Tuesday NHL: Capitals host Blues in first game with Dale Hunter as coach
The scuffling Washington Capitals fired head coach Bruce Boudreau on Monday and replaced him with former Capital Dale Hunter, and Hunter will make his coaching debut tonight at home against surprising St. Louis. Washington is a -120 NHL hockey bets favorite on WagerWeb.com.
Tuned out by his players, Boudreau was fired after winning 200 games faster than any coach in modern NHL history but stumbling regularly in the playoffs despite a talent-laden lineup featuring two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin. Hunter, a former captain of the Caps, has never coached in the NHL.
Hired four years ago on Thanksgiving Day, Boudreau went 201-88-40 in the regular season but 17-20 in the playoffs — exiting in the first or second round each time. This season he tried a new approach, emphasizing accountability and the willingness to bench his star players — team captain Ovechkin included — as punishment for subpar performances.
The Capitals started 7-0 — a franchise record for consecutive wins to begin a season — but have since slumped badly. They have dropped six of their past eight games, including a 5-1 loss Saturday night to a Buffalo Sabres team missing nine regular players. Last season, Washington allowed an average of 2.33 goals per game, the fourth lowest in the NHL and the best mark in franchise history. Through 22 games of the 2011-12 campaign, the Capitals have allowed an average of 3.27 goals per game. That mark ranks 29th in the NHL.
The Blues have won three in a row. They won 2-1 at Columbus on Sunday to improve to 7-1-2 under their new coach, Ken Hitchcock, and lifted their road record to 5-6-1. Goalie Brian Elliott made 23 saves to win his sixth consecutive game and move his record to 10-1 this season. . Elliott, who signed as a free agent last summer, has made 11 starts for St. Louis and he’s allowed two or fewer goals in each of those games. Elliott is the first NHL goaltender to give up no more than two goals in each of his first 11 starts of a season since the Bruins’ Frank Brimsek began the 1938-1939 season with a 12-start streak. Those were the first 12 games of the Hall of Famer’s NHL career.
Yet Elliott won’t start tonight, Jaroslav Halak will. Halak is 0-1-1 in his last two starts but in his last five appearances, 2-1-2 with a 1.56 GAA and .939 save percentage. St. Louis features the league’s best defense, having allowed just 2.04 goals per game. The Blues have been particularly stingy since Hitchcock took the reins, allowing a grand total of 12 goals in those 10 games.