Ferraro: Kuznetsov's skill is eye-catching

Posted on: Tuesday 1/10/2012 11:18pm

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The Capitals had only one prospect at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships, but Russia's Evgeny Kuznetsov proved to be the tournament's best.

Kuznetsov captained Russia to a silver medal and led the tournament in scoring with six goals and 13 points in seven games. He was also named to the tournament's all-star team for the second straight year, and was recognized as the tournament's most valuable player.

"The level of skill he has is eye-catching," TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro told WTOP. "The first thing I noticed is just the way that he skates - - he's got a real wide posture so when he's going up the ice it's such a powerful stride. When he gets into the open ice, that's where he's at his best."

Ferraro appeared in 1,258 NHL games spread over 18 seasons and covered the World Junior Championships -- held this year in Alberta, Canada -- for the first time in his broadcast career.

"He hangs on to the puck like [Penguins forward Evgeni] Malkin does," Ferraro said. "He's at the very high-end of talent in regard to his ability to skate with the puck. He's a transporter of the puck is the best way to put it."

Kuznetsov was the Capitals first round pick -- 26th overall -- in the 2010 entry draft, and is now in his third professional season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. The Capitals expect Kuznetsov in North America full-time beginning next season.

"He should be here next year," Capitals General Manager George McPhee said midway through the tournament. "He's ready to play here and he needs to play in a better league" and not form bad habits.

"We don't want that stuff to become engrained, so get him to the best league you can and get working with him," McPhee added.

Ferraro does not anticipate Kuznetsov needing very much seasoning, if any at all, in the American Hockey League next season, but he notes that some of the bad habits McPhee may be concerned with may have already started to creep into Kuznetsov's game.

"I look at a player like Kuznetsov and I think he's just so good and so skilled, but the next level is about managing the puck and managing your time on the ice," Ferraro says. "He took some shifts that were two minutes long and of course that doesn't work at the next level."

According to Ferraro, as strong as Kuznetsov looked against the other teenagers at the World Juniors, the 6-foot, 172-pound right winger still has some maturing to do on the ice.

"Like most high-end skilled teenagers," Ferraro explained, "the work for him is going to be without the puck because you have it less in the NHL. There's just less room and less opportunity to get into the open ice and skate it."

The next phase for Kuznetsov is learning the "give-and-go game a bit more," says Ferraro. "Oftentimes the young guys don't give up [the puck] because they're not sure if they're going to get it back."

Kuznetsov finished second in scoring at the 2011 World Junior Championships. In 19 tournament games spread over the past three years, Kuznetsov has collected 12 goals and 26 points.

Like Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin also represented Russia at three World Junior Championships, captaining the team to a silver medal in 2005. In 18 tournament games from 2003 to 2005, Ovechkin racked up 18 goals and 25 points.

Kuznetsov's numbers may look similar to Ovechkin's, but so, too, are their personalities. Kuznetsov became public enemy No.1 in Canada not only because of his three-goal, four-point effort in the semi-finals against the host Canadians, but also for the way he carried himself on and off the ice.

"When he scores he's very exuberant," Ferraro said. "He's the most noticeable guy on the Russian team and when they won he was not scared to whoop it up."

This is not necessarily surprising given that he is just 19 years old, says Ferraro.

"I think it's a measure of having some guts -- he doesn't mind the spotlight," Ferraro says.

Catch the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday at 7:40 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 7 p.m. on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online www.wfed.com.

Follow Ben Raby and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Rangers-Capitals preview

Posted on: Wednesday 12/28/2011 10:45am

Ben Raby, wtop.com
Twitter: @BenRaby31

WASHINGTON -- When the Capitals and Rangers meet tonight for the second time this season (7:35 p.m. faceoff on WFED 1500AM & wfed.com), both teams will again be playing without their top defensemen.

The Rangers beat the Caps 6-3 in a Nov. 25 matinee at Verizon Center with New York playing without Marc Staal and Washington skating minus Mike Green.

Both all-star defensemen are nearing returns to their respective lineups, although it is doubtful that either will play before the new year.

