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The Stanley Cup Final is a block party for the Washington Capitals.

For all of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s points on offense and Braden Holtby’s saves in net Cheap DJ Moore Jersey , the Capitals are one win away from blocking their way to the Cup. They’ve gotten in front of almost a third of the Vegas Golden Knights’ shots, blocking with enough smarts and precision to take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 Thursday.

”There’s more to blocking shots than just going out there and trying to get hit,” Holtby said. ”We’re doing a great job of creating the right layers, guys going out there strategically to know which lane I’m picking for sight lines and they’re taking away the other half and making big blocks.”

Washington is blocking in quantity and quality in the final, 86 total, in limiting Vegas to 124 shots on Holtby – many of which he’s seeing and stopping . Even star captain Alex Ovechkin is blocking shots as he gets closer to tasting his first championship.

”You see `O’ jumping in front of shots, it makes everyone on the team want to do the same,” winger Devante Smith-Pelly said.

Blocking shots is a team-wide commitment right now and comes from a season’s worth of skaters, goaltending coach Scott Murray, Holtby and Philipp Grubauer getting on the same page. The goalies have worked on making sure they can see past blocks to give players the confidence to get in front of pucks.

And in return, Capitals players study opponents’ tendencies and consciously decide when to try to block a shot and not so Holtby isn’t at a disadvantage.

”You obviously don’t want to cross in front of him,” center Jay Beagle said. ”You don’t want to become a screen. So if you miss the block Nick Chubb Jersey , which happens, guys are good at shooting pucks and stuff, you want it still so from your standpoint you didn’t hinder Holts’ view.”

Defensemen have an understanding of which half of the net is their responsibility and which half is Holtby’s. Forwards closer to the blue line have to react quickly, take the right angle and get to the shooter.

”If guys have time and space, they’re going to be able to sift one through,” Smith-Pelly said. ”For the forwards, it’s just going out there pretty hard and just getting in the way.”

The amount of shots the Capitals have blocked through four games seems to be getting in the Golden Knights’ heads. They’re struggling to get quality shots through and resorting to settling for lower-danger scoring chances.

”If you’re going to take shots, make sure they pay a price for blocking those shots,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Shoot it harder.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz doesn’t want his players thinking too much about blocking shots or hesitating. He doesn’t care much about Ovechkin’s blocking form or the philosophy of shot-blocking as long as it keeps the puck out of the net.

”If you’re positionally sound, if you’re in shot lanes, block the shot,” Trotz said. ”It’s all about will.”

And that will can turn into skill. Washington has been comfortable and confident enough in the final to push the puck up ice quickly Adidas Derick Brassard Jersey , and a well-timed block shot can set the table for an odd-man rush.

”The less shots they have, the more opportunities we’re gonna have in offensive zone,” defenseman Dmitry Orlov said. ”Sometimes when you block it, you get quicker pass and you jump on the rush and you got 3-on-2 or 4-on-3.”

The Golden Knights by this point are well-aware of that. But they don’t really have a solution.

”You just have to – I don’t know – defensemen, puck fake, maybe move around, or maybe look for a guy off to the side, or put it off the end wall,” forward Alex Tuch said. ”There are a bunch of different plays that could happen and when they’re blocking shots they’re getting momentum from it, and if they’re blocking shots and having odd-man rushes that’s even worse. ”

In addition to a suffocating neutral-zone trap that’s not easy to play but has frustrated opponents for four rounds, the Capitals have embraced a shot-blocking-when-it-matters mentality.

”It’s not exactly fun, but you got to do if you really want to win Sam Darnold Jersey ,” Smith-Pelly said. ”Everyone is on board with doing those things.”



More Stanley Cup coverage:

This could be the year that quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger reach fantasy mortality.

The 39-year-old Saints passer Brees saw his touchdown production drop by 38 percent in 2017, his 23 TDs the first time since 2007 he’s failed to throw at least 30. He still hit 4,000 yards for the 12th straight season but his 4,334 yards passing was his lowest since a Super Bowl run in the 2009 season.

Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram (once Ingram returns from a four-game suspension) are to blame for the potential fall. The duo accounted for 1,852 yards rushing last season while averaging a combined 5.2 yards per carry and 20 rushing touchdowns. The Saints have become a more balanced offense, which takes the weekly volume pressure off Brees. He attempted fewer than 600 passes for the first time since 2009 with 536 in 2017.

Brees isn’t going to fall into the scrap heap, but a balanced Saints team doesn’t bode well for his fantasy outlook. Drafting Brees between the 10th and 12th round in one-quarterback leagues this year makes more sense compared to the years when he was usually one of the top three quarterbacks off the board.

In the case of Roethlisberger, time is creeping up like a safety blitz. Although Big Ben threw 28 touchdowns last season, he has been something of an overrated fantasy commodity. Last year’s 10th place finish among quarterbacks was only the second time this decade Roethlisberger ranked in the top 10. The loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley will also work against him along with the unnerving split between his work at home and on the road.

Roethlisberger will go earlier than expected and still merits value for those who selected Antonio Brown. However, this is the year to double down with a more consistent passer who can be plugged into the lineup when the Steelers are on the road.

NEW COLORS, SAME KING

Don’t expect the production from LeBron James to dip now that he’s donning a Lakers uniform. James finished sixth among all players in fantasy hoops this past season and will continue to maintain that pace. He also finished sixth in usage percentage at 31.6 percent, marking the 13th straight season he has been above 30 percent.

The pieces aren’t all together (yet) Jaire Alexander Jersey Youth , so there’s no clear winner when it comes to which Lakers player benefits most from James’ arrival, although a healthy Brandon Ingram stands a chance to evolve into a fantasy-relevant player.

THE KID WILL BE ALRIGHT

Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker was the latest elite prospect to be called up, recording his first hit and RBI during his debut last week. Look for Tucker to begin laying the foundation toward becoming a fantasy star in the next year or two. His upside compares highly with fellow rookie outfielders Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves) and Juan Soto (Nationals), as he projects to evolve into a .320 batting average with 25-30 homers, 100 RBIs and 20-25 steals, numbers that would make him a first-round pick in any format.



This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, .
 
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