Ovechkin “still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while”

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Adam Oates plans to “push the pace and be an aggressive team” when he takes over behind Washington’s bench next season; however, he doesn’t “see any reason to change” how the Capitals played under Dale Hunter, so far as the “little things” are concerned.

Echoing Oates’ sentiments, general manager George McPhee put it this way when talking about Alex Ovechkin at today’s introductory press conference: “He still might have to dump it in and block a shot once in a while.”

Yesterday, Ovechkin said he was excited at the prospect of playing for an offensive-minded coach: “It’s not blocking the shots and it’s not dump and chase.”

Thus, McPhee’s quip.

Caps associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig thinks Oates will strike a “great balance” between Hunter and the guy that preceded Hunter, Bruce Boudreau.

“Dale was a blue collar guy who believed in defensive hockey,” Kolzig told CSNWashington.com.

“When he took over [for Boudreau on Nov. 28] we were a very fragile hockey team both defensively and offensively. And the way he corrected it was by saying, ‘Hey, if we can’t score goals we can sure as hell prevent them.’ And to his credit he got all the guys to buy in. We were one game away from going to the conference finals.

“But we still maybe weren’t utilizing the players that we had.”

For example, Ovechkin, who saw limited ice time under Hunter when the Caps were trying to protect a lead, e.g. Game 2 of Washington’s second-round series against the Rangers in which Ovechkin played just 13:36.

Watch the full press conference below:

Boudreau: “I admire Dale Hunter for following the beat of his own drum”

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Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is writing the occasional blog for the Los Angeles Times during the playoffs, and today’s post included an interesting take on the way Washington coach Dale Hunter has been deploying Alex Ovechkin this postseason:

A lot has been made about Ovechkin and his ice time. I admire Dale Hunter for following the beat of his own drum. He is looking at the game and saying, “This is how we are going to win.” He’s staying true to himself and doing exactly what he thinks is the right thing in order to be successful.

Others have said the same thing with regards to Hunter’s philosophy. However, Boudreau’s take was especially noteworthy given what he told the Washington Post in January, not long after being fired as coach of the Capitals.

“You’ve got to be true to yourself,” he said. “I found that I was getting away from that this year. People were saying, ‘Do this’ and ‘Do that.’ I wasn’t doing what I believed was the right thing.”

Boudreau isn’t necessarily saying he should’ve coached the way Hunter’s coaching now, but it’s pretty obvious he still thinks about his time with the Capitals and how it might’ve ended differently if he’d stuck to trusting his instincts.

Video: Dale Hunter on his gutsy coaching decisions

Discuss: Ovechkin bounces back, scores winner in Game 2 vs Rangers

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For most of this game, the story was the lack of playing time that Alex Ovechkin was receiving, then, with one shot he changed the narrative. Ovechkin’s game-winning goal might not be a cure-all, but it’s certainly a powerful statement. He stepped up when Washington Capitals needed him the most, which is something we haven’t seen a ton of from Washington’s highest paid players in this postseason run.

The final score of Monday’s contest was 3-2 in favor of Washington and the series is now tied at 1-1.

Here are a few post-game notes:

  • The Capitals blocked almost as many New York Rangers shots as they had shots on the Rangers’ goal.
  • Ovechkin still finished the game with only 13:36 minutes of playing time. During the Bruce Boudreau era, Ovechkin never logged less than 19:32 minutes in a postseason contest.
  • Ovechkin’s goal is just the second third-period goal that Henrik Lundqvist has surrendered over his last seven games.
  • Including both the regular season and playoffs, Braden Holtby still hasn’t lost two straight starts with the Washington Capitals in 2012.

Get ready for Lundqvist vs. Ovechkin Part III

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Even in times when they weren’t moderate underdogs, it seemed like the Washington Capitals had one team’s number in the Alex Ovechkin era: Henrik Lundqvist’s New York Rangers. King Henrik often kept over-matched Rangers teams in those series, yet the higher seed Caps won both series.*  The third part of that trilogy will happen in the 2012 semifinals after the Rangers and Capitals won insanely close first round series.

The third edition has some interesting new wrinkles even if Lundqvist’s and Ovechkin’s names remain on top of the marquee. This time around, the Rangers are the No. 1 seed while the Capitals are the dangerous underdogs.

After jostling with equally emphatic coach Bruce Boudreau before, John Tortorella will get to soak up all the attention if Dale Hunter gets his way. Tortorella didn’t have a whole lot to tell PHT’s Joe Yerdon about the upcoming series after Game 7 yet, though.

“I haven’t even got that far yet,” Tortorella said.

That coaching difference will likely represent as big a change as who has home ice. The Rangers might very well see a little bit of themselves – or maybe their old selves – in the increasingly scrappy Capitals.

So, with all that in mind, what are your early impressions? Can Washington thrive in its underdog role again or will the Rangers get some revenge? Will Braden Holtby top Lundqvist like he did to Tim Thomas? It should be a fun one.

* The Capitals took the 2009 series in seven games and topped New York in five last year.

Boudreau is “still pissed” at Halak

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Former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t forgiven Jaroslav Halak for what he did to the Capitals.

source:

Boudreau’s Ducks host Halak and the Blues tonight. Thus, the question about 2010.

To refresh your memory, Halak led the underdog Canadiens to a shocking first-round upset of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals in 2010. He stopped all but three of the 134 shots he faced in In Games 5, 6 and 7, and was named first star in all three outings.

“I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year,” Boudreau said after Game 7, “and I would have bet my house that they wouldn’t have beaten us three games in a row and we would have only scored three goals in almost 140 shots.”

The Habs advanced to the second round where they pulled off another upset, this time over the defending champion Penguins, and once again in large part due to Halak.

So it wasn’t just the Caps who fell victim to brilliant goaltending.

But for Washington, the first-round elimination led to a major change in strategy. The next season Boudreau was preaching defense while eschewing run-and-gun hockey. The Capitals still won a lot of regular-season games, but they scored almost 100 fewer goals and were swept in the second round of the playoffs by Tampa Bay.

Along the way, Washington’s superstar, Alex Ovechkin, seemed to lose his zest for the game. Clearly the new, conservative approach wasn’t as fun to play. Or, for that matter, watch.

All of which begs the question, if Boudreau thought Halak was such a major factor in the series, why did he change his team’s style so dramatically? Not saying the Caps would’ve done any better if they kept running and gunning — just wondering which direction they would’ve taken if not for an unheralded goalie that went on an amazing run.