People can dissect the Dale Hunter plus/minus comment regarding Mike Knuble to their heart’s content; the odd call up (twice) of Joel Rechlicz; and the equally odd call up of Braden Holtby; it’s all fair game for analysis (and when you figure out a logical answer, please give me a call). But the other side of the coin is to figure out if the guys feel they’re growing under Hunter’s tutelage.
Caps Casino Night isn’t really the venue for asking serious hockey questions, but Karl Alzner, Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle and Mike Green were accommodating nonetheless. Alzner also had some interesting insight into what Hunter’s locker room directives are like between periods in-game (since HBO 24/7 isn’t there to show us). The guys’ comments don’t answer a lot of the aforementioned questions, but they provide an interesting angle to consider in the current state of the Capitals.
Green said he might have a different perspective than most of the team, since he’s obviously had to spend more time watching hockey rather than playing due to injury, but he does think their style has evolved into a “more playoff-type game.”
“We may not be that run-and-gun team we used to be,” Green said. “What I’m trying to say is, I think the team is in a good place.”
“A lot of stickhandling and corner work,” Beagle said of how playing under Hunter has helped him grow. “I’d say the defensive game, the defensive zone, and blocking shots.”
Alzner says the way Hunter communicates helps the Capitals focus more.
“There’s something about when he’s behind the bench, and the way he describes plays and how he wants us to play, it just makes you focus a little bit more,” Alzner said. “Weird, little things that he reminds you about that sometimes are so easy to forget. I think it just makes you a little bit more aware … Those little things make not only a person better, but an entire team better, and that’s how you win more games, I think.”
Alzner points to how specific Hunter’s directives are between periods.
“Instead of saying, ‘Guys, we have to work harder,’ he says, ‘You’ve got to backcheck harder to the net,’so he’s very specific about it,” Alzner said. “He comes in the dressing room between periods and says, ‘D, we’ve got have tighter gaps. Forwards, we’ve got to backcheck harder. Forwards, we’ve got to backcheck harder to the net.’”
Hendricks said his defensive game has become better under Hunter.
“There are countless hours of video, and their teaching, and the opportunity that he’s given me to play and learn from my mistakes,” was his assessment.