The matchup: The two teams currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture also own the longest losing streaks in the WNBA. One of those skids comes to an end when the Washington Mystics travel to face the New York Liberty on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mystics (5-20) returned from the Olympic break with a slim chance at a playoff berth. Losing four straight and six of seven since has not helped their cause. Washington sits 4.5 games behind Chicago, currently the fourth and final seed, and four back of New York.The road has not been kind to the Mystics, who have dropped 12 of 13 away from the Verizon Center. However the one victory came at New York immediately before the break, a stunning 70-53 win behind 24 points from Crystal Langhorne. Since then, five straight road losses, four by at least 15 points.The Liberty (9-16), losers of three straight, committed 21 turnovers and shot 32 percent from the field in the previous loss to the Mystics. Cappie Pondexter, the WNBAs leading scorer with 20.7 points per game, averaged 23.5 points in two games against the Mystics this season including 25 in a June win at Washington.Last time out: Holding a two-point lead at halftime, the Mystics lost their way during the second half at Atlanta, outscored by the new-look Dream 51-28 over the final two quarter. Despite playing without the leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, suspended for a team violation, Atlanta gave new head coach Fred Williams his first victory by scoring 24 fast-break points compared to Washingtons eight and opening the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. We turned the ball over which led to some easy baskets for them, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. The other piece of it is we fouled and got them on the free throw line. When you play with that combination it leads to easy points for the other team.Monique Currie scored a team-high 14 points and Crystal Langhorne had 13 for the Mystics, who have lost their last three games by an average of 16.6 points.Consistent Currie: Since returning from the Olympic break, the Mystics small forward has reached double digit points in six of seven games yet did not tally more than 14 points in any game during that span. Washingtons second-leading scorer on the season (10.7) had seven such outings in 18 games before the break, including a season-high 21 points against Connecticut, but also scored in single-digit scoring seven times. Currie is averaging 11.4 points during the second half of the season along with 1.7 steals.
Washington earned its first victory of the preseason with a 4-2 win in Montreal. The Canadiens battled back from a 2-0 deficit, but Devante Smith-Pelly scored the game-winner late in the third period.
Here are the players who stood out for the Caps:
Jakub Vrana: Vrana was a factor as soon as the puck dropped. He showed good speed and created several early opportunities. He even recorded a goal as he tried to set up Evgeny Kuznetsov in the slot. The pass deflected off a defenseman’s stick and into the net. This game was a big step forward for Vrana’s chances of landing in the top-six and two steps forward for him making the team.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I would say Kuznetsov looks like a lock to make the roster. When this game started, there were times where he made everyone around him look like they were going at only half-speed.
Madison Bowey: Bowey very easily could have scored with a good early opportunity from the high-slot even if Carey Price made it look like a routine save. Even so, Bowey showed very good offensive instincts and earned an assist on Kuznetsov’s goal with the breakout pass. His defensive game was not as strong, but overall it was a good night that may have just earned him the inside track on roster spot.
Pheonix Copley: If the Capitals are considering trading Philipp Grubauer, they will have some peace of mind given how well Copley performed. He calmly stopped 21 of the 20 shots he faced with the only goal coming on a backdoor power play shot from Max Pacioretty.
Jyrki Jokipakka: Jokipakka is not just competing for playing time, he is trying to convince Washington to give him a contract. He is no closer to that goal after his performance in Montreal. The Canadiens’ forwards feasted on Jokipakka from start to finish. They were able to maneuver around him with relative ease as he over-committed on dekes and looked slow on his feet.
Penalties: Another 12 penalties. It is going to be a long, long season if this keeps up.
Jonas Siegenthaler: Overall, it was a pretty good night for the Swiss defenseman, but he tried to sit on the wrong bench and that is just embarrassing.
no worries, dude. happens to the best of us 😬 pic.twitter.com/biviRo2FEL— CSN Capitals (@CSNCapitals) September 21, 2017
MORE CAPITALS: VRANA IS TRYING TO IGNORE THE PRESSURE
Here is a recap of Jay Gruden’s press conference on Wednesday:
—The injuries are covered in a separate post here. Jordan Reed was the only non-participant. Gruden said his status is “wait and see.”
—Gruden doesn’t see them playing Chris Thompson more than they do now. He noted that in addition to being the third-down back he also returns kicks and comes in on second and long plays. “It’s important for us to keep him healthy,” said Gruden. “He’s not a guy that I personally want to give him 30 carries a game.”
—In a year, Matt Ioannidis has gone from being on the practice squad to being a key member of the defensive line. Gruden was impressed with his play against the Rams. “Against the Rams, he played very well,” he said. “He had pressured the quarterback four or five times, he hawked down Tavon Austin on a jet sweep, which was a big play on the first play of the game. If he gets out of there, it could’ve been a 70-yard touchdown.” Gruden said that work in the weight room with help from fellow DL Ziggy Hood helped in Ioannidis’ transformation.
—Gruden said that the Rams game might have been the best of Jordan Reed's career despite gaining just 48 receiving yards on six catches. “Yeah, Jordan was awesome,” he said. “I thought he had the best all-around game he’s had in a while. I think, not just route-running, but blocking. He was outstanding in blocking. Had a key block on the touchdown Chris Thompson had on the second series of the game, was physical and did a great job.”
MORE REDSKINS: FIRST LOOK AT REDSKINS VS RAIDERS
—The Su’a Cravens situation was dismissed rather quickly. The Redskins will not be adding another safety to the roster. “No, we have Fish [Smithson] already as our fifth guy on the practice squad and he’s doing a good job, so we’re OK at safety spot,” said Gruden. “As far as Su’a’ is concerned, we just have to put it behind us, move forward and let him take care of his personal life and let us take care of this season.”