Why Alex Ovechkin Throwing Gang Signs is a Good Thing

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.”

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Video: John Carlson on NHL Live, Plus Our DALE Sign

After registering seven points in three games for the Capitals, John Carlson was named the the NHL’s third star of the week. On Monday afternoon, Captain America celebrated by suffering through six minutes of questions from EJ Hradek and Deb Placey.

Amongst the most interesting topics they discussed, Carlson revealed his initial disappointment about not being drafted by New Jersey, his excitement to have Dale Hunter as his coach again, and his feelings — two years removed — on his gold-medal winning OTGWG in the 2010 World Junior Championships.

But really, we’re just posting this because our DALE sign is at 4:24.

Brooks Laich

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.

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Epic Stats: How the Caps Look After 25 Games

Photo credit: Rob Carr

Warning: You’re about to read statistics from someone who can’t keep score at Scrabble.

The Washington Capitals started their season with a 7-game winning streak. They were the talk of the league, a team made of smiles and wins.

They would go on to lose 12 of their next 18 games, their head coach, and their confidence. As of game 25, the Capitals are in a three-way tie for 8th in the Eastern Conference. For perspective, the players on the 9th place team usually get started on their suntans a little earlier than everyone else.

This article takes a look at the numbers behind the Caps season to date to try and give its schizophrenia some context. I’ll look at shots on goal, save percentage, puck possession, power play, and penalty kill.

Because with all of the opinions about why the Caps have fell so far (many I’ve posited myself), I owe you guys some objective assessment without the usual bluster or pageantry.

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Frustration, Hope as Caps Offense M.I.A Once Again

(Photo credit: Nick Wass)

The Dale Hunter era hasn’t exactly started with a bang. With Hunter looking for his first NHL win behind the bench and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby playing Washington for the first time since his Winter Classic concussion heard ’round the world, everybody from TSN to The New York Times descended on the Verizon Center Thursday night. And for the second game in a row the Caps were easily outplayed and doubled up in shots on goal (65 to 36 over the two games) — even if they lost by just one tally.

Still, the Caps aren’t exactly playing like Bruce Boudreau remains behind the bench. The team has instituted Hunter’s new defensive system (they had the second worst goal-against average in the league under the old regime) which will take some getting used to. The players, of course, know this as they made an even more dramatic shift in their play in the midst of their eight-game losing streak less than one year ago. So far, though, it’s yet to yield a victory.

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Dale Hunter Used to Fight His New Coaching Staff

Two days after re-joining the Capitals as head coach, Dale Hunter made his first big change by naming Jim Johnson as an assistant late Tuesday night. Johnson — a former bruising NHL defenseman who played in 829 career games (121 as a Cap) — will replace Bob Woods who was in his third year with the team. Johnson accumulated over 100 penalty minutes in seven of his 13 seasons in the NHL and has coached before. During the 2009-10 season, he was an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He then took over the head coaching position mid-season for the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals putting up a 15-5-0-2 record in 22 games. With the Capitals’ defense floundering and ranked 28th in the league in goals against, the move certainly makes sense.

The most interesting part of the hire, however, is the fact that Hunter and Johnson actually fought each other twice during their NHL careers. Hockeyfights.com has video of their second bout from November 18, 1992 which I’ve embedded above. Hunter brutalizes Johnson in the scuffle landing eight-straight punches before the fight is broken up by the linesmen. Boys will be boys.

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Watch: Dale Hunter’s First Post-Game Interview

“People that work will play.”

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Blues beat Caps 2-1, Dale Hunter’s Debut as Coach

 Photo credit: Nick Wass

Photo credit: Nick Wass

Dale Hunter hoped to lead the Washington Capitals to victory in his first game as head coach. He’d have to go through Jaroslav Halak to get there, but more importantly he’d have to get a flagging Capitals offense moving.

Alex Ovechkin threaded the needle, setting up Nick Backstrom to record the first goal of the game. T.J. Oshie cleaned up a Alex Steen’s slapshot to tie the score at 1-1. Matt D’Agostini caught a lucky bounce and wrapped it around to give St. Louis the lead. Despite a late-game flurry, it ended like that. Blues beat Caps 2-1.

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Download and Print the Dale Hunter Sign

Your boy Dan Steinberg found some old posters celebrating Dale Hunter’s 1993 return to the Caps after a 21-game suspension. Now that Dale is the team’s head coach, we’ve recreated those posters.

The mondo link below will download a PDF, which fits an 8.5 x 11 page perfectly. Download the file and print a few dozen of these bad boys out (on recycled paper, obvs) to pass out to everyone you see in Chinatown. Let’s make some noise tonight and make Huntsy feel welcome.

DOWNLOAD THE DALE SIGN
Pdf (213kb)

Crash the net.

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Former teammates congratulate Hunter as his number is retired. (Photo credit: Linda Spillers)

Back at Piney Orchard, only a handful of fans would come out to watch the Capitals practice– usually just the locals.

One day– a million years ago, my brother and I were sitting in the stands watching Mike Eagles and Steve Konowalchuk take an optional skate before leaving the ice. A few moments later, we heard someone cursing nearby. “F%$#ing thing!” the voice boomed.

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