Green took part in his first full practice yesterday since suffering a groin injury Nov. 11 in New Jersey, but there is still no timetable for his return.

Green has missed Washington's last 20 games and 26-of-27 overall dating back to late October. The Caps are 8-0-0 this season with Green in the lineup; 9-15-2 without him.

"I couldn't wait to get back out there and skate with the guys," Green said following yesterday's skate.

"It's been tough watching hockey and not being a part of it. So for me to get back out there and be a part of this and smile a little bit - I think I had a smile on my face the whole time I was out there. But it feels good. You don't realize how much you miss it until you're gone for a while."

The most encouraging sign of Green's participation in practice was his presence during the team's power play drills. The Caps PP ranks 19th in the NHL this season, clicking at 17.1 percent.

"It's been quite a while for him," Caps head coach Dale Hunter noted. "As a player you want to be out skating and in the drills, also -- not just skating by yourself. It's a good sign that a little power-play work and skating at the end hard."

Staal has yet to play at all this season as he continues to recover from post concussion symptoms but the Rangers blue liner was cleared for contact this week and is also be nearing a return.

While the Capitals have struggled mightily without Green, the Rangers enter play tonight in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 22-8-4 record despite going the entire season without Staal.

Without Staal in the lineup this season, defensemen Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto are among a group of New York blue liners who have picked up the slack. Both Girardi and Del Zotto came through Hunter's London Knights junior program in the Ontario Hockey League.

Catch the Capitals and Rangers at 7:35 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 7:00 p.m. on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at wfed.com.

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Caps to honor Knuble prior to game Tues.

Posted on: Tuesday 12/20/2011 4:23pm

AP: b3f18002-72c5-44d6-a25c-7bd3e4b5933a
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey (6) watches Washington Capitals right wing Mike Knuble (22) skate off with the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in Washington. The Capitals won the game 4-3. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Mike Knuble will skate in his 1000th career game Tuesday when the Capitals host the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center.

The Capitals will honor Knuble prior to the opening faceoff and all Caps players will wear jerseys with the No.22 in warm-ups. The jerseys will later be auctioned off for charity.

"I didn't really know that until I was on Twitter last night," Knuble said of his teammates plan to sport his jersey number. "I'm very happy with that and it will be flattering when you see the guys on the ice."

Knuble has scored at least 20 goals in eight straight seasons, a streak that could come to an end in April. Through 31 games this season, Knuble has three goals and nine points while skating primarily on Washington's fourth line.

While Knuble's offensive numbers may be down, he expects to have an extra jump in his step tonight with plenty of friends and family in attendance.

"It's a fun day, just try to enjoy the day," Knuble says. "There's still a game to play and I guess there will be some talk and fun before the game, but once the puck drops the game is on and you move on."

The Predators enter play Tuesday having won seven of their last 10 and five straight overall. Their last ten games have also all been decided by one goal.

The Capitals are 4-5-0 since Dale Hunter took over as head coach Nov. 28, but continue to struggle offensively. Washington has scored just once in each of its last three games.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to make his third straight start for the Caps, while backup Anders Lindback gets the nod for Nashville.

Projected lineups:

CAPITALS:

  • Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
  • Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
  • Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward
  • Matt Hendricks - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble

Defensemen:

  • Karl Alzner - John Carlson
  • John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
  • Dmitri Orlov - Roman Hamrlik

PREDATORS:

  • Martin Erat - David Legwand - Craig Smith
  • Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist
  • Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
  • Matt Halischuk - Blake Geoffrion - Jerred Smithson

Defensemen:

  • Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
  • Francis Bouillon - Jonathan Blum
  • Jake Hillen - Roman Josi

Catch the Capitals and Predators tonight at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, 1500 AM and online at wfed.com.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)

Hunter will see old face in new place Fri. night

Posted on: Friday 12/9/2011 3:01pm

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - When the Capitals played at home this past Saturday, Capitals head coach Dale Hunter saw a familiar face in attendance. His one-time bench boss with the Caps - and current Ottawa Senators general manager - Bryan Murray was watching from the press box as the Caps and Sens played.

When the Capitals return to Verizon Center Friday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of Hunter's former coaches will again be in the building.

Ron Wilson spent five seasons behind the Caps bench from 1997 to 2002, and is now in his fourth year as Toronto's head coach.

Hunter and Wilson meet for the first time tonight as opposing head coaches.

"Ron Wilson, he's a very organized coach," said Hunter who played for Wilson during his final two years in Washington from 1997-99.

"He's very thorough in what he does and what he expects from the players. Organization wise, he's very good at that. He likes speed. Toronto skates fast in the neutral zone, and it's a good quality to have."

Wilson has 1365 games of NHL coaching experience, Hunter just five. However, the two will be forever linked as the head coach and captain of the only Capitals team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history.

"He was the captain of the team my first two years here and his role was [changing] as he was getting on in years," Wilson says.

"But we went to the [Stanley Cup] Finals my first year here and he had a lot to do that with his leadership. Guys who are leaders on the team and play the way that he played, they tend to be the guys that turn into coaches later on."

Hunter played all 82 regular-season games and all 21 playoff games during the 1997-98 season, the first in Washington for both Wilson and general manager George McPhee.

"He was a real warrior," Wilson told reporters in Toronto Thursday.

"At that point in his career, he was kind of a third or fourth liner. He didn't play that much, but he was a real leader in the room. He had an incredible sense of humor, a practical joker on the team. He's a great guy, a very down to earth person."

Catch the Capitals and Maple Leafs tonight at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, 1500 AM and online at wfed.com.

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)

Caps look to make Ovi less predictable

Posted on: Friday 12/9/2011 3:57am

AP: e580e4fc-d46b-4629-a79a-1dd54339a723
Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (8) is checked by Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil (25) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Since his NHL debut in 2005, Alex Ovechkin has spent much of his career as one of hockey's most entertaining and unpredictable characters both on and off the ice.

There was the hole-in-one he shot in a 2006 charity golf tournament despite never having played a round of golf before.

There was his declaration upon receiving the key to the city in 2008 that there would be no speed limit in Washington, D.C.

Then were the on-ice antics that few saw coming - his sporting oversized sunglasses, an outback hat and a Canadian flag at the 2009 All-Star Skills Competition, and his laying his hockey stick down on the ice after scoring his 50th goal that year because it was supposedly so hot that it was on fire (at least that was Ovechkin's explanation).

Yet, for all the unpredictability since his rookie season, Ovechkin's play between whistles in recent years has become more and more, well, predictable.

The word is out - has been for some time. Ovechkin will break down the left wing through the neutral zone, gain the opposition's blue line, cut to the middle and look to fire a quick shot while using a defenseman as a screen. Some have referred to it as Ovechkin's patented curl and drag - his signature move.

But for all of its success (see Ovechkin's four 50-goal seasons), teams have it figured out. They know the curl and drag is coming and defensemen are playing Ovechkin accordingly - getting in the shooting lanes and taking away his time and space.

There are multiple reasons why Ovechkin was limited to a career-low 32 goals last season and is on pace for just 27 this year. The fact that defending teams have been able to successfully predict Ovechkin's curl and drag is chief among them.

"Yeah, for sure," Capitals Assistant Coach Dean Evason said of opponents catching on to parts of Ovechkin's game.

"There is so much game tape watched and so many ways that Ovi is being checked. Everybody knows that he's big and strong and shoots the puck and he gets so much back pressure. There are times when we see four people all around him and it's difficult for him."

That's why Evason and new head coach Dale Hunter are encouraging Ovechkin to find different ways to score.

"We watch videos of the defenses against him, so he's watching that, seeing that [defensemen] are standing up and giving him no room. So he has to create scoring chances in different ways," Hunter said.

If Wednesday's 5-3 win in Ottawa is any indication, the message seems to be getting through to the Caps' captain. Ovechkin played one of his most complete games of the season with seven shots on goal and a highlight-reel goal in the third period that may rank among the prettiest of his career.

With the game tied 2-2, Ovechkin collected the puck in his own end and began to generate speed through the neutral zone. He continued up the left wing, gained the Senators' blue line and rather than cut to the middle- that patented move - Ovechkin held the puck and continued to go wide.

Ovechkin was able to elude Erik Karlsson forcing the Senators defenseman to play catch up as Ovi continued around the net. When he emerged on the right side, Ovechkin quickly slammed on the brakes, losing Karlsson in the process.

With open space to shoot, Ovechkin pump-faked once then fired a wrist shot low glove side that beat Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

"He's trying to expand his game and make things work when he has time," said teammate Troy Brouwer. "He's trying to be as patient as possible and for him to get a goal [Wednesday] is good to see - a good confidence builder. Hopefully he can continue to play like he did [against Ottawa]."

Added Evason: "We're just trying to get him to have different looks, to pull up a little more, shoot from different angles, and go to different places on the ice and open himself up. He's doing a real good job of recognizing that and fitting it into his game."

While Ovechkin went wide and continued behind the net on his goal, he also went wide multiple times in the game before cutting to the middle once he was past the hash marks.

Ovechkin has also been using the right side of the ice more in recent games once he gathers the puck in the neutral zone and picks up speed.

"He was dangerous every shift," Mike Knuble said. "He was getting the puck on the outside on his backhand drove the net a couple of times and then when he did score he swung the net- swung the net and stopped- and their defensemen kept going and then he just got creative with the shot.

"He played with a lot of passion last night and was dangerous a lot of times on the ice. He was a huge factor and we'd like to see it more times than that. When he's like that it just brings everyone else along and carries you through the game."

Catch the Capitals vs. Maple Leafs, Friday at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM, and online www.wfed.com.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Can this Capitals season be saved?

Posted on: Friday 12/2/2011 11:32am By jwarner

AP: 4bec43fc-a3e0-4cac-b827-b225c6688e51
FILE - In this April 6, 2010 file photo, Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, right, of Russia, cools down on the bench with coach Bruce Boudreau, during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in Pittsburgh. Boudreau isn't blaming his newfound unemployment on Ovechkin. The Capitals coach spoke publicly Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, for the first time since being fired on Monday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Jonathan Warner, wtop.com

Can this Capitals season be saved?

In one word - yes, but it's not going to be pretty.

New head coach Dale Hunter is remaking his old team in his former playing mold: tough, grinding, hustling, play-it-safe, low scoring.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it's hockey from the 1990s, and that wasn't exactly successful.

Yes, they did well during the regular season, but those Capitals teams also had playoff failure.   In fact, every Caps team in its 37-year history has come up short in the postseason.

The 21st Century version was supposed to be different.

It still can be. However, the Caps may not show it during the regular season.

Like the Capitals of the 80s and 90s, this season under Dale Hunter could be a grind. There will probably be a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games.

The Caps have already lost their first two games under the new coach. The Capitals once powerful offense has now been reduced to scoring just one goal in six of its last nine games.

Against the Penguins Thursday night, Washington mustered only 17 shots on goal, including just two in the final period and none over the last five-and-a-half minutes when they tried to tie the game.

Hunter and his players all admit it will take time for everyone to feel comfortable in the new defensive system. They felt they made strides from the first to second game, and they're confident they will accomplish the transformation successfully.

It just won't be an artistic wonder.

No more Rock the Red, Unleash the Fury.

Those rallying cries ring hollow now that it seems as if Alex Ovechkin has lost his mojo (must be his new Russian tennis girlfriend) and Bruce Boudreau has left for the left coast.

Bruce will probably be successful with his high-risk, high-reward style in Anaheim. They have the reigning MVP and scoring champ awards, which Ovi used to win.

With Corey Perry, Boudreau is in a very similar situation as he was exactly four years ago when he joined the Capitals.He again is taking over one of the worst teams in the league, but one that is loaded with scoring talent. His enthusiasm should play well in Disneyland.

The Capitals will also play well under Dale Hunter. I just don't think they'll be as fun to watch.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Head Ovi Heels: Caps' captain in love with tennis pro

Posted on: Thursday 12/1/2011 2:17pm

Ovechkin Twitter
Alexander Ovechkin tweeted a picture of his new girlfriend, Russian tennis pro Maria Kirilenko, Wednesday afternoon. (Courtesy Twitter)

WASHINGTON - The reason Alex Ovechkin is off to a slow start this season may have nothing to do with who is coaching him.

The Washington Capitals captain tweeted a picture of his new girlfriend, Russian tennis pro Maria Kirilenko, Wednesday afternoon.

The Montreal Gazette had written about the rumored relationship earlier this week, but Ovechkin removed all doubt after posting a pic of the two snuggling at an undisclosed location.

Kirlenko has been spending part of her offseason in the D.C. area training with the George Washington University tennis team.

The tennis pro finished the year ranked No. 28, failing to win a tournament she entered during 2011.

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)

Bruce Boudreau is back in business

Posted on: Thursday 12/1/2011 10:29am

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - If every laid off worker in this country could get back to work as quickly as Bruce Boudreau has this week, politicians would be dancing in the streets. Less than 72 hours after he was fired by the Capitals, Boudreau has been hired to replace Randy Carlyle as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

Ducks general manager Bob Murray made the announcement early Thursday morning on the east coast, about 40 minutes after Anaheim's 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It was only the Ducks' third win in their last 19 games as they remain in last place in the Pacific Division.

"We simply felt a new voice was needed," Murray said in a statement. "Bruce is a proven winner with a great track record, and we are optimistic we can turn this season around under his leadership."

Boudreau will make his Anaheim coaching debut Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers, coincidentally the same team he faced in his Capitals debut Nov. 23, 2007. The former Caps bench boss becomes the eighth coach in Ducks history replacing a man that Boudreau knows quite well.

"I played with my nonbiological twin, Randy Carlyle, in Toronto and Dallas," Boudreau wrote in his 2009 autobiography "Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer."

"A lot of people thought we were brothers then and we could pass for brothers now," Boudreau says of his follicly challenge former teammate. "Randy is one of the most underrated players ever. Not too many people win the Norris Trophy. I don't think he's gotten his due as a great player."

Boudreau and Carlyle were teammates from 1976 to 1978 with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and CHL's Dallas Black Hawks and Boudreau notes in his book that Carlyle had the primary assist on his first career NHL goal.

"My goal was the first one of the game in a 6-0 Toronto win at Maple Leaf Gardens," Boudreau wrote of his first of 28 career NHL tallies.

"I don't know if I was floating or not," he says. "I came back near our blue line, and Randy Carlyle collected the puck behind our goal and fed me a pass that set up a breakaway I shot over [Jim] Rutherford's glove hand, top shelf and the puck went in. I jumped and went nuts."

Boudreau brings with him to Anaheim an NHL coaching record of 201-88-40.

Catch the Capitals and Penguins tonight at 7:05 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 p.m. on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM & online www.wfed.com.

Follow Ben Raby and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Hunter has history of coaching against Crosby

Posted on: Wednesday 11/30/2011 3:32pm

AP: d8d176d4-4350-499f-a3b7-52a63405fe60
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby skates by a sign as he warms up prior to an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Saturday, Nov. 26. 2011, in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - One day after dropping his NHL coaching debut, Dale Hunter turned his attention to Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The rival Penguins lead the Eastern Conference with a 14-7-4 record and are seven points clear of the tenth-place Capitals, though Washington has played two fewer games.

Thursday's game will be the Penguin's first visit to Verizon Center since February, and it will also mark Sidney Crosby's first game against the Caps since last season's Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The 2007 NHL MVP returned to the Penguins lineup last Tuesday after being sidelined for ten months with a concussion.

Crosby hasn't missed a beat since returning, recording two goals and 11 points in his first five games. The Penguins are 3-1-1 over that span, and Crosby was recognized by the NHL Monday as its First Star of the Week.

The Capitals are plenty familiar with Crosby, having faced the Penguins captain 29 times since 2005, and know what to expect come Thursday.

Hunter also knows a thing or two about coaching against Crosby, having done so in Canadian junior hockey at the 2005 Memorial Cup.

Hunter's 2004-05 London Knights went 59-7-2 during the regular season before winning their first Ontario Hockey League championship in 40 years.

The Knights were laden with talent with future NHLers Corey Perry, Rob Schremp, Dave Bolland, Dan Girardi and Marc Methot.

After sweeping the round-robin portion of the Memorial Cup, including a 4-3 win over Crosby's Rimouski Oceanic, the only thing that stood in the Knights' way of a national championship was a rematch with the Quebec champions and their 17-year-old phenom "Sid the Kid."

It was billed as a championship game, pitting one of the best teams in Canadian junior hockey history against one of greatest players.

Crosby was dominant in his final year of junior hockey, recording 66 goals and 168 points in 62 games.

"He was special," Hunter recalled Wednesday. "We had to put a checking line against him and [give him] special attention. He still scored points and goals but we limited them anyways. He was so strong on his skates at that age, too. He was 17 and to dominate junior like he did, and to play against an older team - we had a lot of 19 year old kids - right away you knew he was a special player."

After Crosby collected a goal and an assist in their round-robin meeting, the Knights were able to shut him and the entire Oceanic roster down in a 4-0 London victory in the final.

Two months later, Crosby was selected first overall by the Penguins in the 2005 NHL entry draft.

"He's a special player, just like Alex [Ovechkin] is," Hunter said in response to what he expects from Crosby Thursday. "He's the type of guy that you have to give special attention to just like Ovi gets too. So we have to be aware of him at all times on the ice."

"He's got a strong core and lower body so if you go too hard on him, he'll spin on you and be gone. So you have to be smart, contain him and get help."

Catch the Capitals and Penguins Thursday at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame on Federal News Radio- WFED 1500AM and online.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)

Dale, Dale please don't fail

Posted on: Wednesday 11/30/2011 8:15am By jwarner

Jonathan Warner, wtop.com

It’s not the way the Capitals wanted to start the Dale Hunter era, but the new coach and players saw positive signs in their 2-1 loss to St. Louis.

First of all, they limited the Blues to two goals.   The Caps had been giving up an average of five in their previous five losses.

Dale liked the effort, felt the players worked hard, but knows it will take time before they feel comfortable with the transition of play from Bruce Boudreau’s system to his.

The Capitals, though, are still struggling to score no matter who’s behind the bench. They have been held to one goal in five of their last eight games. Hunter believes that will change with a better defense, including a more aggressive forecheck. That, he says will force turnovers and create odd-man offensive rushes for the Capitals.

This was not the case Tuesday night against St. Louis.

It was not fun to watch.

It looked like a Caps game from the ’90′s when Dale Hunter played. Low-scoring with few offensive chances. The Capitals finished with just 19 shots on goal.

No doubt, this will be a work in progress. It’s hard to believe the Capitals are back to where they were last December, when they lost eight straight and also couldn’t find the back of the net while suffering some ugly defeats.

Caps fans are hoping that their former captain can change that and finally lead them to their first ever Stanley Cup championship.

It certainly would be a heck of a story.

But, so would have Bruce Boudreau’s rags to almost riches situation. He helped turn Washington into a hockey town, made this team important to the local sports scene and not just an afterthought.

He helped make the Capitals one of the NHL’s most exciting teams, one of the league’s most elite.

But, coming up short in the playoffs and then struggles during this regular season finally caught up to Boudreau. Still, you’ve got to root for Bruce.   The lovable, down-to-earth guy could be your uncle, brother or just someone having a beer and conversation with at the bar.

No airs whatsoever.

Hopefully he lands with another team soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him talking on TV.

He’s a hockey lifer.

And, so is Dale Hunter.

Good luck to both and good luck to the Capitals. This town needs a winner no matter who can deliver it.

Follow Jonathan Warner and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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