Capitals fall to Lighting in Round Robin shootout

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photos/Washington Capitals

WASHINGTON — With NHL hockey back after a four-and-a-half-month absence, the Washington Capitals entered the 24-team postseason expansion as one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference.

Along with the Capitals, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Philadelphia Flyers are the other three teams participating in the seeded round robin tournament format to determine the top four Eastern Conference teams’ final seedings.

On Monday, Washington played its first actual game since March, as they faced the Lightning in a very competitive hockey game, with the match needing a shootout to settle the difference as Tampa Bay won 3-2.

“At the start, we tried to set the tone,” said Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin. “We played off our lines to play physical. Obviously, we didn’t get lots of chances, but we tried to find our way.”

The match involved solid puck play and goaltending from both teams, as the Lightning struck first at 7:08 in the first period when Nikita Kucherov fired a shot from the left circle into the top right corner of the net past Washington goalie Braden Holtby.

Washington Captials goalie Braden Holtby attempts to make a save during a match against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Courtesy photo.

Tampa Bay then took a 2-0 lead with 12:12 left in the second period when Mitchell Stephens deflected the puck into the net off an assist from Ryan McDonagh.

Late in the period, the Caps began to rally back when a long shot and a couple of bounces landed the puck deep in the crease and in front of the net, as Richard Panik was able to tip the puck in before Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy could cover it up.

Then with under a minute left in the middle frame, Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov fired a shot from the point that bounced through Vasilevskiy’s legs to the side of the net, with Evgeny Kuznetsov right at the doorstep to knock the puck in to tie the game up at 2-2.

The third period involved many scoring chances, but tough defense and goaltending resulted in the contest remaining tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation.

While the best-of-five qualifying round is the same format as playoff overtime, the round robin OT is the same format as regular season overtime, with a five-minute three-on-three OT period and shootout if necessary.

Both two teams couldn’t settle it in five minutes, which led to a shootout. Washington had a golden opportunity to win it on a Jakub Vrána breakaway, but Vasilevskiy stopped his shot.

T.J. Oshie scored the first goal of the shootout for the Caps, but when Kucherov and Brayden Point added two tallies for the Lightning. Nicklas Backstrom needed a goal to keep hope alive and couldn’t, resulting in the 3-2 loss.

One crucial stat for the Capitals that may have hurt their chances was suffering from 13 giveaways, while the Bolts only had five.

Despite this, Washington outshot Tampa Bay by the count of 33-28, while Holtby looked strong in net as he notched 26 saves.

“We weren’t expecting perfection in this game,” said Holtby. “But the important part is I think the first part of the periods, they got some action and we didn’t panic, and we were ready to shift.”

The Capitals’ next Round Robin matchup will be Thursday, August 6th, when they face the Metropolitan Division rival Flyers.

Wizards falter against the Pacers, Warren shines

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photo/Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON – Despite scoring in double-figures again (20 points), and pulling down 11 rebounds, Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant with assistance from Jerome Robinson (17 points) attained another loss.

The Wizards ultimately fell to 0-3 in the bubble following a 111-100 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

Just two nights after scoring a career-high 53 points Saturday in a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, T.J. Warren followed up with 34 points and 11 rebounds in the win.

University of Virginia grad Malcolm Brogdon had a masterful performance as well (20 points, seven rebounds, six assists). Aaron Holiday and Myles Turner (nine rebounds) scored 17 points apiece.

Despite having trouble getting into a rhythm offensively, the Wizards showed off the resiliency that’s become their trademark since the contests regained their significance.

The case was evident with Robinson coming off the bench and not hesitating to shoot while creating his own opportunities. As his minutes rose, so did his confidence.

Troy Brown was a prime example too, rising to the occasion when given the opportunity. The third-year guard stuffed the stat sheet once again with 10 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and as a reward, was placed at the point guard spot down the stretch.

Washington Wizards guard Troy Brown in action during a match against the Indiana Pacers in Orlando, Florida on Monday. Courtesy photo.

“I think we were down 13 or 14 points with five minutes and (we) just wanted to get a different look,” Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “Thought it was good, we played with a lot of desperation.”

The same thing occurred with Bryant, who is shooting the ball well and isn’t thinking twice about making his defender pay when they sag off him. Operating at a high level offensively, he’s also engaged defensively, who blocked three shots and altered many others at the rim.

“That energy is what we need,” Brown said. “He’s out there being vocal and just being Thomas Bryant, that’s what everybody knows him as and so to see him out there playing well and being the player he is, I think we’re all happy to see that. At the end of the day, we just gotta come out and win games, make sure we’re doing our jobs.”

All these factors contributed to the Wizards being able to hold a 38-31 lead in the second quarter. The only issue was not having an elite go-to scorer like Bradley Beal or a floor stretching sharpshooter like Davis Bertans (the Wizards top two scorers).

