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Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals 04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic was just four years of age in 1993 when Dale Hunter delivered one of the most notorious hits in Stanley Cup playoff history.

It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.

Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.

Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.

Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”

Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.

“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.

“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”

Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.

“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas saved the sleepwalking Bruins 12.19.10 at 1:21 am ET
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There was a great deal of irony in the words of Tim Thomas following his latest Houdini act on Saturday night at TD Garden.

The Bruins held on for a 3-2 win over the slumping Capitals, a win that snapped Boston’s three-game losing streak while extending Washington’s to an almost unbelievable eight.

But that hardly tells the story.

Thomas noticed early on the Capitals were asleep at the wheel. But it was the Bruins who nearly blew the game by sleepwalking through the final 20 minutes.

The Bruins ran the Capitals off the ice in the opening 20 minutes. They got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was in the midst of another breakdown for HBO’s “24/7 The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.” But Thomas figured it was too good to last.

“I didn’€™t know what we were going to get,” Thomas said. “They turned it up for a while in the second there and then they kind of went back to sleep a little bit and I didn’€™t know if… They looked like a tired team for the first two periods and I was hoping that was the case, but it turned out not to be.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Bruce Boudreau, Claude Julien
Post-morning skate odds and ends 12.18.10 at 12:07 pm ET
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Tim Thomas was first off the ice for the Bruins following their morning skate, an indication that he’ll be in net when the B’s face the Capitals tonight. In three starts against the Capitals this season, Thomas is 2-0-0 with five goals allowed and a shutout. He was pulled from the team’s 5-3 loss on Nov. 5 after allowing three goals through two periods.

The Capitals aren’t exactly jonesing to face the early Vezina favorite in Thomas. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday that “you just have to play really perfect hockey to beat [the Bruins] and then you have to play more perfect hockey to beat Thomas.

– If you’re surprised by how many minutes Steven Kampfer has been getting, you’re not along. Asked if he expected to play as much as he has, Kampfer honestly replied, “Uh, no. I definitely didn’t think I’d be getting that many, but I’m just trying to play well, trying to play simple and help the team get a couple of wins here.”

Kampfer said patience has been the biggest thing he’s picked up at the NHL level, which is quite interesting and a good explanation as to why he’s handled the callup and the minutes so well. Young players often try to counter the quick pace of the NHL game by hurrying things more than they need to, but it hasn’t seemed to be the case with Kampfer — at least not much.

Claude Julien knows the Capitals have been winless over their last seven, but he’s worried about his own guys, who have gone three without a W. Julien addressed the slump by saying “we’ve got to show some determination and resilience.”

– The Capitals have been followed by HBO cameras for the NHL 24/7 show that’s sweeping the nation. Have to admit I haven’t been able to see it (or this season of Eastbound and Down) due to my lack of owning HBO, but the hockey world has been going nuts over this show. One of the draws of the show is the prolific use of a four-letter word beginning in “F” by Boudreau.

“That goes on in every dressing room, in every team, in every sport at this level,” Boudreau said, noting that the team is so comfortable with having the camera around that it has become “second nature.”

Boudreau is by no means taking pride in the language aspect of it, but he said such talk “just comes out of your mouth when you’re mad,” adding, “my mom talked to me about it, so I’ll be OK.”

– Stay tuned for what came of an interesting chat with Tyler Seguin about Christmas, being a healthy scratch, and once again having something in common with Steven Stamkos. More to come later.

Read More: Bruce Boudreau, Claude Julien, Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin
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