Archives for January 2017

Whoever Gets the Ball Last Will Win Super Bowl LI

Kaleel Weatherly

WGMU, Sports Blogger

Monday January 30, 2017

super bowl 51Super Bowl LI is now set. The Atlanta Falcons will face the New England Patriots to battle for the NFL’s richest prize, a Super Bowl victory. While both teams have high-octane offenses, this game will come down to which team gets the ball last.

Atlanta’s offense, led by quarterback Matt Ryan, has been lethal throughout the entire regular season and postseason. For example, the Falcons had the third-ranked pass offense and the fifth-ranked rushing offense in the regular season. This team can light up the scoreboard with ease.

The 31-year-old quarterback is the favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player of the Year Award. He threw for 4,944 yards to go along with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the regular season.

However, Ryan has an outstanding supporting cast. Julio Jones is considered one of the best receivers in the NFL. He possesses a combination of superb route-running skills, size, and speed. In 2016, he hauled in 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns.

For the most part, Ryan always looked in Jones’ direction when the team needed a big play. It’s clear that Jones is Ryan’s go-to receiver. Atlanta’s rushing attack, led by running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, is dangerous as well.

Freeman and Coleman combined for 1,581 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns in 2016. They both have a rare blend of power, speed, and agility.

Indeed, New England’s defense has done a great job of limiting big plays and creating turnovers. But there are too many weapons on the Falcons’ offense to take account for. The Patriots are only surrendering 16.5 points per game in the postseason. But they haven’t played a team who has an offense like Atlanta.

New England defeated the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers to reach Super Bowl LI. Houston’s defense is what got that team to the postseason. Pittsburgh has a great offense, but it does not have as many game-changers like the Falcons.

The Patriots will have a tough time containing Atlanta’s offense. But the Falcons’ defense will also struggle against New England’s offense. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets better as the years go on.

After serving a four-game suspension due to his involvement in DeflateGate, the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback returned to the field and dominated. New England went 11-1 with Brady under center this season.

This year, Brady has thrived with receivers like Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. When tight end Rob Gronkowski went down with a season-ending ruptured disk injury, many thought New England’s offense would suffer.

Well, it didn’t. New England had a top-five offense in 2016, and Brady threw for 3,554 yards, 28, touchdowns, and two interceptions. Along with Brady’s strong play, running back LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,161 yards and a league-high 18 touchdowns.

Atlanta had the 25th-ranked defense in 2016, but this unit has been playing well in the postseason. However, the Falcons’ secondary is inexperienced, and Brady will look to take advantage of that.

Both teams are great on offense, and Super Bowl LI will be a shootout and a close game. Neither defense will be able to stop the opposing offense from scoring. This means that whichever team gets the ball last in the fourth quarter will win the game.

 

The Capitals – The NHL’s Most Complete Team

Nick Colletti

WGMU, Sports Blogger

Tuesday January 24, 2017

capsThe Washington Capitals have been the league’s hottest team for nearly a month. A potent offense, strong special teams, and the impenetrable Braden Holtby between the two posts have made the Caps on top of many league analysts’ power rankings. Last night against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Capitals would score six goals and only allow one on a power play.   The goal scoring has been distributed by every line and even with defenseman John Carlson out the defense has remained to stand tall.

Before the season started, the Capitals were stronger on paper and even deeper than the previous season and it’s starting to show. With the addition of former Montreal Canadien Lars Eller, the third line center position was filled by a player that would easily be a first/second liner on most squads around the league. Eller has also shown his value for the Capitals for his penalty-killing ability and sacrifice.

Philip Grubauer, the Caps backup goaltender to Braden Holtby, has fulfilled his role magnificently. Grubauer has gone 9-0-2 this season and has given his team confidence when Holtby needs the night off. With a dynamic duo in the net it is much harder for a team to steal two points away from Washington.

Both special teams have been impressively efficient as well. The penalty killing has been strong, consistent, and clutch in crucial segments of a game. The power play has found its mojo with clean tape-to-tape passes and rocketing shots from everywhere on the ice. As of now, it is very hard to see the power play start to recede when the chemistry between all the players is this synchronized.

Last year’s Vezina winner Braden Holtby has been close to perfect ever since he was chased out of the net weeks earlier. Rebound control, flexible leg pad saves and watching the puck through screens have been executed tremendously by Holtby, getting in his opponent’s heads and frustrating them endlessly. Holtby will be a Vezina candidate again and most likely the favorite to win it if he keeps this performance going.

Last year’s Presidents Trophy winning team ended in yet another disappointing postseason for this snake-bitten D.C franchise. Will this year be different or will it be another premature exit with the Stanley Cup just out of reach? I am a strong believer in this year’s team to go all the way judging by their play over the last month. If they can bring this consistency and momentum into the spring it’s hard to see any team beating them, even those birds from Pennsylvania.

 

Capitals Pummel Habs On Historic Night For Ovechkin

Nick Colletti

WGMU, Sports Blogger

Tuesday January 10. 2017

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 09: Washington Capitals Left Wing Alex Ovechkin (8) meeting Washington Capitals Goalie Braden Holtby (70) to celebrate his goal, the fourth of the game making the score 4-1 Capitals during the Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens game on January 9, 2017, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Hockey history took place last night at the Bell Center in Montreal, the successor of the hallowed Montreal Forum. The Capitals, winners of five straight, skated on enemy ice in hostile territory looking to keep their impressive winning streak alive. The Caps would claim victory and another coveted two points, but it would be Alex Ovechkin who stole the headlines.

The Capitals’ captain scored his 544th NHL goal tying the legendary Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s all time goal record, in Montreal no less. It would be the future Hall of Famer’s 19th regular season goal and now the superstar is only 1 point shy from his 1,000th career point total. But it was an impressive team effort that helped the Caps claim the W in the end.

Nicklas Backstrom got the party started with a dirty goal off a Carey Price rebound in the slot that gave the Capitals the opening tally. No red lights would be ignited until the third period, due to the Capitals impressive defense and Braden Holtby’s exceptional performance in the crease. Unfortunately Holtby would have his shutout streak ended when Tomas Plekanec followed through on a rebound amidst a pile of humanity in the slot. Habs fans erupted and Montreal finally had life, but their momentum would dissipate very quickly.

Evgeny Kuznetsov broke the tie off with a deke past a Montreal defender and then chipped the puck past Price to quiet the Bell Center and their passionate inhabitants. The goal would only be the beginning of an offensive clinic by the road team that prevented the Habs from making any real comeback effort. Kuznetsov would register another point as he aggressively forced a turnover behind Price’s net and gave a beautiful feed to Brett Connelly who beat Price and scored a very valuable insurance goal. The scoring wouldn’t end that night as the man of the hour tied Richard’s career goal record with a Howitzer on the point. Ovechkin is now only 1 point less than a 1,000 and has a chance to earn that last point at home against their fiercest rival in the Pittsburgh Penguins. 4-1 would be the final score for the road squad in what can be a very loud and fierce environment for the visitors. The Capitals have won six straight and look sharp in all facets of the game. The schedule that looms ahead looks daunting, but Caps fans should be confident that their team is starting to play their best game at the right point of the season. Every game is winnable and every playoff game is winnable if they can stick to their game and not compromise it for any opponent.