Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
When Dale Hunter’s made his decision to resign as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the disappointment of his players was manifest as they conducted their exit interviews at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For all the talk of Hunter’s defense-first game plan, the coach’s strategy was barely mentioned by the players. Instead, they praised something else: the accountability he brought to the team. Gone were the days of stars — or captains — getting a free pass. Every player was forced to work together, no matter what line or how much ice team they got.
Photo credit: Robb Carr
Dale Hunter played 872 games as a Washington Capitals player. He lasted just 74 behind the team’s bench.
“When I retired as a hockey player I had to retire because I was not that good anymore,” Hunter said with a laugh at his final press conference at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “But this was a tough decision.”
Hunter’s choice was not easy to make. But the reasons that ultimately lead him to make the determination seem clear. The 51-year-old former Caps captain is heading back to London, Ontario to rejoin his family and his empire. There, he co-owns the OHL’s London Knights with his brother Mark. The siblings run everything. Before taking over as Washington’s bench boss, he served as the junior club’s general manager and head coach, positions that his brother assumed in November. The team finished this season with a 49-18-1 record, winning the OHL championship. They now have a chance to take home the biggest prize in juniors, the Memorial Cup.
“I’m going home,” Hunter said Monday. “I’ve got a good thing going at home there and I’ll stay there.”
Orlov and other Caps scratches look on from the press box. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)
It’s been a season of unexpected trials and disappointments for the Washington Capitals, but if there’s been one pleasant surprise, it’s been Dmitry Orlov. The young defenseman was not expected to make a permanent impact with the club this season, but after being called up on an emergency basis early in the year, Orlov simply earned his keep, becoming a mainstay even on a roster that frequently had defensemen to spare. Orlov has yet to play in the postseason, with the coaching staff so far relying on more experienced players to man the blueline, but if the Caps manage to make it past the first round, he may just get his chance.
Before the playoffs began, Orlov talked with Hockey World’s Andrey Osadchenko about about Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and his unexpected breakthrough year. I provide a translation below.
Just about everyone has an opinion on how Alex Ovechkin can improve his play. One voice worth paying attention to though, is the guy who knows Ovi better that almost anyone else: Bruce Boudreau, his coach for a better part of five years. On Saturday, Boudreau, now the bench boss of the Anaheim Ducks and a playoff analyst for CBC, finally offered his thoughts during HNIC’s coverage of the Caps/Bruins game.
So it all comes down to this. A season full of mediocre and substandard Caps performances could very well hinge upon Tuesday night’s tilt against the Sabres. Or, as we like to call them, the godless and heathen Sabres. Tuesday night at Verizon is when we glance up into the rear-view mirror and see all those squandered games and lost opportunities receding into the distance. Had the Caps gotten their heads and asses wired together at any point between November and say, last Friday’s night’s OT loss to the Jets, we wouldn’t be on pins and needles headed into Tuesday evening, or in my particular case, on lithium and Maker’s Mark.
[Ed. note: Capitals During Wartime is a series analyzing Washington’s struggles before the 2012 trade deadline. We’ve discussed weakness at center, a poor road record, and negativity among fans so far.]
In the latest edition of Capitals During Wartime, I mused about how and why we discuss the negative stuff going on with Capitals right now. Concluding, in short, that our foremost responsibility is to the Truth, and not just Good Feelings, I promised not to shy away from D.C.’s ongoing hockey bummers– but also not to drench that analysis in hyperbole.
This article is a statistical rundown of the Washington Capitals through 54 games for the purpose comparing the tenures of Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter head to head. But I will not be offering any commentary. My voice is limited to the selection of statistics below. Any conclusions you make or narratives you perceive are your own. I have included traditional stats, some advanced stats, and some individual curiosities that we’ve discussed recently on the site.
[Ed. note: this is the second article in our series about the Capitals’ struggles leading up to the trade deadline. The first Capitals During Wartime post addressed the team’s problems with the center position.]
At the end of All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast Division, but their prospects for the postseason are not secure. The Southeast has two challengers– the Florida Panthers (with whom the Caps are virtually tied) and the Winnipeg Jets. Plus, the Capitals have a tough schedule down the stretch– including some tough games on the road. When Neil Greenberg at the Washington Post looked at the Caps’ remaining schedule, he was not encouraged.
That’s because the road is where the Capitals have had most of their troubles this season. The team’s home record of 18-6-1 is fourth best in the league, but away they are just 8-13-2, a dismal 25th. One spectacularly bad road game in Buffalo on November 26th probably cost Coach Boudreau his job. The power play and penalty kill perform vastly better in Verizon Center than they do when away. With 18 away games remaining, the Capitals will have to do better on the road if they want to make the playoffs.
The article looks at the Caps’ troubles away from D.C. from several angles: possession, shooting, special teams, and Alex Ovechkin. And because it’s interesting, I’m comparing Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter too. Uh oh.
Photo credit: Michael Martin
For those of you who stayed up late Saturday with the hopes of getting an up-close-and-personal look at #AvsFailWatch, sorry. The Capitals are scuffling. The team has mustered only one goal in each of the past three games (1-2-0), they have failed to win more than two straight games since starting the season 7-0, and they have an unimpressive 4-5-0 record since Dale Hunter was hired as coach. 31 games into the season, the Caps are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and would not qualify for the playoffs if they started today. Bummer city.
While it’s easy to fret about all the unmet expectations this season, there are also some positive changes going on– though you might have to get out a magnifying glass to see them.
First, the Capitals are giving up nearly one less goal per game under Hunter (3.27 GAA with Bruce, 2.55 with Dale). Five-on-five, the Capitals are finally subscribing to more of a chip-and-chase system and are trying to be a tougher team to compete against. “Unfortunately, it’s a really hard way to play,” Tomas Vokoun recently explained to CSN’s Chuck Gormley. “But it’s the only way you can win a Stanley Cup. And the sooner we learn it as a team the better off we’re going to be.”
Early Monday morning , DC101’s Elliot in the Morning interviewed Brooks Laich. Before practice, Laich talked extensively about Dale Hunter, the system he’s bringing to Washington, the firing of Bruce Boudreau, and the awkwardness surrounding Dennis Wideman’s almost-hat trick.
Below the jump, I’ve transcribed a good chunk of the two’s talk.
The PreGame: On Wednesday night, we saw flashes of brilliance. Perhaps our squad has turned the corner. We finally figured out the PP. And yet, for the past four weeks, we’ve seen things we haven’t wanted to see. Ugly things. Things we’ve flinched from; things we’ve shielded our juvenile eyes away from. Things a pure heart shouldn’t see: the last gasping moments of the Boudreau era. We think it’s time to banish what was… for what is now.
[Call the Spirits! North, South… East and West…Harken to me now! Hear us!]
Bruce – Juggles – is passed. And now, like a veil lifted from our eyes, we see again our gallant Capitals squad. God Save the King! We will love you always Coach, but you are now past us. Be well, and fear the Caps.
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