Indiana reeled off a 20-2 run, but Robinson stopped the bleeding with a 16-foot pull-up jumper to give Indiana a one-possession lead. However, Indiana wasn’t finished scoring eight more unanswered points and using that momentum to carry a nine-point lead going into the second half.

“I would say it’s more so of the communication side of things,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, we’re all NBA players and (the Pacers) aren’t running any crazy offense or anything ridiculous and so at the end of the day we gotta communicate and make sure we know when we’re switching and just having each other’s back is the biggest thing.”

It was more of the same for Indiana, who had a dominating 16-point quarter from Warren. That boost wasn’t met without any resistance as Washington clawed it’s way back to 68-66 deficit after Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:25 left in the third quarter.

After Turner responded with a dunk of his own after slipping past three defenders, Ish Smith (12 points, four assists) committed a costly turnover that sparked a 10-0 run; eight points coming from Warren.

That sequence included an and-one fadeaway from Warren, who converted despite hand fighting with Robinson, who was draped all over him.

Warren’s push helped the Pacers gain a 20-point edge going into the final quarter, but the resilient Wizards weren’t done fighting.

Once again, Washington climbed it’s way back from a double-digit hole in the second half after Robinson drilled another mid-range pull-up jumper to make it 102-93.

Robinson tore through the Pacers defense in the final quarter, scoring 16 of his 17 when it mattered the most.

“We got to get some shots to fall consistently,” Brooks said. “We don’t want just a guy taking shots. We want a guy making shots, and he’s going to have to start making them,” Brooks said. “I like him getting good looks, he’s moving, he’s hustling, scrambling. Some of these shots are going to have to fall; otherwise, we’re going to have to do some other things.”

As always, the Pacers had an answer, relying on stifling defense and some clutch offense from Brogden and Holiday to close the game out.

Washington looks to rebound tomorrow at 4 p.m. when they play the 76ers. The Pacers win puts them just a game behind the Miami Heat for the fourth seed, with their next game coming up Tuesday against the Orlando Magic.

Redskins Rant – A Storm is Brewing

Redskins Rant – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

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The Washington Football Team will be the temporary name moving into the upcoming regular season. Courtesy photo

Washington football team to retire Redskins name

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr.

WASHINGTON – After decades of controversy, protests and calls for change, the Washington Redskins name will finally be retired. The team, which has maintained its name since 1933, released a statement on Monday that it would change its name and logo.

Although a new name has not yet been revealed, team owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera will be working closely to rebrand the franchise.

The shift for the franchise to change its name comes just weeks after pressure from more than 80 shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, asked that Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo end their relationships with the Washington football team if it did not change its name.

Subsequently, on July 2, FedEx Corporation, who owns the naming rights to the franchise’s stadium, requested that the Redskins change the name. Shortly after, Nike stopped selling “Redskins” products on its website.

The Washington football team also received pressure from the federal government. The area surrounding RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., has been considered atop the team’s list for a new site, but the federal government owns the land.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who oversees the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service, which owns the land in which RFK sits, objected to the Redskins moving to the site as long as the moniker remained unchanged.

“The time [for the name] has ended,” Grijalva told the Washington Post. “There is no way to justify it. You either step into this century, or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.” 

As a result of the pressure from high-profile entities, the team began reviewing its name on July 3 before releasing a name change statement on Monday.

The eventual call for the name-change comes as a shift from the owner’s previously defiant position.

“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER-you can use all caps,” Snyder said in 2013.

Native American leaders, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez shared support of the Washington football team, removing its controversial name but credited the change to the relentless work of Indigenous people rather than the team’s owner.

In a statement, Nez also said the team should consider the name “Code Talkers” to honor the Navajo Code Talkers and other groups who used language as a strategy in World War II.

Whether the team chooses the “Code Talkers” name or opts for another monicker, change is on the Washington team’s horizon, which has long been in the heat of criticism from Native American communities.

As early as 1972, a delegation of 11 people representing a variety of Indigenous groups met with then-Redskins President Edward Bennett Williams to request the football team derogatory name. Still, the name stayed the same.

As recently as 2014, Indigenous leader Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation requested that FedEx distance its ties with the football team, but to no avail.

A general view of the Washington Redskins logo at FedEx Field. Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./The Sports Pulse.

Despite the franchise’s historical lack of change over previous decades, the recent outcry for a new name to the Washington football team comes at a time of social and cultural transition for the nation.

In the months of protests since the death of George Floyd, major corporations have endured increased scrutiny after public pressure.

Food brands Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s announced intentions of changing their names. Within the realm of sports, the Minnesota Twins removed a statue of former racist owner Calvin Griffith and NASCAR banned the Confederate flags from races.

