Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Welcome to the Dale Hunter Era

One day of practice and one game is not nearly enough to see a complete change as we enter the Dale Hunter era. The Caps players looked a little out of sync early and I attribute that to what I call the "post Boudreau hangover." These players are human after all and be it their fault or not, they have lost the coach they have played for the past 4 seasons. Dale Hunter is an unknown to most of these players, and it will take a few games for them to build a relationship of trust and respect for one another. I think Dale feels extremely fortunate to be the coach of the Washington Capitals, and he will be working hard to right the ship, but he's been thrown in the deep end of the pool by McPhee with the Penguins coming to town Thursday night.
It was good to see the fans react positively to Dale Hunter. I expected nothing less, but the positive reaction is some proof that the fan base was ready for a change. Whether or not this is the right change is yet to be seen, as I pointed out here.
Back to the game, I think in crunch time the Caps finally started to wake up and their minds were able to focus on just playing the game rather than the new face behind the bench. They started to hit, and win some 50-50 pucks. Against a stingy St. Louis Blues defense, the Caps just couldn't break through in the end and get the goal they needed. One thing to point out is Alex Ovechin's ice time went down even further to just over 16 minutes. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate move, or if coach is just playing with the lines, seeing what he has on the ice. Hunter pointed out after the game that he doesn't have a timeline for when he wants the Caps to be playing the way he wants, he just wants to "see improvement every game." I tend to agree with that statement because you can't make arbitrary benchmarks for a team to make. It will just take time for the Caps and their new coach to gel.
I'm a Dale Hunter fan, but it will definitely take some time for me to get used to seeing a new face behind the bench Rockin the Red. I definitely want to see the Caps play a grittier style of play, and I did notice John Erskine staying at home owning the space in front of the net.

How do you guys feel? Who stepped up last night? Who didn't? Share your opinions in the comment section.

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