Thumb injury keeps Bryce Harper out of game against Mets


Thumb injury keeps Bryce Harper out of game against Mets

Nationals manager Davey Johnson advised Bryce Harper to stay home rather than make the trip to Port St. Lucie for this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets. So, the star left fielder nursing a swollen left thumb stayed behind. More from Johnson, via’s Joey Nowak: “I took him out after two…

McCloughan may use extra 2017 picks to deal for players this year


McCloughan may use extra 2017 picks to deal for players this year

Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows by executing draft trades that got the Redskins three picks in the 2017 NFL draft. He says he did it in part with the 2017 draft in mind. But he also wanted some trade assets should any needs arise this coming season.

“A lot of people don’t want to do it because it’s not immediate impact,” McCloughan said at a news conference at Redskins Park. “‘Well, that’s next year. What about this year?’ Coaches want this year, which I understand completely. But what it gives me the opportunity to do is not just worry about next year’s draft and trading up and that kind of stuff, but this offseason and during the season trading. We’ve got multiple picks now.”

So if the Redskins find themselves in need of a player at any point between now and the trading deadline, which falls in early November, they have spare picks in the next draft to be able to do so.

The Redskins acquired 2017 picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. They traded away their own 2017 fifth-rounder last summer for tight end Derek Carrier. They currently have nine 2017 selections, one in each of the seven rounds plus two in the fourth and two in the sixth.

The deal that made some fans moderately unhappy was the one McCloughan made the Jets to give them a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2017. But it’s clear that McCloughan didn’t see much value on his board at that point in time.

“Well, the thing about it was if I was dead set on the guys on the board at that pick, I would have taken them,” said McCloughan. “But knowing I can get a fourth next year for them and knowing that it gives me ammunition to trade around too later if need be this year or next year? Yeah, it’s valuable.”

Alex Ovechkin: Penguins 'Don't like to play physical'


Alex Ovechkin: Penguins 'Don't like to play physical'

PITTSBURGH -- Maybe the Capitals know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe they believe they have the Pittsburgh Penguins right where they want them as they head into Game 4 of their best-of-seven series trailing two games to one.

That’s certainly how it sounded inside the visiting locker room of Consol Energy Center Monday night following the Caps’ 3-2 loss in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series. 

“We played the way we wanted,” Capitals right wing Tom Wilson said. “A couple bad breaks ended up in our net. That’s the way the games go sometimes. I think if we play like that we’re going to give ourselves a chance. If we keep that up, keep working hard, getting pucks in and playing smart and disciplined, they better watch out because that’s a good Caps team (they’re facing).

“… We’re rallying. It almost woke us up a little bit. We haven’t really trailed in a playoff series this year.”

In fact, the Capitals haven’t trailed in a playoff series since Round 1 of last year’s playoffs when they split the first two games at home against the New York Islanders, lost Game 3 on Long Island, and won three of the final four games to clinch the series in seven games. 

“Our Game 3 (Monday night) reminded me a lot of our Game 3 in the Island last year,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It took us a couple games to find our game and when we found our game I thought we were good. I’ve got a little bit of the same feeling. We still have some improvement in our game, but that’s our game.”

What, exactly, does Trotz mean by “our game?”

Let’s start with physicality. 

Led by Alex Ovechkin and (who?) Marcus Johansson – each with nine hits – the Capitals outhit the Penguins 58-25 Monday night, with 17 of their 18 skaters getting into the act. (Justin Williams was the only Capitals skater without a recorded hit).

Through three games of this series, the Capitals have delivered 132 body checks on the Penguins, who have answered with just 75. Now, one reason for that disparity could be the Penguins having more puck possession than the Capitals, but it’s clearly the intent of the Caps to wear down the Penguins and get this series to a sixth and seventh game. 

“We set the tone and we left a message,” said Ovechkin, who has delivered a team-high 21 hits in this series and ranks first in the NHL with 49 playoff hits. 

“You can’t win all four games in a row. You have to fight through it. We left a message (in Game 3), big time. We have to play physical. Not them. Those guys don’t like to play physical. Obviously, their D is not that physical enough. We’re big, we’re strong and we have to use it. I think we dominated the whole game and this is the kind of situation where you battle through it and sooner or later it’s gonna come.”

But the Capitals also must understand they can’t body check pucks into the net. Penguins goaltender Matt Murray has been his team’s best player in all three games of this series, allowing just seven goals on 108 shots. Conversely, Braden Holtby has allowed eight goals on 103 shots.   

Ovechkin said he thought the Caps made better decisions with the puck in Game 3, allowing them to get on the forecheck and get some screens in front of Murray.

“We used the middle (of the ice) a lot,” Ovechkin said. “We had plenty of chances to score. We had like 50 shots (49). You can see if we shoot the puck and one guy stands there it’s a good sign for us. Sometimes you have to fight through it and we did.”

Surprisingly, both teams have struggled on the man-advantage in the series, with the Caps going 1-for-10 and the Penguins going 0-for-10.

If the series can be decided on 5-on-5 play, the Capitals believe they have the advantage, especially if the Penguins are without defenseman Kris Letang for a game or two. 

“In order to win a seven-game series you have to make sure you have that (dominance) every single game,” Holtby said. “Sometimes the pucks aren’t going to go your way. That’s hockey. That’s life in general. We have to come back the next game and have the same effort, the same focus.”

And if they do, the Caps like their chances.

“It’s not always going to be roses and grapes all the time,” said Williams, who netted his first playoff goal for the Capitals late in Game 3. “You’re going to have to battle through bad calls, bad breaks, everything. It’s playoff time. 

“… Excuses are for losers and we’re not losers and we’re going to try and be even better in Game 4 and improve our game.”

McCloughan reveals where the Redskins will line up Cravens in base defense


McCloughan reveals where the Redskins will line up Cravens in base defense

When the Redskins draft Su’a Cravens in the second round, they told him that he would be a nickel outside linebacker. But his jersey number is 36, which is not a linebackers number; it is the number that safety Sean Taylor wore during his rookie year. And he was listed on the roster as a safety.

When speaking to the media yesterday, Scot McCloughan was still unsure what meeting room Cravens would sit in. Apparently the situation has been clarified. This morning McCloughan said that Cravens will play strong safety in the Redskins’ base defense.

“I think he’ll come in as a strong safety,” McCloughan told Mike Florio on PFT Live. “We’ll put him in that room first.”

The fact that they will start him off at safety, however, does not mean that they will not take advantage of his versatility.

“As you’re well aware, he has the ability to play outside backer,” said McCloughan. “The thing we’re excited about . . . is pass rush ability. We see him, in base, probably being a strong safety, in sub, be an outside backer, even play him at inside linebacker in sub.”

McCloughan sees Cravens as a player who can become a playmaker on a defense that doesn’t have many players like that.

“He’s a good football player, you know, he’s instinctive. Day 1, he talked into USC, starting making plays,” he said. “Again, he’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest, he’s not the quickest but he makes plays. He’s got instincts. That’s what you look for on Sundays.”