caps’ wish list but two: speed and cost.
It would not be fair to call Eller slow, but no one would say that Eller has blazing speed either. Heading into the offseason, the Caps wanted to get faster in response to the speed they saw from Pittsburgh. Eller does not make them a faster team.
That’s not the end of the world. The Caps are clearly a better team offensively with Eller on the third line and Beagle on the fourth. What really bumps this grade down, however, is what it cost to get him.
Two second-round draft picks is high for a player you’re planning on plugging into the third line. Montreal didn’t help matters by trading for Andrew Shaw on the very same day for the exact same cost, two second-round draft picks.
As good as Eller is and as good as he will be with the Caps, Shaw is better and younger. Eller’s cost seemed high initially and that was confirmed by the fact that the same price netted Montreal and even better return.
No one will care about those draft picks if Eller proves to be the key piece in a Capitals Cup run, but that loss will sting the next two years come draft time.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t more concerned about his post-career health, despite suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.
A number of NFL players retired at a relatively young age during the offseason, including Flacco’s former teammate, Eugene Monroe.
Flacco will obviously be set financially to retire whenever he chooses.
However, Flacco has talked about wanting to play into his 40’s, and nothing has changed.
“I’ll worry about running around with my kids when I’m 50, when I’m 50,” said Flacco, who is 31. “I don’t have to worry about it right now. The main reason I’m going to be able to enjoy running around with my kids is because of what I do. If at some point the games take that away from me, then so be it. I don’t anticipate that happening, and I’ll do everything in my power to keep that from happening. But my kids will eventually understand. I’ll get somebody to run around with them.”
Flacco said he might be looking forward to this year’s training camp more than most.
“Does it feel a little bit different?”, Flacco asked. “Yes, because I haven’t been out here for awhile.”
Most football players never publicly admit that returning from an injury limits their play. The rehab requires such a commitment, both physically and mentally, that top athletes have to believe healthy is healthy.
Ryan Kerrigan fits that mold. Last year, the Redskins linebacker had offseason knee surgery and then suffered a broken hand during the season. Despite the setbacks, Kerrigan started all 16 games for Washington. More impressively, he still logged 9.5 sacks and 33 tackles. In 2014, however, Kerrigan recorded 13.5 sacks and 51 tackles.
A year remved from the tough 2015 offseason, Kerrigan opened up a little bit about what last season was like.
"Last year, coming off an injury is a funny thing," he said Tuesday. "While I was technically healthy, you’re not as strong."
Kerrigan explained that some of his muscles atrophied after the surgery, and regaining that strength takes time. Going through that last year, and a healthy offseason this summer, leaves the veteran excited for this fall.
"I'm really excited about this season having not had any offseason surgeries," he said. "I'm hoping for bigger and better things."
With the loss of Junior Galette, better things from Kerrigan could be a big help for the Redskins. Washington's defense should be improved with the addition of cornerback Josh Norman, but much will be needed from Kerrigan and second-year man Preston Smith. If Kerrigan can get his sack total up, say to 12 or more, that would offset some of the set back from Galette's injury.
What do you think - can Kerrigan get to 10 sacks? 12 sacks? More? Let us know in the comments.