England’s Bess claims five wickets as South Africa hang on

first_imgPORT ELIZABETH, (Reuters) – Quinton de Kock yesterday led a fight-back after rain halted England’s destruction of South Africa’s top order on the third day of the third test at St George’s Park, but the tourists remain in command after Dom Bess’s maiden test five-wicket haul. De Kock, who was dropped three times, scored an unbeaten 63 to see South Africa to 208-6 at stumps after rain reduced the day’s play to 64 overs. Vernon Philander was not out on 27.The home side are still 291 runs behind after off spinner Bess claimed the first five South African wickets to fall.He bagged two on Friday to leave SA teetering at 60-2 overnight, in replay to England’s mammoth 499 for nine declared, and picked up where he left off with three more. Bess removed Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen before rain stopped proceedings at 11.45am, some 15 minutes before the scheduled lunch break.Play did not resume until 3.30pm, frustrating England’s march through the batting order.De Kock was dropped twice by Ben Stokes off the bowling of captain Joe Root, first on 30 and then 56, and then again in the penultimate over, by Stokes off Joe Denly. But he played some characteristically entertaining strokes to provide some respite for the home fans after a relentless pounding from England over the first two days.Bess had not been selected for the tour at first, flown out to South Africa just before Christmas as cover when a virus struck the England camp. But he has made a strong bid for a place on their next tour to Sri Lanka with figures of 5-51 in 31 overs.“I’ll cherish today, I’ve worked hard for days like this,” Bess said afterwards. On Saturday he first dismissed Elgar, who edged the ball off his pad to Ollie Pope at silly point for 35, and then he removed Du Plessis in exactly the same way.Bess then saw captain Joe Root drop nightwatchman Anrich Nortje at first slip and Pope fail to snag a half-chance off Van der Dussen.But his fifth wicket came two balls later, to joyous celebration, as Van der Dussen played on and was bowled for 24. Nortje proved stubborn, soaking up 136 balls before Stokes had him caught by Root for 18.South Africa still face following on, with England chasing 14 wickets to win the test and go 2-1 ahead in the series before the last test in Johannesburg next week.“We are going to come out and focus on fighting for the next two days,” said Nortje.last_img read more

Rahul repays Kohli’s faith with superb limited overs form

first_imgWELLINGTON, (Reuters) – KL Rahul’s strong run of form in New Zealand, capped yesterday with his fourth one-day international century, has not only repaid the faith of captain Virat Kohli but will also likely ensure him a much longer run in India’s limited overs team. Rahul rounded off his superb contribution during the limited overs portion of the tour with his century, which he brought up from 104 deliveries, in the third and final match at Bay Oval in Mt. Maunganui.The 27-year-old wicketkeeper/batsman was dismissed for 112 in India’s innings of 296-7 as they looked for a morale-boosting victory in the series, having already lost the first two games.Rahul was the second top-scorer for India in the three-match series with 88 not out, four and 112 to bring up 204 runs at an average of 102. Shreyas Iyer scored 217 runs at 72.33. Rahul also topped the run scoring for India in the five-match Twenty20 series, which the visitors swept 5-0, with 224 runs at 56 and his form kept exciting young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant out of the team for both formats.His versatility — he opened in the Twenty20 matches and batted at number five in the 50-over format — allowed India to play an extra batsmen during both series.Kohli has said they would use the white ball part of their tour to experiment with the Twenty20 World Cup on the horizon in Australia later this year. Rahul, who replaced Pant in last month’s one-day home series against Australia when the 22-year-old suffered a concussion, was key to those plans, the skipper said before they arrived in New Zealand.“Him doing well with the gloves has really opened up a scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batsman,” Kohli told reporters last month.“I know there will be a lot said about that … but the most important thing is what the team requires and the best balance we can create for the side.” While he was able to count on Rahul and Iyer for the bulk of India’s runs throughout both limited overs series, Kohli, the world’s top-ranked test and ODI batsman, scored just 75 runs at 25 in the one-dayers and 105 runs at 26.25 in the Twenty20 matches.He normally averages 59.58 in one-dayers and 50.80 in Twenty20s.The first match of the two-test series starts on Feb. 21 in Wellington. Both Rahul and Iyer will return home before it starts.last_img read more