While the Redskins are the most blatant and controversial sports team names directed at Native American people, Washington’s name change may be the first of many. The Cleveland Indians have begun reviewing ways to change its name, and the Atlanta Braves are examining the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ ritual.

Redskins Rant – The podcast formerly known as Redskins Rant

Washington Redskins helmet. Courtesy photo.

Note* Washington Redskins announced retirement of team name prior to show recording.

Redskins Rant – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

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Washington, D.C. launches bid for 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor 

WASHINGTON – Before a ball is kicked in the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, Washington, D.C. formally announced its bid to host matches in the next edition of the tournament in 2026. 

The District will compete with 16 other cities vying for 10 spots to represent the United States as hosts for the 2026 World Cup.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said with all the problems the country is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s bid’s announcement gives people something to look forward to in the future.  

“And when the tournament comes to North America, it only makes sense for D.C. — the Sports Capital and District of Champions — to host,” Bowser said. “We are already a city united by the game, and in 2026, we look forward to uniting the world.”

Events DC Spokesperson Ashley Forrester said FedExField, the home stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, is the proposed venue for matches. 

The Landover, Maryland stadium hosted five games of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and arranged several high-profile friendlies featuring European and international teams. FedExField’s current capacity is listed at 82,000. 

The city’s proposal also features Audi Field, D.C. United’s new stadium, as one of World Cup teams’ training sites. Other practice locations include The Fields at RFK Campus, Trinity University and the Maryland SoccerPlex. 

D.C.’s RFK Stadium, which hosted soccer matches in the 1992 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics, was not a part of the bid as it is set to be demolished in 2021

In their announcement, the District boasts its experience in hosting events averaging over 20 million visitors a year. The city hopes its existing infrastructure of over 31,000 hotel rooms in the city, alternative transportation options (Metro bus and Rail), and access to three major international airports within an hour of the city’s center will help its chances in hosting tournament matches. 

Events DC Chairman Max Brown said the World Cup would serve as an “economic driver” for the city’s future with an estimated impact of $500 million and the creation of approximately 3,500 jobs.

The bid will face stiff challenges from other metropolitan areas, such as New York and Los Angeles, and local opposition as Baltimore is also in the running

The bid features four co-chairs with city ties, including Mark Ein, founder and CEO of Capital Investment Corporation and organizer of the Citi Open tennis tournament in Rock Creek Park. 

Other advisory board members include celebrity chef José Andrés, retired U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper, Brianna Scurry, D.C. United CEO Jason Levien and Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan. 

“I could not think of a more vibrant, inclusive, or passionate soccer city to host FIFA World Cup matches in 2026,” D.C. United goalkeeper and Bid Co-Chair Bill Hamid said. 

“With our deep soccer roots and diversity, the culture of our city gives us our foundation to successfully highlight the matches and leave a lasting impact on the future of the game.” 

Redskins Rant – Remembering Boss Hog, Asante Samuel bashes Redskins legend on social media

Redskins Rant – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

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The Wizards Junkies – Breaking down the Bubble with the Wizards

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Washington Mystics show off championship rings

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – As the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) anticipates a late-July return to action, the defending champion Washington Mystics came together on Sunday to honor their historic 2019 season. 

After an eight-month hiatus from basketball, the Mystics received their rings at the private ceremony at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.

“Our season was historic, extending beyond the records they broke along their journey,” said Mystics managing partner Sheila C. Johnson. “This ring represents the leadership of Coach Mike Thibault, the resilience of our team – who kept their promise to #RunItBack, on the court, and in our community – and a season that Mystics fans will always cherish.”

The rings, which were crafted by Jostens, consist of 120 diamonds, 35 rubies and 23 sapphires in 10-karat white gold. The Mystics DC logo and the WNBA Championship trophy sit on top with a half dozen custom-cut sapphires and six custom-cut rubies to represent the 12-player roster and a single round sapphire to symbolize head coach, Mike Thibault. 

The left side features the players’ last names and jersey number, while the right side spells out “RUN IT BACK” and the team’s 26-8 record from the 2019 season. The interior of the ring includes playoff scores and logos of opponents.

Staying unique to the nation’s capital, the ring also features District landmarks such as the Washington Monument, Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as symbols to represent the team’s home location in Ward 8.

“You’d think it would be loud, but we were all kind of quiet because we were all just taking in the moment and just studying the rings,” said Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne. “They’re absolutely beautiful.”

Choosing to receive the rings at a private event, the Mystics are not the only DMV team celebrating a championship season. The Washington Nationals, who initially planned on a virtual ring ceremony in May, instead chose to postpone the event for a later, more physical reunion. 

