According to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, Dale Hunter is done in Washington.
That’s the rumor du jour as the former NHLer and current analyst tweeted the news just minutes ago. Kypreos, a friend and former teammate of Hunter, was one of the first to break the news that Hunter would replace Bruce Boudreau as the Capitals head coach back in November.
If Hunter does step down, it’d be surprising and unsurprising at the same time. He was on a one-year deal in Washington and there was much speculation he’d taken the job mostly as a favor to Caps GM George McPhee. Hunter is heavily invested in his OHL club in London — which he and brother Mark own, manage and coach — and has turned the Knights into one of the premier junior clubs in the world.
That said, it’s hard to fathom Hunter walking away after the postseason he’s had. The Capitals entered the playoffs as the East’s No. 7 seed but proceeded to upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in Round 1, before pushing top-seeded New York to seven games in Round 2.
McPhee has informed the media that Hunter is indeed leaving his post.
“It was a very, very difficult decision for him,” McPhee told the Washington Post. “We love everything about Dale. We were delighted he could come in and spend six months with us. He really taught the club the ‘how’ of winning.”
It’s been a pretty special postseason for Braden Holtby. He’s got the Capitals in a Game 7 with a spot in the Eastern Conference finals on the line and right when you think life couldn’t get any better for the young goalie, it does.
According to The Washington Post, Holtby welcomed a new son into the world today with his fianceé, Brandi Bodnar. Benjamin Hunter Holtby was born this morning in a Washington hospital and he and mom are doing well. From the birth of a child to helping the Capitals go deep in the playoffs, it’s safe to say Holtby is on top of the world.
No, we have no idea if Benjamin’s middle name is inspired by coach Dale Hunter, but it’s safe to say he’s had a profound effect on Braden’s life to this point. Here’s to hoping a bouncing baby boy won’t provide too much of a distraction for the new dad, he’ll need to be a little focused on Saturday night.
The crushing way the Capitals lost in Game 5 would be enough to test the psyche of anyone. With Game 6 on the way tomorrow night in Washington, it wouldn’t be outrageous to be worried about how rookie goalie Braden Holtby would hold up.
Turns out, no one else in his locker room is too nervous about him. Caps coach Dale Hunter says Holtby is “a resilient kid and a battler” and adding he’ll battle again as well. NHL.com’s Dave Lozo hears it from Karl Alzner about how they’ll do their part as a team to make sure his spirits stay up.
“Just reminding him that he’s playing great,” Alzner said. “There’s nothing really that he can do otherwise. It’s just him continuing to do what he does and we do a better job of burying our chances and keeping them away from the net as much as possible.”
Without Holtby the Caps are likely dead in the water in the playoffs and making sure he stays in a good frame of mind is key. He’s been hard-headed throughout the playoffs, however, and seems unflappable. Washington hopes that will still be the case tomorrow night.
Whether you agree or disagree with his strategies, Washington Capitals head coach Dale Hunter has his team buying in. The Caps bounced back nicely from what could have been a crushing triple-OT loss in Game 3 to win Game 4, but faces another tough motivational challenge after Game 5’s stunning 3-2 OT defeat.
Hunter’s solution to Stephen Whyno and others essentially follows the “K.I.S.S.” strategy,* then.
“It’s a game of hockey,” Hunter said. “It’s another game on Wednesday. It’s just hockey. Don’t over-analyze it. It’s just playing hockey.”
Joel Ward and others might lose some sleep tonight after that dizzying defeat. Braden Holtby’s comments might persuade some to believe that the Capitals’ shot-blocking system lends itself to a few weaknesses.
Hunter’s response might be more complicated behind closed doors, but then again, he might just say the same basic thing: shut up and play. And he might be right.
* That would be “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
One of the more memorable plays from the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Rangers was seeing Alex Ovechkin lay a huge hit on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi during the second period. Ovechkin was given a minor penalty for charging thanks to him leaving his feet to make the hit. Take a look at the video and see for yourself.
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After the game, Caps coach Dale Hunter told Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times he thought the hit wasn’t as menacing as it appeared.
“It was more incidental contact where both of them were protecting themselves and trying to get out of the way,” Hunter said.
Dan Girardi told Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants he didn’t want to make a big deal out of the play but did say Ovechkin hit him in the head.
“He hit my head a bit there, I think it was the right cal,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure what it was, charging or interference. My head’s kind of there, I think he’s just playing the game hard.”
Meanwhile, Ovechkin said he thought the hit was shoulder-to-shoulder. Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal said the thought after the game was that there would be no supplementary discipline for Ovechkin even in spite of him being a repeat offender.