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The text message lit up Troy Mann’s phone the morning after the Capitals eliminated the Penguins with a patchwork lineup featuring five rookies. It came from Barry Trotz.
”Thanks Manner for having all those rookie Caps ready [url=http://www.49erscheapstore.com/colin-kaepernick-jersey-cheap]Colin Kaepernick Jersey[/url] ,” Trotz wrote. ”They all played well – you own a piece of this win last night.”
Mann beamed with pride when more than a half-dozen players he coached with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears contributed to the victory that got the Capitals into the Eastern Conference final. Many of those players are still playing key roles for Washington in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights – more than a month after Mann was fired from his job as Hershey’s head coach.
This is a bittersweet time for Mann, who had a hand in the development of Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos as coach and was an assistant when Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson went through Hershey on their way to the NHL. Considering the success of those players and Hershey products Nate Schmidt and Cody Eakin contributing for Vegas, the Cup Final is a validation of Mann’s methods of getting prospects ready for the next level.
”I called Troy Mann the other day and thanked him for producing a lot of good players,” Trotz said. ”All the players he had the last couple of years are all playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Guys who haven’t played a (playoff) game before. They’ve brought some of that winning tradition that they had in Hershey. It’s important for those guys to be a part of it.”
Mann has remained connected to the Capitals’ playoff run by talking to Trotz and Hershey video coach Mike King, who’s in Washington. Amid interviews with other organizations for another AHL job or work as an NHL assistant, he has watched about 80 percent of the Capitals’ games this postseason and can see the elements in players’ games he and assistant Ryan Murphy harped on improving during their four-year tenure.
After giving Vrana some tough love by scratching him in the playoffs a year ago, Mann notices the 22-year-old winger getting between the faceoff dots to create offense like he asked. He watches Stephenson playing with the consistency that was sometimes lacking in Hershey, which was all part of the plan.
”We talked a lot during our time here about what they needed to do at the NHL level to be successful,” Mann said by phone this week. ”The thing we’ve seen the most with our guys is just the improvement level from year to year and month to month.”
As much as Mann notices the improvement from afar, the players feel it [url=http://www.patriotscheapstore.com/adam-butler-jersey-cheap]Adam Butler Jersey[/url] , too, and credit him for giving them the playing time to grow their games in Hershey, a market that expects championships as much as development.
”He just gave us a chance,” said Stephenson, who has seven points in his first Stanley Cup playoffs. ”The type of franchise that Hershey’s been and having so many Calder Cups and things like that, he put a lot of faith in the younger guys and just trusted us. He wanted us to get to the next level more so than you wanted yourself. I really respected him as a coach and liked him as a coach and to have that faith and trust (from) him, it’s helped me a lot.”
His support several years ago helped Eakin become a full-time NHL player who said Mann ”knows how to get the most out of his players.” Schmidt, who had Mann as an assistant and a head coach, appreciated pre-practice skills sessions to work on his hands and stick work and the honesty with which he deals with players.
”I thought he was great,” Schmidt said Saturday. ”You always knew where you stood with him. That’s something that I really respect.”
But after three playoff appearances including a trip to the Calder Cup Final in 2016, missing the postseason this year led to the Capitals not renewing Mann’s contract.
”Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach, and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. ”At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level.”
That stung for Mann, who worked eight of the past nine years in the Capitals’ system [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/josh-hill-jersey-cheap]Josh Hill Jersey[/url] , made Hershey his home in that time and believed he did his job.
”I think it’s very difficult for anybody to tell me that I haven’t done my job here,” Mann said. ”I’m very grateful they gave me my first opportunity. As much as I’d love to be the head coach of Hershey next year, the only thing I can hope for now is that other NHL teams are recognizing the work that we did here and that’ll help pay off in the next few weeks here of securing another opportunity.”
Mann was a finalist for one job already and is in demand as Ottawa, Arizona and Colorado all look to fill AHL head-coaching vacancies. He has a big supporter in Trotz, who said recently the Capitals wouldn’t be Eastern Conference champions without Mann and Murphy helping develop Stephenson, Vrana, Djoos, Nathan Walker, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey.
”They did a really good job,” Trotz said. ”They’ve developed well, and they’ve been a big part of it.”
More Stanley Cup coverage: The Latest on Wednesday’s final slate of NBA regular-season games (all times local):
The NBA has released the first-round playoff schedule, and the reigning NBA champs will host the postseason opener.
Game 1 between Golden State and San Antonio opens the slate on Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern – a somewhat unusual noon local time tip-off for the Warriors.