In the Mystics case, collectibles are available for purchase on the Josten website with prices ranging from $29 for a Championship Key Ring to nearly $9,000 for a Limited Edition Ring.

Winning their first championship in their 22-year history, the Mystics sparked a high-octane offense, leading the WNBA with 89.3 points per game and 21.9 assists per game. Delle Donne won her second career MVP award during the 2019 season, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. Four other Mystics also averaged double figures for the season.

As the Mystics aim to run it back in 2020, they will be hurdling several losses to the roster, including Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders, who have opted out of playing this season. Additionally, Kristi Toliver and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough have moved on to the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury, respectively.

Taking their place will be former number one pick and 2012 MVP, Tina Charles, former number two selection, Alaina Coates, 30-year-old rookie Shey Peddy and veteran Essence Carson. 

In the adjusted season, which has been shortened from 36 to 22 games, the WNBA teams will spend the entirety of the 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Nationals announce Player Pool, Zimmerman will not join team for 2020 season

Zimmerman and Ross will not join team in 2020 season

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Last October, in what now feels like a millennia ago, the Washington Nationals brought the first World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital since 1924 after defeating the Houston Astros. 

Two hundred forty-five days since that historic Game 7 victory, the Nationals are finally back in town in the Navy Yards neighborhood, although under seemingly unprecedented circumstances. 

As we enter July, in what is typically the midway point of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, players, coaches and staff throughout the league are reporting to their respective ballclubs. 

In an agreement made last week between MLB and the league’s players association, teams will report to an abbreviated “spring” training at their home facilities by July 1, start workouts on July 3 and begin the 60-game regular season on July 23 and 24. 

Before this hiatus from baseball, major league teams had begun spring training in Florida and Arizona before play came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the abbreviated training period in July, teams are limited to a 60-player pool competing for 30 spots on the Opening Day roster.

The Nationals unveiled their 60-man pool on Sunday, which featured 36 pitchers, six catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.

While the Nationals will open the regular season with up to 30 players, each team must cut the active roster down to 28 players two weeks into the season. After another two weeks, rosters will be cut again to 26 players for the remainder of the season.

Players who are removed from the active roster may stay in game shape at the Alternate Training Site, which will likely be the closest minor league facility; Fredericksburg (High-A) will likely serve as the Nationals’ alternate site.

Among roster changes and a shortened season, MLB is also adding a universal designated hitter, a player automatically at second base during extra innings during the regular season and an August 31 trade deadline before the regular season concludes on September 27. 

Of the 60 games, 40 will be divisional, and 20 will be interleague. Additionally, to limit any semblance of contact, spitting on the field will be prohibited.

Unlike the NBA, where players will be secluded in a central location, MLB teams are expected to travel. In the event that a player contracts the novel coronavirus, he will be placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which does not have a specific time length. The player must test negative twice and show no fever for 72 hours before returning to the ballclub.

Players can opt-out of the season, but only those who are medically certified as “high risk” can receive full prorated salaries.

Since the announcement of the player pool, at least two notable Nationals players have chosen to forgo commitments to the upcoming season.

Ryan Zimmerman announced on Monday that he would opt out of playing the 2020 season, citing family circumstances as the deciding factors. Zimmerman, 35, will forgo his $6.25 million salary (which would have been about $2.3 million in prorated pay for 60 games) but says he has no plans on retiring from the sport.

Pitcher Joe Ross, who was in line to be the Nationals fifth starter, is also opting out of the 2020 season.

Despite the loss of Zimmerman and Ross for the season, many of the spots on Nationals Opening Day roster are all but certain, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances.

Starting Pitchers

  • Max Scherzer
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Anibal Sanchez

Relief Pitchers

  • Sean Doolittle
  • Will Harris
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Tanner Rainey

Catchers

  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Yan Gomes

Infielders

  • Eric Thames
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Trea Turner
  • Starlin Castro
  • Asdrúbal Cabrera 

Outfielders

  • Juan Soto
  • Victor Robles
  • Adam Eaton
  • Michael A. Taylor

Bulk in starting and relief pitching will likely make up more than half of Manager Davey Martinez’s roster. With the addition of the designated hitter to the National League in 2020, the Nationals will also likely add an additional bat or a third catcher to the mix.

A notable invitee for the Nationals is pitching prospect and last year’s first-round pick Jackson Rutledge. He is unlikely to make the final roster but posted a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 minor league innings in his first season as a professional. 

Top prospect and former first-round pick Carter Kieboom will also be a player to watch as he looks to fill the void at third base with the team’s loss of Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. He spent parts of 2019 on the Major League club and is expected to begin the season on the active roster.

Although much of the scheduling details for the season have yet to be announced, the Nationals are slated to open the season with an interleague matchup against the New York Yankees.