Premier League clubs must cut player wages or pay more tax, says committee head

first_imgLONDON (Reuters) – Premier League clubs should face a windfall tax unless they tackle the “obscene situation” of players earning fortunes during the coronavirus crisis while other employees take pay cuts, the head of a parliamentary committee said yesterday. Talks between the Premier League and the PFA players union over potential wage cuts or deferrals were continuing after no agreement was reached on Wednesday.Player wages, with some paid many times more per week than the average Briton takes home in a year, have become a hot topic as club staff are furloughed under a government job retention scheme.Julian Knight, a member for the ruling Conservative party who chairs the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee, said he had written to finance minister Rishi Sunak urging action. “We are facing an obscene situation where top players who aren’t working are continuing to see hundreds of thousands of pounds roll in each week while the staff who keep the clubs going are losing wages,” he said.“If the Premier League isn’t going to act to resolve this crisis then the government must step in by imposing a significant financial penalty on clubs to reimburse those hit hardest in the pocket.”Professional football in England has been suspended until April 30, at the earliest, due to the pandemic with some top flight clubs putting non-playing staff on leave. Norwich City said yesterday their players and management had agreed to donate a percentage of their salaries, amounting to more than 200,000 pounds ($247,280), to help those affected by the virus.“As a group of players, we wanted to stand up and do our bit,” captain Grant Hanley told the club website (www.canaries.co.uk)“The lads have heard at first-hand stories and challenges that some of our supporters are currently facing. We need to make sure we’re reaching out and helping those who have been hit hard and are struggling at this time.” Senior management at Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion have taken voluntary three month pay cuts to help protect staff jobs.Others, such as Tottenham Hotspur who imposed a 20% pay cut on 550 non-playing staff on Tuesday, have said they hoped players would end up “doing their bit for the football eco system.”In a separate letter to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, Knight expressed his “strong dismay” and set a Tuesday deadline for the clubs to “do the right thing…or face the consequences”. A windfall tax would help fund payments to non-playing staff or help the grassroots game, added Knight.The DCMS committee chair said the Premier League should be “role modelling a responsible approach” along the lines of European rivals.Players at a number of top continental clubs, including Italian and Spanish heavyweights Juventus and Barcelona, have agreed temporary pay cuts.last_img read more

Rob Painter – Sky Betting & Gaming – Drive & Direction…

first_imgShare StumbleUpon Submit EFL urges government to rethink gambling sponsorship ban July 3, 2020 Related Articles Share PokerStars moves to refresh global appeal with ‘I’M IN’ August 18, 2020 William Hill closes Stockholm Gametek office July 1, 2020 Rob PainterHaving committed £12m to Sky Betting & Gaming’s ongoing recruitment drive, Brand & HR Director Rob Painter details to SBC the corporate and leadership challenges of undertaking such a significant initiative as the igaming and betting sectors’ drastically change.Painter details SB&G’s governance approach, its commitment to driving talent acquisition in Yorkshire and why the igaming and betting industries should no longer consider themselves ‘niche sectors’._____________________________SBC: Can you detail to SBC readers your ongoing recruitment drive, why was this initiative needed by Sky Betting & Gaming operations? Rob Painter: Over the last 10 years, Sky Betting & Gaming has successfully grown from a start-up to one of the top four online betting and gaming companies in the UK. In March 2015, we became an independent company, with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners taking 80% ownership of the business and Sky retaining 20%. This has given us the ‘best of both worlds’. We have retained the invaluable support, branding, integration and promotion of our colleagues in Sky Sports, but also been able to take a longer term approach to decision making and there is more appetite for investment, thus our recent announcement that we are investing £11 million in people, buildings and marketing as we look to expand our products and services. 200 new positions have been created in a range of departments across the business, including technology, product development, marketing and customer service. This is a really exciting time for SB&G and all of our available opportunities can be seen at www.skybetcareers.com .SBC: Undertaking such a large scale recruitment drive is no easy task. How has this challenged Sky Betting and Gaming operations, management and leadership?RP: It is tough and the digital and technology space in Leeds in particular is extremely competitive. Adding an office in Sheffield has gone some way to alleviate this issue and we are constantly looking for new sources of talent to keep pace with our growth plans. We’re also rebuilding our people lifecycle strategies following the carve-out from Sky to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best people. We are supporting our recruitment drive with a £250,000 marketing campaign that highlights our challenging, fast paced and exciting working environment. In it, we wanted to capture the pace, scale and challenge the work we do brings, particularly in technology, so it was important to lead with this message. We want to hear from people who are energetic, analytical and passionate about building a career in an exciting digital business. We want individuals who will thrive on working in an agile environment.SBC: Looking at the current igaming/betting value chain, what overall industry skillsets and competencies are lacking? What dynamics are most valued by betting operators in a saturated market?RP: We work hard to ensure that Sky Betting & Gaming remains one of the best places to work in the industry but we also have an ambition to become the best digital business in the UK. A massive factor in that is ensuring we have the right people. It’s imperative that we invest in employees and their working environment to make sure they can achieve their absolute best, helping their personal development and simultaneously the needs of the company. We’re looking for the very best individuals, which is often more about candidates having the right attitude and potential rather than solely focusing on experience. The most valuable people to us tend to come from other ecommerce businesses that, like us, put customer experience first in everything they do.SBC: The SB&G team has placed a high emphasis on employee diversity, in your opinion should the igaming/betting sectors no longer consider itself a niche industry? RP: I don’t think it is niche anymore. There are some specialist roles that need certain IMS experience etc. but on the whole we need strong digital talent from marketing, product and technology to keep driving our business forward. The use of data has also meant we’re doing things on the scale of retailers like Amazon and that means that storing, accessing and leveraging our commercial data as effectively as possible is key to success.SBC: How important has the City of Leeds and Yorkshire been to the development of Sky Betting & Gaming as a business?RP: When we moved across from Harrogate to Leeds in 2010 we were confident that, thanks to its wealth of technology talent and historical links to sport, the city was the perfect place to develop our business. We are incredibly proud to be based in Leeds. It offers very strong recruitment of technical staff and has become an internet hub. We are moving to a ‘three hub’ strategy in the UK in 2015/16 and will continue to invest in Yorkshire, creating an additional 200 jobs, which will be based in our Leeds HQ, a new customer hub also to be located in Leeds city centre or our recently opened Sheffield technology hub. This will bring our Yorkshire workforce to over 900 employees. This is a vote of confidence not only in our own plans to make betting and gaming better but also in the health of the Yorkshire economy. It is vital that we build a great talent pool for the benefit of all companies in Yorkshire and beyond.SBC: Finally and most importantly what is your favourite Yorkshire attraction?RP: Headingley, where I’ve spent many a great day watching the cricket!last_img read more