The Warriors-Spurs game will followed Saturday by three other openers – Washington-Toronto, Miami-Philadelphia and New Orleans-Portland.
On Sunday, the games are Milwaukee-Boston, Indiana-Cleveland [url=http://www.vikingscheapstore.com/randy-moss-jersey-cheap]Randy Moss Jersey[/url] , Utah-Oklahoma City and Minnesota-Houston.
Game 2s will be held Monday through Wednesday.
Game 3s start Thursday, and all Game 7s – if necessary – would be on April 28 and 29.
For those planning way ahead, the NBA Finals are set to begin on May 31.
The NBA playoff bracket is complete.
Portland beat Utah to grab the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, and that allowed the rest of the bracket to be filled in – finally. The Trail Blazers will play No. 6 New Orleans in the first round, and No. 4 Oklahoma City will have home-court advantage against the fifth-seeded Jazz.
The Jazz-Blazers game was the 1,230th and final regular-season matchup of the season. Every other game on Wednesday’s schedule was over before the final buzzer in Portland, meaning it took the entire schedule to determine the last two matchups in the West.
The first two of the four Western Conference first-round matchups have been set.
No. 1 Houston will play No. 8 Minnesota, and No. 2 Golden State (probably with no Stephen Curry) will play No. 7 San Antonio (probably with no Kawhi Leonard).
The Rockets swept four games from the Timberwolves, and the Warriors went 3-1 against the Spurs in the regular season.
The rest of the West bracket will be set based on the outcome of the Utah-Portland game. New Orleans will start on the road, regardless of the winner, and Oklahoma City – thanks to its wild 137-123 win over Memphis – could still get a top-four seed.
Minnesota is in the playoffs.
Jeff Teague’s jumper with just over a minute left in overtime put the Timberwolves ahead to stay, and Minnesota topped Denver 112-106 on Wednesday night to grab the final spot in the NBA playoffs.
The last West spot was the only one up for grabs on the season’s final night. It was the NBA’s first winner-gets-in, loser-goes-home game since 1997.
Denver would have gone to the postseason with a win at Minnesota.
Minnesota is in the playoffs for the first time since 2004 – ending what was the longest active drought in the NBA
The East is set.
It took 82 games, the entire regular season and even an overtime in Miami to decide things, but the bracket for the Eastern Conference playoffs is filled.
No. 1 Toronto will play No. 8 Washington [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/a.j.-klein-jersey-cheap]A.J. Klein Jersey[/url] , No. 2 Boston will meet No. 7 Milwaukee, No. 3 Philadelphia draws No. 6 Miami and No. 4 Cleveland gets No. 5 Indiana.
All the Game 1s will be Saturday or Sunday, at the lower seed.
Indiana went 3-1 against the Cavaliers in the regular season. All the other first-round matchups are ones where the playoff foes split four meetings this season.
For the first time since 2001, Philadelphia is a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For the first time since 2008, LeBron James is not.
The 76ers routed Milwaukee 130-95 on Wednesday night to wrap up the No. 3 seed on the East bracket, and that meant No. 4 Cleveland will face No. 5 Indiana when the playoffs open this weekend.
Philadelphia’s 16-game winning streak is the longest to end a regular season in NBA history.
Philadelphia rolled from the start, taking a 46-18 lead after the first quarter. The 28-point margin tied for the sixth-largest in any quarter of 76ers history.
The only way Cleveland would have finished No. 3 was if it won and Philadelphia lost. But with the 76ers taking command so quickly and essentially locking Cleveland into No. 4 long before the final buzzers, James got most of Wednesday night off. He finished with 10 points in just over 10 minutes.
Russell Westbrook will average a triple-double for the second straight season.
The Oklahoma City guard came into Wednesday needing 16 rebounds against Memphis to average 10.0 boards this season – and got there in the third quarter of the Thunder’s game against the Grizzlies.
Westbrook has no issue outdueling teammates for rebounds, and grabbed 16 of the Thunder’s first 27 rebounds on Wednesday.
It’s only the third time in NBA history that someone has averaged a triple-double. Westbrook did it last year, and Oscar Robertson did it in 1961-62.
Houston Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute will likely miss at least the first round of the playoffs after dislocating his right shoulder in a meaningless game for the Western Conference leaders.
Coach Mike D’Antoni said Wednesday that Mbah a Moute will likely miss two to three weeks with the injury sustained against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
Mbah a Moute missed 15 games in December and January after dislocating his right shoulder during a fall, and it happened again on a dunk in traffic at Staples Center.
Mbah a Moute is a key rotation player for the Rockets, who have the best record in the NBA. He averages 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game off the bench.
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