over the first three

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: 02.07.2018
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: 08, 2018 8:45 am     : over the first three

Next seasons defending champion Washington Capitals will look a lot like the group that won the Stanley Cup last month.

They re-signed defensemen John Carlson and Michal Kempny and forward Devante Smith-Pelly and have so far only lost fourth-line center Jay Beagle and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer from their title-winning roster.

Yet the few changes could be substantial for the Capitals , most notably new coach Todd Reirden taking over for Barry Trotz with a roster that is so similar that the expectation will be another deep playoff run.

Theres going to be many things that stay the same, but theres gonna be some things that I think I have to be cognizant of, Reirden said as he was introduced Tuesday. I want to create an environment where players are going to continue to be challenged with new ideas and new ways to improve their games.

Based on the continuity of promoting a four-year assistant, general manager Brian MacLellan and Reirden expect this to be a seamless transition. Set aside the awkward circumstances of Trotzs departure and the Capitals had been grooming Reirden for a head coaching job somewhere in the NHL for some time now.

Reirden was the finalist for Calgarys job two years ago and in retrospect is glad that didnt work out. His first NHL head coaching job happens to be this one, as just the fourth coach in the past 30 years to assume control of a Cup champion.

With the vast majority of the roster back, Alex Ovechkin coming off a playoff MVP performance and almost the entire defense he helped develop back to try to repeat, the pressure is on.

Todds at that point in his career where hes earned a head coaching job , MacLellan said. Hes put in all the work. Hes got all the experience. Its just a matter of seeing him take control. I have all the faith in the world that he can accomplish it. Hes just ready to do it right now.

Beagle signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Canucks, and the Capitals traded Grubauer and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Avalanche to clear the cap space they needed to ink Carlson to a $64 million, eight-year deal. Orpik could still return after Colorado bought him out and made him a free agent, which could mean 18 of 19 players who skated in the Cup-winning Game 5 against Vegas are on the roster to begin next season.

Its one of those offseasons where youre not trying to make a change because you like what you have culturally, MacLellan said. This group really seems to like playing together and theres a good chemistry there, so I think it was our decision to try to (keep) as much as we could.

That did not extend to Trotz Will Hernandez Color Rush Jersey , who wanted to be paid closer to market value for a Cup-winning coach than the automatic extension that kicked in with a small raise from his previous salary. MacLellan believes Reirden can build on what Trotz started, and the 47-year-old new Capitals coach is confident in his abilities because of how much responsibility he had the past two seasons as associate coach.

We all had input in it in what our decisions were made, Reirden said. I feel strongly about the direction of our team and the style that we played during the year that it wasnt necessarily just one persons idea, but it was our whole staff that had large input into how our team was going to play.

The Capitals will need one assistant coach to replace Trotz choice Lane Lambert, but will keep the rest of the staff intact. Theyll look to Travis Boyd or recently signed Nic Dowd to replace Beagle. And if they cant bring back Orpik, theyll likely find a veteran defenseman to play on the third pair.

Thats about all thats different when the Stanley Cup banner is raised to the rafters Oct. 3, which is no accident.

Were always looking to improve certain areas Baker Mayfield Browns Jersey , MacLellan said. We always look at, `Weve got a hole here. We need to fix that. Or, `This is a way we can get to that next level. Weve always had that type of attitude. This year, its trying to maintain what we had.

SALT LAKE CITY Starting strong in the first half is becoming a signature for Houston.

For the second time in their playoff series with Utah, the Rockets raced to a lopsided win after dismantling the Jazz on both ends of the court before halftime. Houston surged ahead of Utah in a 113-92 victory in Game 3 on Friday by hitting a flurry of shots and then taking the Jazz completely out of their offense.

The Rockets shot 58.7 percent from the field before halftime and did not commit a turnover until late in the second quarter. They led by as many as 30 points in the first half.

James Harden and Eric Gordon led the charge. Each player scored 25 points and Harden dished out 12 assists.

It helped Houston take a 2-1 series lead going into Game 4 on Sunday.

They were aggressive the entire night, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said. We didnt respond in any way, so we have to take this one on the chin and respond in Game 4.

Forcing turnovers became Houstons calling card from the opening tip. The Rockets pressured Utah into making bad passes or settling for tough , contested shots. The Jazz committed 11 turnovers in the first half, leading to 17 points for Houston.

Their goal was to keep Utah from settling into its offense the way the Jazz did in Game 2. Houston succeeded in dominating the first half in much the same fashion that the Rockets did in the first game of the series.

I thought our defense was superb, Houston coach Mike DAntoni said. We were hitting shots all over the place, kept the crowd out of it. We kept them on their heels. You could see the guys feeding off good defense and good defense. When you do that and your energy is right, the shots start to go down.

Houston raised its level on defense. Utah finished with 16 turnovers and shot less than 40 percent from the field until the fourth quarter. When the Jazz werent hitting shots, they couldnt balance things out by getting stops on the other end.

Most possessions ended up wasted and the gulf between the two teams quickly grew into a canyon.

They made it harder and we werent able to get the ball where we wanted to go on the floor, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. We werent able to get the ball vertically in order to get shots for other guys. If we get into a situation where were just having to create off the dribble by ourselves Jason Sanders Color Rush Jersey , thats not what were best at.

To improve its fortunes in Game 4, Utah will have to get better performances from Mitchell and Joe Ingles. The duo combined to shoot 6-of-26 from the floor two nights after Ingles posted a career-high 27 points and Mitchell added 17 points while dishing out a career-high 11 assists.

Mitchell, in particular, has been a focal point of Houstons defense in the series and it has showed. He hasnt been able to find much of a shooting rhythm while playing at point guard. The rookie is averaging only 16.0 points while shooting 32.2 percent from the field over the first three games of the series.

We try to defend and try to make him see a crowd and try to make it tough on him, just like they try to do to us when they press up on us, Rockets guard Chris Paul said. We just tried to make it tough on him.

Their contributions are even more vital for the Jazz with Ricky Rubio trying to bounce back from a hamstring injury and Derrick Favors limited by a sprained ankle. Both are listed as questionable for Game 4.

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