The Capitals were in desperate need of a change, and now they’ve got it. Bruce Boudreau is out as head coach, fired by the team this morning and replaced by former Capitals captain and tough guy Dale Hunter.
The move comes after speculation ran hot last night that a potential move was coming thanks to a report from Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. Turns out Kypreos had it right and now the Capitals, who have been mired in an awful funk all season, will get the change they’ve been in need of since last season.
Hunter comes in in the same position Boudreau was in when he was named head coach of the Capitals years ago in that he’s never been a coach in the NHL. Instead, Hunter comes via junior hockey where he was the owner and head coach of the OHL’s London Knights. Much like Brent Sutter in Calgary, Hunter will put aside his ownership duties to coach in the NHL. Sutter is owner of the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL.
This time, however, Hunter comes into a situation where the Capitals absolutely have to get things turned around. Alex Ovechkin has slumped all season long and his scoring numbers have fallen off hard, Alex Semin leads the team in penalties rather than being anywhere near the top in goals, and the defense and goaltending have been sub-par to put it nicely. Hunter comes in with one designation from his playing days: He’s the one captain of the Capitals that led the team to a Stanley Cup finals appearance.
Adding to all that, the team just appeared to not enjoy playing hockey anymore. If Hunter coaches at all the same way as he played, business is about to pick up in a big way in D.C. One thing is for sure, Hunter’s got a lot of work to do get these Capitals back to normal. If a change at the top is all that they needed to make it happen, GM George McPhee will be the smartest guy in the world.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)
–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)
–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)
–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)
–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)
–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)
—Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)
The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.
The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.
Here’s the goal:
Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.
Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.
Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.
The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.
Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.
The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.
It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.
After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.
In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.
You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.
It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:
Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:
You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.
After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.
“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.
“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”
After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.
“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”
And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.
—Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta