The Washington Capitals have one of the most talented teams in the National Hockey League. Ever since their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have not been the same team. The Capitals sit 12th place in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have the same group of players minus one or two. However, their recent struggles have forced them to remove their coach Bruce Boudreau in favor of former Capital. Dale Hunter, who was known more for playing than coaching, has been coaching the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. Hunter has dealt with egos in the OHL. Former Knights players Corey Perry, Patrick Kane, Rick Nash, and John Tavares are no strangers to Hunter’s style of coaching.
Hunter will not hesitate to be in your face if you have done something wrong. But he will let you play your style of game. Bringing that style of coaching to the National Hockey League is a different story. The egos of those in the OHL do not compare to the egos on the Washington Capitals. The two biggest egos on the Capitals are Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. Ovechkin has been underperforming this year. Semin had been in the doghouse during Boudreau’s reign as coach. Semin had been taking penalties in the offensive zone hurting his team. Neither player has been putting up the numbers they have in the past. Alex Ovechkin, who is a 50-goal scorer every year, has only registered 10 goals through 30 games. That is below his average.
Bourdreau wanted Ovechkin to start playing better defensive hockey because the Capitals wanted to perform better in the playoffs. Both men believed they had a good relationship, but many on the outside thought Ovechkin pushed Boudreau out of Washington. The reason being Boudreau had benched Ocechkin and Semin with a minute to go against Anaheim in game in October. Since the coaching change Ovechkin has only one goal and Semin is still in and out of the lineup. Dale Hunter will let these players do what they normally do, but he will hold them accountable if they make mistakes on the ice.
Ovechkin’s style early on in his career made him a fun player to watch. He would hit everyone in sight and score timely goals. But maybe that style has taken its toll on his body and he is struggling to keep the pace. Something is missing from Alex’s game. Capitals players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, and others need to step up their play on the ice in order for the Capitals to have success. But what else do the Capitals need to fix.
The Capitals thought with the signing of Tomas Vokoun, the move would upgrade their goaltending situation. Vokoun is not the same player he was in Florida. Vokoun has hurt the Capitals more times than he has helped them. While the Capitals goalie situation needed to be upgraded, Vokoun is not performing up to his contract like many players on the team. The Capitals need to get back to basics. The team needs to realize that hard work and determination will win games. The players with skill cannot just rely on their skill to win games. Other team defensives will adapt and they will be held from the score sheet. Washington is 4-4 under new coach Dale Hunter as they head into Colorado Saturday night.