Jan 18, 2012, 3:24 PM EST
When the Washington Capitals fired coach Bruce Boudreau, the team was 12-9-1. Since the hiring of Dale Hunter, the team is…12-9-1.
That statistical tidbit courtesy CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley, who’s understandably wondering if the Caps are any different under their new bench boss.
One player that believes things have changed for the better is forward Brooks Laich.
“I think we’re tougher to play against,” Laich said. “I think we don’t give up the easy goals and glorious scoring chances we did before. Odd-man rushes was the first thing he said he wanted to correct. Teams have to go through three, four five guys to score on us. We’re blocking more shots. Shift lengths are shorter.”
Hunter concurs: “You see how many shots we’re blocking. That’s caring about winning and losing. That’s how you win games. When you block 20 shots a game, that’s 20 less pucks going to the net that could go in.
“That’s a big thing, and the puck hurts. Guys shoot the puck hard, and when you go down to block, that’s a commitment to win. If you block shots, you’re going to reward guys. Everybody rates their games on goals and assists, but you’ve got to also rate them on back-checking hard, blocking shots, finishing hits.”
The Caps had won three straight before yesterday when they were shut out on home ice, 3-0, by the Islanders.
Washington managed just 17 shots on Evgeni Nabokov last night, just seven of them in the third period when they were trailing and should’ve theoretically been pushing the play.
But hey, 13 blocked shots.
(The Isles had 18.)
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