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Trending: Hunter, U.S. captains, Henrik's perfection

by Dan Rosen

Dale Hunter's not-so-surprising departure, Jackets' hiring of Todd Richards full time, a trio of American captains, the Hudson River Rivalry, Dave Tippett's response, the new perfect human, and the Kings' road success all make up this playoff edition of Trending this Week, a compilation of some of the biggest stories in the NHL that have or should be part of the conversation in the Twitterverse.


Dale Hunter stepped down from his position as Capitals coach Monday so he can re-focus his energies back on the London Knights, the Ontario Hockey League club that means so much to him and really is part of his family. Hunter, who cited family reasons for his departure, deserves credit for being able to get the Capitals to buy in to his defensive system. They became Team Shot-Block and they did it as well as any team could have.

Now Hunter moves back to the OHL and his junior-hockey roots. He'll join the Knights as they prepare for the Memorial Cup, which starts Thursday, but he says he'll only be a fan for now.

Dale Hunter has stepped down as Capitals coach to focus more on his OHL team. (Photo: Getty Images)

Regardless, Hunter will get back with the team and he rightfully can start referring to players as "kids" again. And you know what? He's probably better off now because he can impress upon teenagers how the game is played in today's NHL. Hunter played in a different era, but he was able to bring some of his old-school principles to the Capitals.

As for Washington, it's time to move on again to another new coach. There are some names out there worth chewing over, such as Paul Maurice, Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley. Capitals general manager George McPhee hasn't prowled for a new coach in the offseason since 2002, when he hired Bruce Cassidy to replace Ron Wilson.

Considering McPhee, the Caps' GM since 1997, never has hired a veteran NHL coach (he did not hire Wilson), maybe now is the time for him to do so. Especially now with Braden Holtby cemented as the No. 1 goalie going into next season, this group of Capitals perhaps is closer than it ever has been to getting over the hump; a veteran coach might be able to push the championship buttons.


Todd Richards was able to at least make the Blue Jackets competitive over the last 41 games of the season (18-21-2). Now the pressure is on to make them better. Richards signed a two-year contract Monday to become the sixth full-time coach in Blue Jackets history.

Richards, who replaced Scott Arniel after the Blue Jackets' 11-25-5 start, did not fare well in Minnesota and was fired after two seasons, but he also didn't have good enough players during his time with the Wild to make anything happen. They are still fighting that uphill battle now with Mike Yeo.

What kind of team he has going into next season remains a mystery because no one knows if Rick Nash will be around or if he will be traded this summer. If Nash gets dealt, the deck Richards has to play with completely changes because it could mean the Blue Jackets get a few NHL-ready or veteran players in return.

Unless general manager Scott Howson trades the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Richards also will have an 18-year-old sensation on his roster to go along with 21-year-old defenseman John Moore and 19-year-old forward Ryan Johansen. Plus, there is an issue in goal, as the team has to decide if Steve Mason can still be the No. 1 in net.

This won't be an easy job for Richards (it hasn't been for any coach in Columbus). However, if Howson can supply him with a good mix of players and hit a home run if he does decide to trade Nash, then Richards will have a chance to become a coaching star in a market that needs a winner.


Ryan Callahan
Ryan Callahan
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 42 | +/-: 1
There is a 75-percent chance of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handing the Stanley Cup to an U.S.-born captain for the first time since Derian Hatcher grabbed it from his hands in 1999. Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y.), Ryan Callahan (Rochester, N.Y.) and Zach Parise (Minneapolis, Minn.) still are battling to win their first Stanley Cup, along with Shane Doan (Halkirk, Alta.).

The unique thing about the three American captains is that each is cut from the same cloth.

They are the unquestioned emotional and inspirational on-ice and off-ice leaders of their respective clubs, but they are not exactly rah-rah types. Brown talks in a low voice with a lisp. Callahan and Parise have louder voices, but neither is a screamer or a yeller.

They are all 27 years old and played for the 2010 U.S. Olympic team that won silver in Vancouver.

Brown and Callahan played together for one season (2002-03) with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. They also both are from upstate New York.

Parise played collegiately at the University of North Dakota, but he played with Brown in the 2003 World Junior Championship. The three captains actually represent four straight years of World Juniors as Brown played in 2002 and 2003, Parise was on the team in 2003 and 2004, and Callahan played on the 2005 team.

The odds suggest one of them will make America proud again. That is, of course, unless Doan has something to say about it.


If there is somewhere to sign up for six more chapters of the same type of action and energy we saw Monday at Madison Square Garden, please show me the way. The Hudson River Rivalry Series for Eastern Conference supremacy looks like it is going to be awesome, just like it was 18 years ago.

