PHILADELPHIA , PA - APRIL 23: Members of the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers take part in the series ending handshake as the Capitals defeated the Rangers 3-1 in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
This weeks' Chain Reactions weighs in on the Capitals playing like the top seed, the Redskins' many holes to fill this weekend, a shock to Mason Nation and Ian Desmond's much-needed day off.
This week's edition of Chain Reactions enjoys the Capitals playing like their seed in the postseason, the Redskins getting closer to filling some holes, George Mason's shocking loss of Jim Larranaga and Ian Desmond maybe needing a new position
Caps Play Like a One Seed
When it comes to playoff hockey, the New York Rangers are not the New York Islanders, and that is a really good thing if you are fan of the Capitals. There was no Easter Saturday collapse at Verizon Center. Instead, it was just a sound of the Caps 3-1 victory wrapping up the series in five games. It's time for the fans and players alike to exhale.
"There's a bit of relief," Alzner admitted. "But it is just one series, so we need to make it through the next one."
After a an epic comeback from three goals down in the legendary Madison Square Garden in Game 4, the Capitals did what you are supposed to do as a one seed. However, this is a franchise that has never done it the easy way in the postseason. The five-game series win over the Rangers is the quickest playoff series the franchise has wrapped up since 1998 (beating Ottawa in 5). Yes, the same season they made their only Stanley Cup appearance.
So the Caps now get to sit and wait to see who they will play in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The possibilities seem endless, from Buffalo to Montreal to Tampa Bay to even Pittsburgh (I know what you are thinking). Honestly, it should not matter who they play. What is more significant is the time it buys dinged up players like Mike Knuble, Dennis Wideman and Mike Green.
"Guys put everything on the line in the playoffs and there's a lot of bumps and a lot of bruises," forward Matt Hendricks said. "There's a lot of things that need rest - need ice bags, need to re-boost the energy, the psyche and everything."
So get well Caps, and bring on whoever, because odds are it will be someone the Capitals owe for a past playoff heartbreak. Well, except Buffalo.
Can the Redskins Find a Perfect 10?
On Thursday night, we will finally find out who the Redskins will add to a team that has plenty of holes to fill before the 2011 season kicks off (assuming it does). The Redskins, unlike years past, have not been able to fill many needs with free agency thanks to the stinking lockout. So what to do at 10? What do they need? Mike Shanahan says almost everything.
"Well, I think people see us and they know we could have help on the offensive line. We need some help at wide receiver, quarterback situation as well. You're always looking for that young guy that can possibly be the franchise guy. On defense, we've got [needs in] the interior defensive front, you know switching over to the 3-4. Also, the linebacker position [is a need area] as well. So there are a number of directions that we could go."
You could also add running back, cornerback and punter. Anyway, the first question is, will they stay at 10? I hope not. The best case scenario would be Julio Jones, the ultra talented wide receiver from Alabama, slipping to the Redskins' spot, causing a team to want to trade up for him. How realistic is that? Well, the Rams desperately want a big-play WR to help out Sam Bradford, and have reportedly been talking to teams about moving up.
For what it is worth, four out of the eight Mock Drafts on Nfl.com have the Redskins selecting Jones. The other four have them picking up pass-rushing defensive end Robert Quinn from North Carolina. Quinn has the athleticism that would enable him to make the switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4. The Redskins' defense definitely needs help with their pass rush, and getting a player that is a tenacious pass rusher would be a smart pick. There is no telling where Quinn would have been rated had he not been suspended for agent interaction this season, but some have suggested he was on his way to being a top-five pick.
Here is hoping the Redskins find a way to add more picks for Thursday night, as well as a player that will fill one of their many needs.
Jim Larranaga Shocks Mason Nation
So let me get this straight. The coach from the CAA that took his team to this year's Final Four is staying, and Jim Larranaga is leaving for a bigger conference school? Raise your hand if saw that coming. Sure, now we have found out there were troubles in Fairfax with the relationship we thought would last forever. Larranaga's assistants were underpaid even for CAA standards, the facility upgrades were not happening and the 61-year-old coach was ready for a change and a challenge. And, sure, more money. The magical Final Four run Larranaga led the Patriots on just five years ago led to a lot of benefits for the University when it comes to Alumni support, enrollment and exposure.
However, in the end they could not compete with the ACC cellar dweller, as President Tom O'Connor explained at the press conference.
"In all honesty, the university can only go so far with finances," O'Connor said, according to the AP. "We think we put together a very, very attractive financial compensation package. We couldn't compete with an ACC school, a big football school with its budget."
Make no mistake: going to the ACC is not a bad thing. But Larranaga went to Miami, where there are a LOT of built-in issues when it comes to basketball. He left a better program for the upside of what the ACC can bring. George Mason, if they make a good hire, can have a really good team next year and for years to come. However, you know the saying, "if its not broke don't fix it." It seems like George Mason has done that.
Ian Desmond Gets a Day Off
Ian Desmond got a mental health day as they Nationals beat the Pirates in the finale of their series in Pittsburgh. Desmond had a rough game Saturday night, committing a pair of errors and going 0 for 3. Desmond is once again piling up the errors with six, which leads the league. He also is only batting .203 and has just a .253 on-base percentage. Desmond has a lot on his mind as he is awaiting the birth of a child too, so don't read too much in the day off.
"I would think that he's got a lot going on in his mind. Sometimes, when you're not getting your hits, you get a couple errors accumulated, it can get in your head a little bit. We're just going to give him a break today."
Manager Jim Riggleman did defend one of Desmond's errors.
"He's taking one for the team there," Riggleman said. "A fast runner is going to second. There's probably no play there. Instead of giving up on the play, he tried to be extremely quick, slap a tag down. In the process, he gets charged with an error. He could have just played it safe, caught the ball, doesn't get charged with an error. He kind of tried to save us there out of a situation."
The Nats are clearly backing their guy and will continue to do so. However, if the struggles in the field continue, there will be plenty of chatter about whether the Nats have the right players in the right position in the middle of their infield. Keep in mind: Danny Espinosa is also a natural shortstop who was asked to make the move to second.