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Hunter steps down as Capitals coach


Hunter steps down as Capitals coach

Two days after leading the Capitals to a Game 7 defeat to the New York Rangers in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Dale Hunter has decided to walk away.

In a 10 a.m. meeting at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Hunter, 51, informed Capitals general manager George McPhee that he will be returning to his role as co-owner and team president of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

I guess we're all fathers and sons and husbands first, before anything else, McPhee told reporters shortly after his meeting with Hunter, and if we have our priorities right in this life, family comes first. Dale needs to go home.

Hunters entire family lives in or around London and it was clear from his comments Monday that his heart never left his family farm or the team he spent the past 12 years building with his brother and co-owner, Mark.

Hunter said his 76-year-old father still scouts for the Knights and his sisters attend every game. In the summers they all tend to the family farm in Petrolia, Ontario, about an hour away from London.

Everybody is a part of the team there, the farm is there, Hunter said. Were all a part of it there. Youve just got to go home.

McPhee said he there was no point in trying to convince Hunter to stay with the Caps because there is no gray area with Dale.

He's very decisive, McPhee said. The only thing I asked Dale was, Does this have anything to do with anything that's going on here? And he said, Absolutely not. He loved it here. This is his team. This has always been his team. It's the only team he's ever wanted to coach.

Several Capitals said they were surprised to hear of Hunters decision. Brooks Laich said he was shocked and tried to convince Hunter to stay. Joel Ward did not know of Hunters decision until he was informed by reporters.

He taught us as much about leadership and team aspects and respect amongst players and trusting your teammates as he did about hockey, Laich. He was like having another veteran in the locker room. He changed the culture around here a little bit, which the rest of us really enjoyed. Hes leaving the team in a better state than he found it -- I think thats the best way to sum it up.

Hired to replace Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28, Hunter went 30-23-7 in the regular season and 7-7 in the playoffs. He angered veterans like Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine by scratching them from the lineup at various points in the season, but somehow managed to get his players to play as one in the post-season.

He morphed this team into a very respectable team, defenseman Karl Alzner said. Other teams maybe gave us more credit than they had in the past few years. He was a bit of an architect himself the way he taught the game. All he taught us was to be honest and work hard.

Hunter said he felt the Capitals really bought into his defensive style on March 8 when they battled back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on goals by Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin.

There were a couple of games where we were being too fancy and trying to outscore teams instead of outplaying teams and playing at both ends, Hunter said. But we came back and we beat Tampa Bay and we had to grind it out to do it. They were playing that defensive style of game, so the guys had to chip it in and chase and the guys got it done.
And then each game we built and got better and better from it.

McPhee said Hunter will assist the team at the draft and Hunter said hell do whatever is asked to lead the team to its first-ever championship.

Id love to bring a Stanley Cup here and the fans deserve it here, Hunter said. Theyve been great. My dad doesnt travel too much anymore but he came down during the regular season and couldnt believe how loud it was. So he had to come back down during the playoffs to see it even louder.

The fans are great, the team is playing the right way, theyre playing Stanley Cup hockey. They have a chance to win playing this style and you see them taking the top team to seven games and beating Boston. If you see the teams that are left, they all play hard and Im proud of these guys for sacrificing and doing what it takes to win. We came up a goal short but not because of lack of effort.

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”