Ovi and Hunter

Caps coach preaching defense in DC


When the Washington Capitals brought in Dale Hunter to replace Bruce Boudreau behind the bench, the hope among many fans was that the team would return to its high-flying ways. However, those fans might be disappointed to learn Hunter’s main focus so far has been defense.

The Washington Post explains, “Creating defensive stability and structure is the foundation that Hunter has sought to build his system upon, with the belief that once the Capitals can protect their own zone, success in the offensive zone will follow.”

Hunter’s early priority isn’t much of a surprise considering the Caps have been one of the worst defensive teams this season. But can they thrive under a “pressure-based” system that demands each player on the ice picks up his own man? (I’ll leave it to you to decide which players might have issues with such a system.)

“The onus is on that individual player to win their battle every time,” Karl Alzner said. “If you don’t win your battle and you get beat then we’re going to have an issue and you hope someone’s going to bail you out – your goalie or a weak side forward – but it’s good this way, it keeps everybody extremely honest. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing your job and winning your job or it’s not going to work.”

In other words, no flying the zone early. No getting caught on the wrong side of the puck. High-percentage plays over high-risk.

“I think we’re really bringing our forwards back and trying to always be a stick length away from the guy so we’re not giving them that time to make a play,” John Erskine said. “I think if we get on the same page with that it will bring our goals against down quite a bit.”

The new system might also help the offense, considering so much offense starts from the back end in the NHL. Teams that move as a five-man unit and provide multiple passing options for the puck-carrier can be tough to defend. But first, the players need to buy in. And that might be Hunter’s biggest challenge.

Marner’s brilliant passing powers uplifting night for Leafs

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Boston Bruins during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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For a while, the story of the Florida Panthers – Toronto Maple Leafs game would be the remarkable march of Jonathan Marchessault.

As great as his story remains (he gave Florida 1-0 and 2-1 leads), those pesky young Maple Leafs keep stealing the headlines.

In tonight’s case, it was Mitch Marner who was raising eyebrows as he assisted on all three of Toronto’s goals in a 3-2 victory.

His third assist was just sublime:

After the game, Tyler Bozak pondered the two goals Marner helped him score and deemed the youngster “an elite player,” according to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.

Considering the growing discomfort regarding Frederik Andersen‘s play, this tweet should help to make Maple Leafs fans smile:

Ehhhhh, Marner might deserve that first star, but the gesture means almost as much as the win.

Also, it might help Andersen feel a little better after this happened:

Either way, this could be the sort of win that Toronto might build upon.

Devan Dubnyk pushes shutout streak to two games

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against Winnipeg Jets during the game on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk already showed signs of having a hot start to 2016-17, but Thursday made that point abundantly clear.

For the second straight game, Dubnyk generated a shutout, with the Minnesota Wild beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in this instance.

It’s not as if Dubnyk is just leisurely turning aside the occasional chance, either; he made 38 saves to blank Buffalo and needed to stop 65 shots on goal considering the 27 he turned aside in a 5-0 win vs. Boston.

Ryan Suter said that Dubnyk bailed his teammates out during the second period, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports.

He’s now allowed just 10 goals in six games so far in 2016-17, with Taylor Hall‘s overtime-winner being the last shot to beat him. That came on Sunday:

More often than not, Dubnyk’s been making those saves so far in this young season.

Video: Another way Patrik Laine evokes Alex Ovechkin

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There are plenty of differences between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, including obvious things like one being from Russia and the other from Finland.

Still, there are moments when Laine inspires comparisons to his idol, even this early in his rookie season.

Thursday presented one of those moments. It wasn’t just that Laine fired a 3-0 goal home for the Winnipeg Jets against the Dallas Stars with such moxie; it was also that he showed some swagger with a celebration afterward.

This GIF captures the moment brilliantly, while you can also watch the goal in video form.

Sure, there will be some grumbles from the “act like you’ve been here before” crowd, but this is brilliant stuff for the rest of us.

Video: Want another booming hip check? Sean Couturier obliges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Early this season, Dmitry Orlov delighted onlookers and angered Matt Duchene with a mind-blowing, throwback hip check. People really seemed to enjoy it.

While you’d struggle to top that hit, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier must have sensed the void in checks that almost seem to flip opponents, doing so against Anthony Duclair during Thursday’s contest.

Rate this as you will:

Want another look at the Orlov one for comparison’s sake or to chuckle in disbelief? Why not: