Flames Thoughts: Gaudreau, Monahan cause Capital punishment

Derek Wills is the Calgary Flames radio play-by-play announcer on Sportsnet 960 The FAN. He shares his views about the Flames’ latest game.

After surrendering a goal 62 seconds into the game against the Washington Capitals, Mike Smith stopped the next 29 shots and the Flames scored four unanswered goals in 4-1 win.

1. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

The two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy-champion Capitals seem to bring out the best in the Flames.

After playing what I believe was their best game this season in a 2-1 victory over the Capitals at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Oct. 29, the Flames weren’t quite as good at Capital One Arena in Washington on Monday, but they were certainly the better of the two teams.

After a sluggish start allowed the Capitals to take a 1-0 lead on a Lars Eller goal 1:02 into the game, Johnny Gaudreau’s game-tying goal at 4:49 of the first seemed to get the Flames going. With the exception of a five-minute stretch late in the second period when the Capitals were buzzing and came close to squaring the score, the Flames pretty much dominated the final 50 minutes to complete a sweep of the two-game season series between the two teams.

2. MAGNIFICENT MIKE

If there was any doubt how important Smith was to the Flames before he suffered an upper-body injury in last Monday’s 7-4 victory over the Blues, there isn’t now.

Eddie Lack replaced Smith following the first period of that game and played well enough to get his first win as a Flame. Last Wednesday, in his second start of the season, Lack was pulled after allowing five goals on 15 shots. His replacement, Jon Gillies, wasn’t much better, surrendering three goals on 12 shots in an 8-2 loss …read more

Source:: Sportsnet.ca

Dennis Smith Jr. represents both the present and future of the Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS — Early in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Milwaukee Bucks, Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle had seen enough.

Consecutive possessions resulted in his rookie point guard, Dennis Smith Jr., trying to force things, first dribbling his way into a contested, low-percentage look in the lane that missed, then picking up his dribble and lobbing a pass that was snatched away by the never-ending reach of Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Carlisle immediately wheeled around and signaled to the bench for veteran J.J. Barea to replace Smith at the 9:47 mark of the quarter, having decided it was time for his rookie to sit and watch for a bit.

“The dribble was starting to be a little prevalent,” Carlisle said in his typical flat monotone after the game.

Given Dallas’s struggles so far this season – the Mavericks entered the game with the league’s worst record at 2-14, and had lost 10 of their 11 previous games – it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Smith sitting there for the rest of the night, especially given Carlisle’s reputation for being tough on his point guards.

But Smith didn’t pout or complain, and a few minutes later, Carlisle summoned him to go back in. Part of that could be attributed to the Mavericks being on their way to a 111-79 blowout victory.

Just as important, though, was something Carlisle said before the game: that Smith, just a month into his NBA career, is already an essential part of everything Dallas is trying to do.

“You spend a lot of time teaching with film,” Carlisle said in response to a question about trying to ensure bad habits don’t creep in as a team struggles for results. “I spent about a half-hour with him tonight before we had our meeting. A lot …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

Saints’ Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are the best running back tandem in the NFL

The New Orleans Saints are almost unrecognizable compared to the past few years. From 2014 to 2016 the team never won more than seven games in a season, and it was usually left up to quarterback Drew Brees to carry the team to victory. Not anymore. The Saints have been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL this year: winners of eight straight – including an improbable win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday – New Orleans is 11.5 points per game better than an average team after adjusting its margin of victory for strength of schedule, making this squad the best team in franchise history. The 2009 championship team, by comparison, had an adjusted scoring margin of 10.8 points per game.

And it’s mostly thanks to a historically good running game that focuses on a pair of running backs on pace to become one of the best tandems we have seen since 2002, the year the league expanded to 32 teams.

Veteran Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara have combined to produce 1,925 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) in 2017 and rank fourth and eighth, respectively, for scrimmage yards among running backs this season. Over the past 17 years, only the 2007 Minnesota Vikings had a better 1-2 punch (1,940 yards from scrimmage) during the first 10 games of a season – and the vast majority of that yardage was coming from Adrian Peterson (1,301).

The Saints tandem would likely look even better if Peterson hadn’t eaten into the snap count before being traded to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5. With him on the roster, Kamara was playing less than 30 percent of the snaps, but once Peterson left Kamara has rewarded the Saints with an average of 112.7 yards from scrimmage per …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

Matt Ryan’s 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks

SEATTLE — Matt Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Atlanta Falcons held off a late rally to beat the Seattle Seahawks 34-31 on Monday night.

Atlanta stayed in the hunt for an NFC playoff spot thanks to its second straight victory and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss. Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta’s opening possession. But it was Clayborn’s fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Russell Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

Seattle attempted a late rally down by 11 points. Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left, and Seattle got in range for a long field goal attempt by Blair Walsh in the closing moments, but his 52-yard attempt with 2 seconds left came up short and Atlanta escaped with the victory.

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle’s offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn’t go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His …read more

Source:: The Denver Post