William Hill implements ‘technology first’ strategy following tough 2015

first_img Related Articles Share Submit William Hill accelerates transformation agenda to overcome COVID realities August 5, 2020 Gamesys tops list for GambleAware Q1 donations July 10, 2020 Share James Henderson, William HillPresenting its full year 2015 corporate results this morning (52-week period ending 29 December), William Hill governance detailed that the company had paid circa £87 million in additional UK gambling duties.The hefty tax charge would impact the FTSE listed betting operator’s top-line metric performance, with William Hill announcing FY 2015 operating profit slump of 22% to £291 million (FY 2014 – £372 million).Publishing other performance metrics William Hill would record a 1% decline in 2015 net revenues of £1.59 billion, the revenue performance would be in-line with 2014’s £1.6 billion, a tough comparative period which included 2014 FIFA World Cup.Issuing a trading update in January, William Hill governance had warned the markets of the impact of increased gambling duties on its 2015 performance. The operator had stated that 2015 had been a year of ‘re-adjustments to new market conditions imposed by tax headwinds.Planning for 2016, this morning the board of William Hill announced that it had implemented a £200 million share buyback scheme to be completed over the next 12 months.With the UK betting industry seeing mass-consolidation in 2015, William Hill governance stated that the company would continue to priortise its ‘in-house first’ technology development strategy.In 2015 William Hill launched new platform mobile and website platform ‘Project Trafalgar’, the operator will further release its ‘Omni-Channel proprietary self-services betting terminal in H1 2016.James Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of William Hill, commented on FY 2015 Performance:“In the last 12 months, we have made substantial operational progress against our three strategic priorities of omni-channel, technology and international.“In technology terms, Online now has a platform that allows us to deliver rapid and frequent innovations to customers, further differentiating our offering. We are also now preparing to roll out our proprietary self-service betting terminal in Retail. This is an important part of our omni-channel strategy and enables us to bring the best of Online to our shops.“Internationally, I’m particularly pleased that William Hill Australia is now benefitting from our reshaping and investment in the business. We now have one of the highest rated betting apps in Australia and during the William Hill-sponsored Australian Open we acquired an impressive c1,000 customers a day and saw a 680% increase in tennis in-play turnover. “We have made further good progress on measures to encourage responsible gambling, including using algorithms to identify potentially harmful behaviour and helping to develop a national, cross-operator selfexclusion scheme.“As one of the largest scale businesses in gambling, the Board is confident in the outlook for the year ahead and believes the Group is well placed to deliver on its growth strategy.“We have reviewed our priorities for capital alongside our strengthening balance sheet and our continued good cash generation. Together, these underpin our decision to announce a share buyback alongside our ongoing investment to grow the business. In addition, the Board has increased the dividend payout ratio to around 50% of adjusted earnings, reflecting our focus on delivering value for shareholders.” SBC Magazine Issue 10: Kaizen Gaming rebrand and focus for William Hill CEO August 25, 2020 StumbleUponlast_img read more

Enetpulse thinking big with Euro 2016 microsites

first_img Betgenius promotion for #boscon2017 speaker Matt Stephenson September 1, 2017 BetVictor launches ‘The Million Pound Bet’ World Cup competition June 5, 2018 Related Articles Share Submit Melvin Ritsema: Staying true to Royal Panda’s sportsbook roots August 29, 2018 As firms gear up for this summer’s Euro 2016 tournament, Enetpulse has launched its new microsite solution specifically for the tournament. Business Development Manager Jesper Kamp explains the thinking behind it.What is appealing about a microsite for Euro 2016?What our clients will get is the holistic Euro 2016 experience for desktop and mobile users. The Enetpulse Euro 2016 microsite allows clients to present to their audience a complete livescore and statistics solution without any development work.We create the micro sites based on several customisation options and host everything on our servers. Further to this, all sites are branded in the look and feel of the client, who is able to add his own content to the site as well, including banners, header, feeds, images, odds, and more. As with the 2014 World Cup, Enetpulse also offers video content from France 2016 through our partner sntv, which ensures a complete coverage of the tournament.What key data and analysis do you want to present to betting consumers and potential clients through this microsite?We wish to present the clients with straight facts from Euro 2016 spiced up with statistical content all football fans can engange in without it being too advanced. The dedicated statistics section on the site is also designed with betting consumers in mind. Performance and disciplinary stats on goals, corners, cards, fouls etc. we believe should allow punters to do research for their bets and encourage wagering across more markets.How has your team built an engaging microsite for sports consumers who are accessing information and content through multiple sources and devices (desktop,mobile social media channels)?Our Euro 2016 microsite is created in responsive design, so the clients get a solution, which auto-adjusts to any device it is displayed on. So in many ways it is several products in one. Further to this we allow clients to embed their social feeds and other custom content on the sites.From an industry perspective, what data trend do you feel will dominate consumer engagement during Euro 2016?Obviously, in sports coverage there is an increasing trend towards more granular data analysis and visualisation. With the Euro 2016 microsite we have tried taking the middle road with a product, which should satisfy users’ requirement for fast livescore updates and match stats and present itself well on many devices. And in several languages. This has resulted in a product which covers the basics, which you would expect from any Euro 2016 data provider, and presents more granular statistical analysis, which most users can relate to.From a data and analysis perspective, what should bookmakers look to learn and gain from a major football tournament such as Euro 2016?With plenty of betting activity ton major tournaments such as Euro 2016 it is important for bookmakers to be able to provide a neat front-end user experience for their customers. Enetpulse can offer just that with our microsite solution. Bookmakers could also focus on using the data set from providers like us to create further markets to bet on, be a little creative – especially at high-profile tournaments.Finally, and most importantly, can you tell us who Enetpulse thinks will win Euro 2016?Well, this will have to be a democratic answer, so I asked around the office. The majority here believe France will win it on home turf. Share StumbleUponlast_img read more

Rank & 888 submit initial £3.6 billion formal bid for William Hill takeover

first_img William Hill accelerates transformation agenda to overcome COVID realities August 5, 2020 The strategic Rank Group and 888 Holdings consortium has declared its intent to takeover William Hill proposing a formal offer of £3.6 billion for the FTSE-listed operator.Updating the market Rank and 888 governances have proposed an initial 364p per share offer for William Hill, as deal stakeholders look to create another UK betting industry giant.The Financial Times, reports that a consortium tie-up between the three parties would lead to the creation of the UK’s third biggest gambling operator with a projected £2.7 billion in revenues and earnings of approximately £500 million.On 24 July Rank and 888 had made its initial interest in William Hill stating that it would place a joint + £3 billion takeover offer. In accordance with the UK Takeover Code, William Hill governance had granted Rank and 888 a 21 August deadline in which to make their combined bid.The William Hill board will now move to review the £3.6 billion on behalf of its investors, at present no deal party has made any formal statement on the bid.Reacting to industry speculation regarding the consortium bid in late July, William Hill governance stated that it would only consider a three-party merger offer if it could register a ‘superior value.’ Related Articles Share Submit Share StumbleUpon SBC Magazine Issue 10: Kaizen Gaming rebrand and focus for William Hill CEO August 25, 2020 John O’Reilly – Erratic orders have placed UK casinos on life support August 4, 2020last_img read more

