Tonight the road trip continues with the Washington Capitals. This is a unique situation: new-coach bump versus new-coach bump. If you were completely tuned out from the hockey world yesterday, then you'll be surprised to know that yesterday the Caps sacked head coach Bruce Boudreau and hired Caps legend Dale Hunter. Hunter inherits an under-performing team; the conventional wisdom is that Boudreau "lost the room". Boudreau had emptied his toolbox: benching Ovechkin for a spell, making Alexander Semin a healthy scratch... all to no avail. When you have nothing left to offer, the GM has only one option.
The Enemy: The new coach for the Caps has plenty of player cred to get his team's attention. He's one of only four Capitals players to have their number retired. According to Wiki, he's also the only player in NHL history to score 1,000 points AND have 3,000 penalty minutes. The question mark is in his lack of experience at the professional level. Hunter is making the rare leap straight from junior hockey (leaving the London Knights of the OHL) to the NHL. He has not coached at all in either the NHL or AHL level, neither as head nor assistant coach. How significant is that? We shall see.
As for the players, well - their coach just got fired, so that should give you an impression. The leader in points for the Caps is Nicklas Backstrom, with 25 points in 22 games (7G /18A). Second on the team is captain Alex Ovechkin, with 17 (8G /9A). For a player of Ovechkin's talent, that's considered slumping. Well, at least they have Alex Semin ... except that he's only got 5 goals and 5 assists for the year. Those are the engines that drive the Washington offense. Whether they get it going again with a tough-as-nails coach, remains to be seen.
As for goaltending, the usual starter is Tomas Vokoun, a free agent signing from this past off-season. So far this year, he's posted pretty pedestrian numbers: 2.82 GAA and .900 SV%. He's a better goalie than that, and there's something to be said about the team in front of him.
Final Verse: Being in the East, tonight's game starts at 6:00 PM St Louis time. The GDT should be around shortly beforehand. The broadcasts are on the usual outlets: the TV is on FoxSports MW, and the radio is on KMOX 1120 AM. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, gripe about early starts, trade your thoughts about the Washington and Carolina coaching changes, and take in the most vivid memory most hockey fans have of Dale Hunter:
Dale Hunter cheapshots Pierre Turgeon (via mamojica)