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
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.
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.
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: