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Blues at Capitals In-Game Blog: 11-29-11

Pregame Preview:

Tonight marks the beginning of a new era for the Washington Capitals as legendary center Dale Hunter makes his return to Washington behind the bench as the franchise’s 15th head coach.

Hunter made his mark in the NHL as a talented offensive player with the Quebec Nordiques and with the Capitals after being involved in a 1987 trade to D.C. that began a 12-year career in Washington. He evolved into one of the most feared players in the league, racking up 3,565 career penalty minutes, which is second most in NHL history.

For the past 11 seasons, he has owned and coached the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and in the process, turned a struggling franchise into one of the most respected teams in the OHL for the past decade. Among his notable achievements in London, Hunter became the fastest coach in OHL history to reach 300 and 400 wins.

Ironically, just last week his predecessor Bruce Boudreau became the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 200 wins. After starting the season with a sizzling 7-0 record, the Caps have since faded with a tally of 5-9-1. The recent slide had led to rumblings regarding Boudreau’s job security. Those rumors had peaked on Sunday when word about Hunter being named his replacement in “the next 24-48 hours” became public.

Early Monday morning, everything came to a head when news broke that Boudreau was out as head coach after four seasons that will be ultimately be remembered with amazing regular season performances that did not result in successful postseason appearances.

Boudreau helped usher in the most exciting era of hockey in Washington and his contributions should never be forgotten. However, when you run a team of superstars that aren’t buying what you’re selling, it’s hard for things to go well at that point.

Enter Dale Hunter into the equation. He brings an understanding but no-nonsense approach to the Caps, which everyone hopes will translate into, at the very least, an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

Hunter hopes to right the ship tonight as the Caps host the St. Louis Blues, who come to Verizon Center having won six of their last eight games and are currently on a three-game winning streak. With the Blues owning the best Goals Against average in the NHL, the Caps will be heavily tested offensively. Discipline will also be a factor in how well Washington plays tonight, as well as how they finish out this season.

1st Period Overview:

- Dale Hunter received some nice cheers by the Caps faithful here at Verizon Center when shown on the big screens.

- Green, Schultz, Beagle and Perreault are the scratches for the Caps tonight.

- Caps made a nice Dale Hunter intro video. “History makes amends. History welcomes you back… Coach.”

- Nicklas Backstrom is even laying some wood tonight. Nice physical approach to this team. Troy Brouwer followed suit right after.

- Caps simply look like a more focused, more energized team tonight.

- The Caps are on the bench looking up at the big screen while Dale Hunter’s “I’m Coming Home” video is playing.

- Nicklas Backstrom gets the first goal for Dale Hunter’s coaching career at the 10:15 mark. Alex Ovechkin and Tomas Vokoun get the assists.

- It’s clear as day to see the Caps have dropped their lackadaisical ways and are doing everything they can to impress their new coach.

- Tomas Vokoun is having one of his better games of the season. That’s not even including his assist.

- The Blues’ leading point scorer Alexander Steen with the assist as T.J. Oshie ties it up at 1 at the 15:48 mark.

Faceoffs Won: STL – 8 WAS – 3
Hits: STL– 16 WAS – 10
Shots on Goal: STL – 9 WAS – 5
Goals: STL– 1 WAS – 1

2nd Period Overview:

- Brooks Laich sent to the penalty box for tripping. Caps are on the penalty kill at the 3:52 mark.

- Brouwer follows Laich to the box at the 4:31 mark. He receives a double minor for high sticking.

- Former Cap Jason Arnott fires a slapper but it’s quickly snatched up by Vokoun.

- Kevin Shattenkirk sent to the box for the Blues for hooking at the 5:28 mark.

- Blues go up 2-1 with Vokoun way outside of the net. Goal scored by Matt D’Agostini at the 8:54 mark.

- Caps are trying to create opportunities around Jaraslov Halak but nothing has been good enough so far.

- Matt Hendricks tries to rough up the Blues but decides to head to the locker room after time expires.

Total Faceoffs Won: STL – 16 WAS – 13
Total Hits: STL – 31 WAS – 23
Total Shots on Goal: STL – 20 WAS – 11
Total Goals: STL – 2 WAS – 1

3rd Period Overview:

- Matt Hendricks and Scott Nichol start the period with a nice fight. Just the way Dale wanted it.

- Dmitry Orlov and Alexander Semin were a little too eager on that pass-shoot play there.

- Semin, Eakin and Johansson showed some nice teamwork and passing while crashing the net.

- Caps are showing some enthusiasm midway through this period.

- Caps fall to the Blues 2-1 in Dale Hunter’s debut as Caps head coach.

Total Faceoffs Won: STL – 22 WAS – 21
Total Hits: STL 35 WAS – 32
Total Shots on Goal: STL – 30 WAS – 19
Total Goals: STL – 2 WAS – 1

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