Ravens’ hope for turnaround falls on Flacco’s shoulders

first_img(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was dealt a lousy hand this season.Of course, coming off a Super Bowl MVP performance and signing a record-setting $120.6 million contract in the offseason ease the pain of the plight he now faces, but anyone who’s watched the Ravens this season realizes the sixth-year quarterback has been fighting an uphill battle since the start of training camp.No Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta.A running game averaging 2.8 yards per carry and on pace to be the NFL’s worst since the 1953 New York Giants, according to ESPN.A banged-up and inept offensive line on pace to surrender 50 sacks, which would easily surpass the highest total — 40 in 2010 — given up in Flacco’s career.With all those factors working against him, Flacco has often been asked this season if he’s had to fight the urge of trying to do too much in the Ravens’ struggling offense that’s now failed to score at least 20 points in in its last three games for the first time since Nov. 2009.“It’s tough in the NFL to go out there and try to be Superman,” Flacco said. “It’s just impossible to do that. I think that kind of keeps you in check and allows you to go out there and just play the game. It’s frustrating when you’re running off the field and you’re not getting first downs and you’re not scoring points.”Of course, Flacco’s right in his assessment of no one player being able to do the job all by himself, but the Ravens may need a superhuman stretch — or at least one similar to what we saw in the 2012 postseason — from the quarterback to advance to the postseason for the sixth straight season in the John Harbaugh era. It’s a lot to ask given everything malfunctioning around him, but the Ravens expect a lot from him, evident by the nine-figure investment general manager Ozzie Newsome made last winter.Flacco’s play has been better than his statistics indicate despite his 79.3 quarterback rating through eight games, which is on pace to be the worst of his career. But that doesn’t mean he’s immune from criticism as his five-interception effort in Buffalo was one of the worst games of his career and his poor first half in Cleveland on Sunday coming off the bye led to another slow start offensively and a third consecutive defeat.The Ravens needed a pick-me-up from Flacco to build confidence early on against the Browns, but he missed several open receivers in the first half that kept the Cleveland defense in a single-high safety look with seven men in the box, giving an ineffective running game even less of a chance to succeed. With the rushing attack showing no signs of improving, it’s difficult for the Ravens offense to play with confidence if they can’t come out throwing to move the chains early.This season, Flacco has completed only 53.6 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions in the first half before rebounding in the second half with a 65 percent completion rate and a 91.1 passer rating with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.“We’ll earn our confidence by doing well,” Harbaugh said. “Fundamentally, we have a confident group. There’s no question all of us are confident. We know we can get it done. We know we can get there. But until you start doing it with some consistency, it’s hard to be confident in what you’re doing.”The slow starts have become an epidemic as the Ravens have fallen behind early and a good — but not great — defense has had to work hard early in games to keep the score close, which might partially explain the unit’s inability to make stops late in the second half to put the offense back on the field for opportunities to complete comebacks.The Ravens haven’t scored a first-quarter touchdown since the season opener on Sept. 5 and have been held scoreless in the first 15 minutes four times this year. It’s just not a formula conducive to winning more often than not at any level of competition.In recent weeks, Baltimore has made more of an effort to throw early to help set up the run, but it hasn’t come any easier than it did trying to get Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on track behind fullback Vonta Leach and the offensive line to begin games. Opponents haven’t respected the run or the Ravens’ pedestrian group of wide receivers and tight ends beyond third-year wideout Torrey Smith.“You have to be able to hit guys on the outside and win one-on-one routes,” Flacco said. “If you can do that, then you can get teams to play some different coverages where you don’t have one-on-one, and then you can open up the run looks a little bit.”With the absence of Boldin and Pitta making plays in the intermediate middle portion of the field, the Ravens have seen too many defenders in the box to defend the run, but the disappearance of the vertical passing game has been just as problematic. The early-season struggles in that department were understandable with speedsters Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson sidelined due to injury, but their returns haven’t sparked what was a major part of last year’s passing attack.In the 2012 regular season and playoffs, Flacco completed 50 of 123 passing attempts that traveled 20 or more yards through the air for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. This season, Flacco is just 10 of 44 with no touchdowns and three interceptions on attempts of 20 or more yards.Defenses don’t fear the Ravens’ options at tight end and in the slot, so they’ve been able to account more for vertical threats — particularly Smith — but Flacco’s accuracy in that department has been off on a number of occasions, whether receivers have been open downfield or not. Even if the passing game can’t find consistent production, a few more explosive plays might have been the difference in netting a couple wins in their last four losses decided by a total of 14 points.With the running game nonexistent, it’s clear offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has elected to put more on Flacco’s plate lately, working extensively out of the shotgun and in three-wide, single-back sets with the intent of throwing the football. The new focus that’s included plenty of no-huddle — Flacco’s favorite way to operate — debuted in the Week 7 loss at Pittsburgh and appears to be the Ravens’ best attempt to establish an offensive identity.Some would call it nothing but desperation at this point, but the Ravens need Flacco to be better — fair or unfair. Caldwell may continue to introduce new wrinkles such as last Sunday’s debut of the pistol formation, but the best chance of improvement and bouncing back from the franchise’s worst start since the 2005 season rests on Flacco’s right shoulder.“With Joe controlling this thing, I’m looking forward to continuing to try and change it up,” Rice said. “Whether it’s the [shotgun], under center — it’s essentially just doing the [same] stuff. We’ve just got to execute at a high level. Joe drives this thing, and we’re all just following.”It’s a lot to ask as Flacco has needed to adapt to changes in personnel — voluntary and due to injury — while dealing with the disappearance of the running game. An improved second half from him isn’t needed to validate his contract or his status as one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but it’s the Ravens’ best — and perhaps only — chance of salvaging what’s looking more like a lost season as the losses mount.If it were a poker game, Flacco would be playing with rags in early position. He can either fold his hand or try to make some moves in hopes of catching the right card or two along the way. Frankly, even that may not be good enough by the time late December rolls around.The running game isn’t going to be fixed — at least to the point where it becomes a strength — and Flacco can only make the best of what he has to throw to with the added possibility of Pitta returning in the next few weeks. There are no simple solutions for the Ravens offense other than hopping on Flacco’s back and hoping he finds the kind of groove he did last January and February.“Even if you do rip up everything, it’s not like you can make it that much different,” Flacco said of the offensive approach. “We’ve just got to be better at what we do. We haven’t been good enough. That’s why we’re not winning football games. We’ve just got to get better and continue to have confidence and continue to believe that we’re going to push through it and be a good football team.”last_img read more

