The Rangers’ 2-1 win in Game 7 Saturday night didn’t just end the Capitals season. It also spelled the end of Dale Hunter’s abbreviated tenure as coach of the Capitals.
Hunter announced his decision to reporters at the Capitals end-of-season media availability session after speaking with general manager George McPhee. Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau after 22 games. Hunter compiled a 30-23-7 record in 60 regular season games with Washington.
The Capitals finished No. 7 in the East. They eliminated the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Boston Bruins in seven games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals before losing to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“It was the right thing to do,” Hunter said. He co-owns Ontario Hockey League power the London Knights with his brother, Mark. “I’m going home. I have a good thing going with the family, so I’ll stay home.”
Rangers Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust spent part of their junior hockey careers playing for Hunter in London.
“Very [similar], not really high risk, very tight defensively. Everybody sacrificing their body, simple plays,” Prust said when asked to compare the Knights’ system to the one the Capitals employed under Hunter’s regime. “The structure [the Capitals] had was so similar to what I was used to.”
Henrique bringing youth
One of the story arcs entering the series is the Rangers’ youth versus the playoff-tested Devils. New Jersey is the league’s oldest team with an average age of 29.9.
Yet one of the most important is 22-year old Calder finalist Adam Henrique. Henrique finished the regular season with 16 goals and 51 assists in 74 games. He has played in all 12 of the Devils’ playoff games, recording two goals and seven points, along with a plus-six rating.
“I use the word ‘unflappable’ with him really since he first came up early in the season. I think part of that is maturity. Part of it is his personality. Nothing seems to rattle him. He doesn't get overwhelmed by situations or different points of the game, and he also has the ability to raise his game to another level at key times. So he's a pretty special kid,” coach Peter DeBoer said in his pre-game media availability Monday morning.
“I think all our young guys, it's a fantastic experience, to know what it takes not just to get here but, you know, to move through this is invaluable. Both for now and for later in their careers.
“I think our young guys have done a very good job of contributing and finding another level. Adam Larsson is an example just to sit and come in and give us the type of minutes he's given us. He's not alone in that. There [are] a lot of people there.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.