We try to read lips, but it’s not easy to know what our Capitals are saying. Not unless a HBO crew is following them, or they’re within earshot of Pierre McGuire.
Luckily, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Knuble, and Matt Hendricks got mic’d up for the second round of the playoffs. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Rangers vs. Caps. Tears and swear words not included.
There were a few common themes to the Capitals’ last postseason interviews, before they went their separate ways for summer. The first question posed was always about Dale Hunter, who has made the decision to return to the London Knights franchise in Ontario rather than stay on to coach the Caps. The team expressed universal admiration and gratitude for what he brought to the Capitals in his short tenure, often focusing less on his system than on the character and sense of accountability he was able to instill.
There was clear disappointment at the early ending to the season, but a different tone to the team’s assessment of their year than the year before — many of the Caps mentioned that they thought they were able to go out in a way that they feel better about this year, though of course they’d all still rather be playing hockey.
Read on for the details of Jay Beagle‘s injury, Brooks Laich standing outside Hunter’s window holding a boombox, and Hunter’s odd career model for Alexander Ovechkin.
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.”
In a few short hours, the Capitals will face the Rangers in New York City to battle over who will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. But we shouldn’t worry. Why? Because our team is made up of a bunch of super heroes.
The Capitals had they backs against the wall Wednesday in Game 6, down 3-2 in the series after dropping Monday’s game in heartbreaking fashion. For this team, during this year, that was nothing unusual. Their head coach was fired in November. They were on track to miss the playoffs late in the season. But they beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round. And they just pushed the number one seed to a final, deciding game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“Everyone would like it to be smooth sailing all the time, but it’s just not the way it works around here and the way it works in the playoffs,” John Carlson, nestled in a corner of Washington’s locker room, told reporters. “I think everyone is paying the price for each other. I think everybody is sacrificing, doing what it takes, whether it’s playing, whether it’s not playing, whether it’s chipping the puck out instead of trying to stick handle, whether it’s getting the puck deep — everyone’s committed and knows when they look left, look right, look across that people want it. If you look in the playoffs right now it’s the best team teams. Teams that work together the best are most successful.”
A day after their thrilling 3-2 victory over the Rangers to even the series, Washington took to the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Sunday morning. As they prepared to head to New York for a pivotal Game 5 Monday, the team’s sprits were high and the beards long. Below, check out some of my photos from the skate.
The golden years of the Capitals’ “Young Guns” — Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Semin — are over. Back in 2009, they were scoring almost constantly, having career years as the Caps blew out teams on the way to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Mike Green does his best Alex Ovechkin impersonation. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)
Three years later, Bruce Boudreau is gone, the goals are way down, and Washington barely made the playoffs. But Saturday afternoon against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals they made a reappearance.
“We’ve been here the longest,” Backstrom told reporters after the game. “We need to step up.”
Ovechkin — whose struggles the past few seasons have been well documented — started the scoring off with a knuckling slapper that Henrik Lundqvist could not handle. Then, after New York tied the game up, Backstrom unleashed a fantastic snipe from the slot. And with the contest knotted at two with 5:48 left in the third, Green fired a bullet from the point on the power play to send the series back to New York even at two games apiece.
Early Thursday morning, a disappointed and exhausted Karl Alzner returned home with his fiancé Mandy. Alzner, who was on the ice when the Rangers’ Marian Gaborik ended Game Three in triple overtime, had just participated in the longest NHL game since 2008 and the third longest game in Washington Capitals history.
Unfortunately for Karl, the deflating loss was just the beginning of his problems. In a tweet at 2 AM, Alzner published a photo with the caption Dogs not happy about the loss either. In the picture, Alzner’s dogs can be seen posing — proudly — in front of his trashed living room.