First up in our look around the sports world, athletes and celebrities from all over celebrated Kobe Bryant’s birthday in their own ways over the weekend.

The Phillies’ Bryce Harper sported a Bryant jersey underneath his own for gameday vs. the Braves, rapper Drake showed off his Kobe shoe collection on Instagram and Diana Taurasi put up a season-high 34 pts for Phoenix in a custom mamba jersey.

Diana Taurasi wore a custom Mercury jersey on Mamba’s birthday 🙏 @highlighther (via @phoenixmercury, @wnba)

Next up, the disrespect is real as Celtics fans showed up virtually in the stands with brooms in their hands as Boston completed a first-round series sweep against the Philadelphia 76ers. Absolutley savage!

Lastly, it’s official! NHL 21 released their official trailer for The Great 8 edition of the game with the one and only Alex Ovechkin on the cover. Congrats Ovi!

Recognize Greatness with #NHL21 available worldwide October 16th 🏒🎮 Pre-order NHL 21 Great Eight Edition and get 3 Days Early Access 👀

A post shared by EA SPORTS NHL (@easportsnhl) on Aug 24, 2020 at 8:01am PDT

EA Sports announced on Monday that Ovechkin will be the cover athlete for its NHL 21 video game set to release on Oct. 16. For the second time in his career, the Capitals’ superstar will hold the honor and joins Jonathan Toews as the only two-time cover athletes in the game’s history.

Recognize Greatness with The Great Eight himself 🏒🔥 @ovi8 is your #NHL21 global cover athlete! 💪

When learning the news, Ovechkin shared his appreciation and of course had to crack a joke in classic Ovi fashion.

“It’s a huge honor to be on the cover of NHL 21 for the second cover in my career,” he said. “More importantly, I’m glad I’m looking just as good on the cover this year as I did in 2007!!!”

EA Sports made the announcement with a powerful video it released on Twitter, citing Ovechkin’s accomplishments and impact on the league as why he was ultimately chosen for the honor.

The narrator of the video walks viewers through Ovi’s incredible career. The video opens with images from his childhood and early years in the league and paints the picture of the young Russian star moving overseas to chase his dreams, barely speaking the language.

It progresses to show highlights from his playing career – both actual footage and video game recreations of those moments. EA Sports then recognized Ovi for his impact on the game beyond his own play by referencing the future generation of hockey players he inspired.

NHL 20’s cover athlete Auston Matthews had a cameo appearance where he tells a story of watching Ovechkin play when he was just a kid in the stands.

“I was at that game,” Matthews said. “That memory has just been kind of engraved in my mind. It was probably the greatest goal I’ve ever seen.”

The narrator then mentions Ovi’s critics – the ones who said he wasn’t the greatest because he had never won the cup – and his ability to silence them and remind them that the league wouldn’t be the same without him.

The video even features a clip of Ovechkin asking Sidney Crosby who he thought would win the Hart Memorial Trophy. Crosby responds, “you,” showing that even his greatest rivals recognize how much he means to the game.

Ovi’s history-altering career and inspiring story led EA Sports to select him as the lead representative for their innovative game, which will now feature the new “Be A Pro” experience to give players the chance to live the life of an NHL star both on and off the ice. EA Sports says the game will allow players to, “Impress the front office, go early on draft day, and chase greatness as players earn a spot on the first line, compete for the Stanley Cup, and become the league’s next best,” just like Ovechkin did in his career.

“Our community has been asking for an invigorating Be A Pro experience that puts them in the same spotlight as their favorite NHL stars, like Alex Ovechkin,” said Sean Ramjagsingh, Executive Producer of NHL 21. “Ovechkin’s gameplay legacy, on and off the ice, is helping us to bring the next generation of EA SPORTS NHL gameplay to life with NHL 21.”

The NHL 21 Great Eight Edition will be released on Oct. 16 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and is now available for preorder.

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

When Todd Reirden was hired as head coach of the Capitals in 2018, he had the unenviable task of taking over for a coach who had just led the team to a championship. The next head coach will not have that challenge, but there are still plenty of challenges that await Reirden’s successor.

The biggest issue facing the Capitals is that this is a team nearing a crossroads. With its veteran-laden roster, the clock is ticking on the championship window. There will come a time when players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie will no longer be able to perform at an elite level. That day is going to come sooner than you probably think. Priority No. 1 is going to be competing for a Stanley Cup, but the next coach will very likely also need to navigate at least the start of the team’s transition away from the Alex Ovechkin championship era.

in the immediate future, general manager Brian MacLellan made it very clear on Sunday what he feels the top priority for the next coach to be.

“I think consistent compete level from some guys would help our goal moving forward and I think you know those buttons do need to be pushed,” MacLellan said. “We need to hold guys accountable when they don’t perform up to standards. I think it is an important part and I think just the whole inconsistent team effort. The play of units of five, not just individually would help that situation tremendously.”

Some of the players MacLellan is referring to seem obvious. Evgeny Kuznetsov cycles between being among one of the best players in the world to being non-existent on the ice on any given night. Jakub Vrana has now gone 15 straight postseason games without recording a single point. The entire bottom-six was a non-factor in the playoffs. Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen look like top-four defensemen at their best and bottom-pair defensemen at their worst. Washington was also among the most penalized teams in the league. The 298 penalties the Caps took in 2019-20 tied Washington for second in the NHL.

Let’s face it, accountability was never Reirden’s strong suit. That is something MacLellan clearly wants to see the team improve on.

The team will also face a new challenge in net next year as it transitions away from Braden Holtby who was on the last year of his contract. Even if Holtby does re-sign in the offseason, he will almost certainly be the backup heading into next season behind Ilya Samsonov. Regardless of who the No. 1 is, the new coach will have to determine how best to utilize a No. 1 goalie with only 26 games of NHL experience and a No. 2 who will have to work in tandem.

One of the most glaring weaknesses of the Caps in 2019-20 season was the complete deterioration of the team’s defense. That must be addressed, especially with the team poised to make Samsonov the No. 1. It has got to give its young netminder more help in order to set him up for success.

Offensively, the issue there will be determining how to spread the wealth. The playoffs exposed just how dependent Washington is on its top-six. When the goals dried up in the playoffs, Reirden began over-playing the top players. With another year under their belt, you can’t get away with this for long. You need to be able to get production out of your bottom-six or you will overtax your top players. Managing minutes is something Washington will need to be more cognizant of with its veterans with every passing year.

No, the new coach will not be taking over a team in the wake of a championship offseason party, but he will just have to figure out how to get this team with championship talent that has flamed out in the first round the past two seasons back to being a championship contender. No pressure there.

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


World news – CA – In The Loop: NHL 21 official trailer with Alex Ovechkin, athletes and celebs honor Kobe Bryant

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