Washington Capitals

Take two: Turnover-plagued Mystics readying for Shock

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Take two: Turnover-plagued Mystics readying for Shock

Losing the season opener at home is one thing.Losing because of a steady and at times voluminous amount of miscues is quite another for the retooled Washington Mystics.Really just silly turnovers. Not reading the defense, rushing with the basketball, not making good decisions, said Mystics coach Trudi Lacey, reflecting about what went wrong in game one of the 2012 season.In her dual role as general manager, Lacey overhauled the roster after a trying 6-28 campaign, adding seven new players.It could be a product of so many new faces, people coming late to or missing training camp. Doesnt really matter, said Lacey following Thursdays practice. Weve worked on that and hopefully we are able to read each other better and read defenses.All those mistakes led to being on the wrong end of a 29-8 first half run which put the Mystics into a 13-point halftime hole. A third quarter rally pulled them close. A fourth quarter fade did not.We werent jelling enough I think, said All-Star forward Crystal Langhorne, who led the Mystics with 16 points and eight rebounds against the Sky, but also committed four turnovers. There were a lot of turnovers; unforced, not knowing where people would be. We really cleaned that up this week, worked on our offense.Beyond their offensive miscues, the Mystics allowed the Sky to shoot 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from long range.I was disappointed in our 3-point field defense, Lacey said. We had gotten better in those areas during preseason and then in the first game we got away from that and it cost us.Last season injuries exposed an inexperienced roster that frequently wilted late in games so Lacey traded for and signed veteran players. That steady presence was lacking in the opener.Thats why I brought experienced players in, to avoid the mental mistakes and lack of focus, said a critiquing Lacey, before letting her usual optimistic demeanor seep out.
Saturday, I expect it to be so much better.Thats when the Mystics face the Tulsa Shock (0-2), owners of the WNBAs worst record last season. Thats also when guard Matee Ajavon returns to game action. Washingtons second leading scorer last season practiced fully this week after missing the opener and most of training camp with a sore knee. Shes back to 100 percent, Lacey said. She adds so much to us. She plays both sides of the ballShes a competitor. Its been really good to have her out there this week.Ajavon scored 21 points in Washingtons win over Tulsa last season. The teams split the two-game season series, winning on their respective home courts.Lacey would not commit to putting Ajavon immediately back in the starting lineup - newcomers Noelle Quinn and Natasha Lacy started in the backcourt against Chicago - but said the slashing scoring threat will definitely be on the floor, I can guarantee that.The latest game will also be the second of three straight home dates for the Mystics. With two more games at home, we really need to get our wins before we start going on the road next month, Langhorne said. After the homestand, the Mystics will play five of seven away from the Verizon Center.It may be only game two of the 34-game regular season, but that opening performance, the upcoming schedule and wanting to move on from last seasons woes makes Saturdays tilt no ordinary second game.Were looking at this like its a must win, Langhorne said.

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Jakub Vrana looks every bit the NHLer

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USA TODAY Sports

Thumbs up, thumbs down: Jakub Vrana looks every bit the NHLer

 

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:

Thumbs up

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.

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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. 

Thumbs down

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.


MORE CAPITALS: VRANA IS TRYING TO IGNORE THE PRESSURE

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Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

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Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

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.”

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—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.”

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.