If there is one thing weve learned about Dale Hunter in his six months behind the Capitals bench its that hes perfected the art of keeping inside information on the inside.Moments after addressing his players following Saturday nights season-ending 2-1 loss to the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, Hunter was asked if hes considered his future with the Capitals.Thats not the time right now, he said.But when asked if he enjoyed his first experience as an NHL coach, the 51-year-old native of Petrolia, Ontario provided a glimpse of his intentions.Coachings the next best thing to playing, Hunter said. To be involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs, its a privilege to try to take a run at it again.When Hunter agreed to replace Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28 he reportedly signed a contract that only took him through the end of this season. Capitals general manager George McPhee has never confirmed that report, keeping all contractual information confidential.As co-owner of the Ontario Hockey Leagues London Knights, Hunter has the built-in option of returning to his junior team and saying goodbye to his brief career as an NHL coach, in which his team went 30-23-7 in the regular season and 7-7 in the playoffs.His London Knights won the OHL title last week, clinching a berth in the Memorial Cup playoffs to determine the best junior hockey team in Canada. Hunter could conduct post-season player interviews, pack his bags and be back in Petrolia by the end of this week.But will he?Hes obviously done a good job with our club, Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. We were counted out in the first round and here we are in Game Seven. We ended up losing, but I think he did a good job. Hes a good presence behind the bench and I think whatever it is will work itself out with him.A month ago the support for Hunter inside the Capitals locker room might have been split down the middle. But defenseman Karl Alzner said last week that the team would be adversely affected by another coaching change and that the Capitals actually need Hunter to return.It would be very, very tough, Alzner said about a coaching change. The way were playing hockey right now is a good way to play hockey and you dont really want to mess with it. I would say, yes, we need him to come back if you want us to continue to play this style of hockey.Hunter seemed to form a bond with his players over the course of the past four weeks, convincing them to play a style that led them lead all NHL playoff teams in blocked shots and ranking second in hits. And, at least from the outside, it seems to be a bond he is not ready to break.There is a lot of character in that room, Hunter said in his post-game news conference. Character is a big word and it means a lot. You see how we played and the sacrifices you have to make. In that room there, they did it. They played the type of hockey you have to play to win. We just came up a goal short.
It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.
That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.
“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”
Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.
Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.
Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.
“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.
So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?
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When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”
Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.
While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.
Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”
We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.
Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.