Effort Wasn’t Problem in Caps’ Road Trip Defeats

first_imgThrough the first 14 games of the Washington Capitals season, effort was a problem on many of the nights when the Caps were on the wrong end of the score.This past weekend, against two very good Western Conference clubs, the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, effort was not the problem. The Caps played hard both nights but lost both games, although the Coyotes defeat was in the gimmick. When the Capitals feel a challenge, they typically bring the effort. Make no mistake, the Capitals wanted to show that they could compete with the elite of the West on this past weekend’s road trip.But they fell short, painfully squandering a two goal lead late in Arizona on Saturday night when they should have definitely had two points. In Colorado, they got down early on a goal that should not have counted then after tying the game, gave up a goal just 28 seconds later before eventually losing 4-1.What were the major causes of defeat over the weekend? The power play, poor defensive zone play, and shoddy goaltending.Let’s start with the power play. Washington has been deadly this season with the 5 on 4 man advantage and have won many games because of it. But on Saturday and Sunday, they had some golden opportunities on 5 on 3’s to tie the game or expand their lead and in Saturday’s loss to Phoenix, they failed to score on a two minute 4 on 3 in overtime. Statistically teams do better on 5 on 3 or 4 on 3 power plays, but the Caps are 0 for their last 11 with a two man advantage and their 4 on 3 power play isn’t clicking either.It seems to me that what is working so well on 5 on 4 isn’t going to work in the other situations because of one reason: the passing lanes are different. When the opponent only has three players on the ice, they shrink down to a tight triangle making the lanes for cross ice passes that the Caps love so much in the 5 on 4 disappear. You simply can’t spread out the penalty kill the way Washington does so effectively five on four when the other team only has three skaters. So the solution seems to be for Coach Adam Oates and assistant Blaine Forsythe to come up with a different configuration and practice it (Troy Brouwer was quoted after Saturday’s loss as saying the team doesn’t work on those situations a lot). My advice, go to a set up that puts a body or two in front of the net and blast away from the point. With the defense backing up in tight, the guys on top can come in closer and if you put traffic in front, the goalie has a tougher time of seeing the puck, and if you use big bodies like Brouwer or perhaps Tom Wilson, you have strong guys in front who can pot the rebounds. It isn’t fancy, like Washington’s 5 on 4 setup, but it’s likely the best way to score with a packed in defense.As for the defensive zone, the Caps continue to have too many breakdowns. There are lots of turnovers and poor coverage. Yes, they are undermanned back there with Jack Hillen and John Erskine out with injuries but a quick check of many of the recent goals against has the John Carlson and Karl Alzner duo on the ice for several of them. Two of the goals against on Sunday in Colorado were on plays from behind the net where Washington was caught watching the puck carrier and didn’t pay attention to the gaps around them, which allowed the Avs players to find holes and get quick looks that Braden Holtby had no chance on. This has happened on far too many occasions this season. The forwards, on many of those goals, are just as guilty of puck watching. The Caps have to learn better positioning in their own end and pay attention to their surroundings. A guy with the puck behind the net is not a threat to score so why is everyone staring him down and not anticipating where he is going to pass the puck? The coaches need to work with the defense and forwards to correct this problem. Washington would be better off collapsing down and allowing a pass up the boards to the point rather than the ones that keep going into the low slot and ending up in the back of the Capitals net.As for the goaltending, well it was great for a 10+ game stretch heading into last weekend. Michal Neuvirth needed to have the second Coyotes goal and Carlson screened him on the third one. #74 needed to either go down and block the shot there or move out of the way. That was a stoppable shot if #30 saw it sooner. As for Holtby, it was tough to blame him on the first three Avs goals and even Gabriel Landeskog’s tally was a breakaway after #92 went right around Alexander Ovechkin. Still, Braden probably should have had that one.The good news is that a lot of these things are very correctable. The defense is in need of an upgrade at some point on the left side, but when some of the Caps top guys are making the mistakes, a trade isn’t going to help.Overall the talent and effort is there for the Capitals right now, despite the hole on the left side of the defense. But this is the salary cap era and every team has a weakness area that needs to be addressed at some point.Washington has enough talent and the effort has been consistent over the last couple of weeks. Now they have to execute better by playing smarter in key situations.They’ll get a chance to turn it around against Columbus on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.last_img read more

