The Washington Capitals began the week as a team that looked lost on defense, lost on offense, lost on special teams, and lost in the standings. Just one week removed from the firing of Bruce Boudreau, and losers in eight of their last 11 games, the Capitals seemed destined for a serious December swoon. Perhaps one worse than last season when the Capitals lost eight games in a row during the month.
Entering the week, Washington had played 10 games in 19 days, but headed to Sunrise Florida last Monday to play the Southeast division leading Panthers after winning an overtime game vs. the Ottawa senators at the Verizon Center.
Dale Hunters squad would continue playing every other day this past week, so anything learned and needing implemented had to be done on the fly so to speak. Despite looking lost to start the week in Florida, the Capitals looked focused, and played like a much more cohesive unit to finish it at home versus the Maple Leafs on Friday evening.
The difference in Washington’s play could be seen against the Maple Leafs, who back on November-19, blew the Capitals off the ice in front of a Hockey Night in Canada audience with a deceive 7-1 victory at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The Leafs were down seven regular skaters in a game that may have been the beginning of the end for Bruce Boudreau. Just one week later in Buffalo, Boudreau coached his last game behind Washington’s bench when eh Sabres handed the caps a 5-1 loss as they played without nine of their regular skaters.
Washington managed a 2-1 record on the week outscoring their opposition 13-10 in the process. The Capitals who entered the week ranked 22nd on the power play in the NHL, finished it ranked No.11.
Hunter is making progress with his new 1-2-2 system, as the Caps have become a more physical team, creating chances through the neutral zone, and at the opponents blue line. Their man-on-man style of play is confusing opponents. Teams do not have a lot of time to prepare for a team, as games are played virtually every other day.
In the NHL, victories are earned more by what a team does as a unit rather than what the other does not do. Having said that, teams get to know other teams tendency's even if they don't play each other much. A team has a system and a style, but when that changes, especially a team with the Caps talent level, game-planning against them can become impossible.
If you watched closely this week, you saw progress literally period-by-period, as that Dale Hunter seems to be tackling one issue at a time. The Caps late rally on Monday, and four third period goals on Wednesday were no fluke, but simply a result of becoming more comfortable in the new system as the game progressed versus that particular opponent.
Hunter came to the Capitals as a very blessed head coach with a good mix of talent. The Capitals are served well by their youth, but have the right mix of veteran leadership where they need it. Those veterans would play a critical role this week, as the Capitals began to come alive in all three phases of the game.
Here is a comprehensive look back at the Washington Capitals week in review.