Save for Martin Brodeur, who should have been handcuffed and booked for robbery after his diving save on Marc Staal 9:43 into the third period, the players in this year's version of the Devils-Rangers series are different, but the intensity is just the same.

The Garden looked like it was rocking and the Rangers got the early lead in the series with a 3-0 victory; unlike what happened in 1994, when they lost a double-overtime thriller at home. This time it'll be the Devils who have to rebound, just like the Rangers did with a 4-0 win in Game 2 of the 1994 conference finals.

The problem is it looks like it'll be impossible to score more than two goals against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers. Heck, the Devils wouldn't mind just getting one to go into the net after getting blanked in Game 1.

Brodeur and the Devils have to be perfect to beat the Rangers in a seven-game series. Even if they can't be, and even if it doesn't go the distance, the intensity, energy, action and heartbeat of this series will be incredibly high.


Antoine Vermette
Antoine Vermette
Center - PHX
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 9
SOG: 20 | +/-: 0
You have to appreciate Phoenix coach Dave Tippett's brutal brand of honesty since the end of Game 1 Sunday. Tippett called out his team for not having the will to win battles. He got on them for not executing well enough to compete with the Kings despite the scoreboard saying it was a 2-2 game after two periods.

However, correcting some of the problems the Coyotes had in their 4-2 loss to the Kings falls on Tippett, who has to find a combination that can at least slow down, if not shut down, the Kings' top line of Anze Kopitar, Brown and Justin Williams in Game 2 Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

The Kopitar line was dominant every time it was on the ice in Game 1 and connected for two of the three goals against Mike Smith (there also was an empty-netter).

Tippett had the same five skaters on the ice (Shane Doan, Mikkel Boedker, Antoine Vermette, Rostislav Klesla and Oliver Ekman-Larsson) when Kopitar scored in the first period and when Brown scored the winner 2:11 into the third period. He also used the line of Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal against the Kopitar line, while the trio of Boyd Gordon, Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt also saw some time against them.

Nothing seemed to work, and it was always as if L.A. coach Darryl Sutter, who does not have the luxury of the last change at Arena, especially was happy to have the Kopitar line go against the Vermette line. Brown, Kopitar and Williams are just as good defending as they are attacking.

Tippett has to find a way to limit the Kopitar line with a combination of players that will be able to attack against it. He might have to consider making some line changes to make it happen.


Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom has been referred to as "the perfect human," but he might have company now from fellow Swede Lundqvist, who looks like a model, is married to a woman that looks like one, and is the world's best at his profession at the present time.

With all due respect to the way Jonathan Quick, Smith and even Brodeur have been playing this postseason, Lundqvist is the best goalie going now and he should be the Conn Smythe favorite, even ahead of Brown.

Lundqvist is working with such a small margin for error on most nights, yet he has his team three wins away from the Stanley Cup Final because he's allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of 15 playoff games this spring. He's never given up more than three.

Lundqvist's save on Ilya Kovalchuk in the third period of Game 1 Monday was a thing of, well, perfection. He moved easily in his crease and made himself look huge, cutting off all areas for Kovalchuk to shoot despite the fact that he had a rare, wide-open look from the left circle. Lundqvist gave him nothing and gobbled up the shot. He even spun so his back was facing Kovalchuk as he collected the puck just in case it got loose.

Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist
Goalie - NYR
RECORD: 9-6-2
GAA: 1.57 | SVP: 0.940
He made 21 saves in the 3-0 Game 1 victory, including 11 in the second period (three in a row on the same sequence against Parise), to lower his goals-against average in the playoffs to 1.57 and raise his save percentage to .940. He faced only four shots in the third period, but Lundqvist is just as good when he's not getting a lot of action as he is when he gets plenty.

Perfect? Yeah, he's about as close as it gets right now.


The Kings can make some history Tuesday at Arena.

They have won six straight road games this postseason and eight in a row dating back to last year. A win Tuesday will tie the NHL record for most consecutive road victories in one postseason (last done by Chicago in 2010), as well as tie them with the early 1980s Islanders for most road consecutive road wins spanning more than one postseason. The Islanders won nine straight on the road bridging 1982 and 1983.

Of course, the link between the 2010 Blackhawks, the 1982 Islanders and the 1983 Islanders is they all won the Stanley Cup. Even if the Kings do tie those NHL records with a win Tuesday, they still will need six more victories to win the Cup.

However, their road success has allowed them to get closer than they have been since 1993. If it continues, the pressure will be on the Coyotes to win at Staples Center, where the Kings are a not-too-shabby 3-1 in the playoffs.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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