Orioles pondering right fit with trade deadline approaching

first_imgBALTIMORE — With Thursday’s trade deadline quickly approaching, the Orioles weren’t offering a vibe that a significant deal was imminent as they returned home from a long West Coast trip to begin a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.Even with a Fox Sports report on Monday saying the Orioles had inquired about the availability of Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette reiterated a day later that he is not interested in giving away the top prizes of his minor league system, which include pitchers Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey as well as current Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman. Duquette told reporters that adding pitching depth remains a priority, which could come in the form of another starter or an extra arm in the bullpen.The Orioles have also been linked to Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett, Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa, and San Diego’s Ian Kennedy in various media reports in recent weeks.“It’s one thing to go out and acquire somebody, but there’s got to be a fit there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “You guys can figure out where the fit might be. I’m looking at trying to play through the end of October with the 25 people we have.”The Orioles remain open to the possibility of upgrading the second base and catcher positions but continue to place a premium on strong defense accompanying any improved offensive production. They entered Tuesday ranked sixth in the American League in team ERA (3.78), but rank 14th in fielding independent pitching (4.21), a metric used to roughly determine what a pitcher’s ERA would look like with defensive play eliminated from the equation. This, in part, reflects how important strong defense has been to the Orioles’ success this season.Jonathan Schoop is hitting just .216 and Ryan Flaherty .207, but both have provided above-average defense at second base. The catching combination of Caleb Joseph (.197) and Nick Hundley (.205) is hovering around the Mendoza line, but Showalter and pitchers alike have credited their work behind the plate as a major reason for the pitching success since early June.A report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Tuesday indicated the Orioles are not interested in Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki.“You never assume anything. I don’t want to know every [rumor],” Showalter said. “We’ve talked about some things that are out there, but [Duquette] doesn’t have to [tell me everything] and I don’t want him to. I want our players to know that every ounce that I’ve got is towards the 25 that are here and the 20 [or so] that are in Norfolk and Bowie. That’s my job.”Duquette and the Orioles clearly won’t tip their hand if something significant is in the works, but it still appears they’re more likely to add a bullpen arm or a starting pitcher with minor-league options before compromising their future for a impact starting pitcher who may or may not be available with so few sellers at the deadline under the current playoff system that now includes two wild cards in each league.Of course, with the Orioles entering Tuesday with the fourth-best record in the majors and a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East, they don’t feel the urgency to pull the trigger on a deal simply for the sake of making one, either. And there’s always the distinct possibility of a move being made in August when a number of helpful players will inevitably pass through waivers and once again become available through a trade.“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our people up there,” Showalter said. “I think we get so bogged down thinking it’s a strict ‘no more trades’ after this day. Take a look at the people acquired after the deadline [in the past]. It’s a moving target. Dan brings me up to speed on things that he wants my input from, and he knows that I go through the coaching staff and we kick it around.”last_img read more