What is Wrong With the Washington Capitals?
This is in direct response to tweets you may have seen from BK_Dobbernation earlier today when he called in to question the Capitals decision to fire Bruce Boudreau and hire Dale Hunter.
Has it already been so long that we have completely forgotten what a train wreck the Boudreau situation was turning out to be? That was a tense situation waiting to explode. The rift between Ovechkin and Boudreau was becoming a serious issue and it is clear that Boudreau and his new strategies were simply not working.
The Capitals were 12-9-1 under Boudreau this season but if you discount their hot 7-0-0 start they were on a 5-9-1 slide and sinking fast.
Even with a winning record the Capitals had allowed more goals against (72) than they had scored (69). They certainly were scoring a lot (3.13 per game) but they were allowing even more and if you discount that hot 7-0-0 start the Capitals were in fact only scoring 2.67 goals per game - in other words, not so hot.
Worse yet their special teams play was horrendous. Their PP was clicking at just 16.3% and their PK was only operating at 80.0%. These are low to middle of the pack numbers not fitting of a perennial powerhouse.
I am not sure how you can call into question Boudreau getting fired. What about the hiring of Dale Hunter? Keep in mind that Hunter is coming in to a struggling team and has no pre-season or training camp to institute his philosophies. In other words, he is winging it.
I have done the research on mid-season coaching changes and you can find the thread on it buried somewhere in these forums but the common thread I found is that mid-season coaching changes do help. Teams will typically score more and play better on special teams. I also noted that it typically takes around 10 games to get the team to really start playing well under the new coach. 10 games is like three weeks, which is basically a training camp. Makes sense right? So it is pretty hard to totally evaluate Hunter's body of work when he is just two weeks out of training camp. Two weeks out of training camp Boudreau was a god. That was obviously wrong.
Under Hunter the Capitals are 9-8-1 but more importantly they have scored more (48) than their opponents (46). It is still close but they are improving. That goal scoring rate is actually the exact same (2.67) as it was under Boudreau during their slide. What is important to note is their goals against per game (2.55) has gone way down under Hunter.
They have also made some big moves on special teams. Their power play is killing it under Hunter clicking at 24.5% and their penalty kill is operating at 85.0%. That sort of play would put the Capitals right in the top tier of the league on special teams.
The wins have not really been their. At least not the dominant sort of winning streak wins but the foundation is being built. I honestly believe that this was more an overreaction to their back-to-back 5-2 losses against tough West Coast teams on the road without their top line center which is a position they seriously lack depth. Ignore these past two games, ignore the wins and losses and focus on the process instead. Teams lose games all the time. To consistently win in this league you need to consistently have a positive goal differential and you need to play well on special teams. The Capitals are trending upward. Do not ignore the signs.