As you can see in the previous post on Matt Hendricks, Capitals forward Brooks Laich was on a roll today.
When the subject turned to the head coach, Laich revealed that he was bit worried when he learned that Dale Hunter would be Bruce Boudreau’s replacement behind the bench.
“I didn’t know him,” Laich said of Hunter. “I’d never met him. Heard about him, knew him as a player, the type of player he was and stuff. When I found out it was Dale Hunter I kind of took a breath and thought, ‘This is going to be real serious.’
“I can’t [say] enough. He’s been great,” Laich continued. “It’s almost like having another veteran in the locker room, is what it feels like. You can draw on his experience [and] he’s willing to open up and share it. He’s been through these battles.”
Laich also said he’s been amazed by how Hunter has handled the tricky transition from a team with a reputation for being offensive to an outfit whose identity is rooted in defense and shot-blocking.
“It’s been interesting to see our team evolve a little bit with the change in identity and the change in mentality,” Laich said. “I think we understand now that preventing a chance against is more important that trying to create a chance for. It’s a game of mistakes, and if we can be solid defensively and not give them anything, sooner or later the other team might break down and give us a chance and then we have opportunistic scorers. That’s a different mentality than we had here before.”
Asked if that transition was difficult at first, Laich added: “That’s a tough question because on a hockey team you have 20 minds that work 20 different ways. Some are entirely offensive, some are entirely defensive. You have to be able to find the right combination there. You need those offensive minds because you need to score to win, but you need those defensive guys too. I just think he’s done a great job finding the balance and still allowing our skills players to be creative, but within the confines of the system and obviously giving our defensive players the assignments and minutes to do what they do.”
As Laich gushed over the job Hunter has done in getting the Capitals one win from the franchise’s first trip to the conference final since 1998, the veteran forward was asked, “So, sounds like you want him back, huh?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Laich shot back. “Absolutely. He’s been great.”
When Hunter was hired in November, it’s believed he signed a contract that runs through the end of the season.
“I don’t have anything to do with that,” Laich added. “I’m not concerned about that right now. I just want to keep winning.”
More on the Capitals:
— Beagle listed as ‘day-to-day’
— History provides some optimism
— Penalty kill steps up in Game 6
— Ovechkin’s big night lifts Caps
— Rangers lament missed opportunities
— Caps come out firing, force Game 7
— Holtby, his mom and big-game zen