The Washington Capitals didn't give new head coach Dale Hunter the storybook return Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues - their 11th loss in 16 games - but did show flashes of Hunter's new defensive style that will surely pay off as the players adjust.
"We didn't give up odd man rushes tonight," Hunter said after the game. "There were no two-on-ones and three-on-twos and they competed. We played smart."
Washington gave up 30 shots on goal, but made St. Louis work for all of them. Meanwhile, the Caps had only 19 shots on goal, their second-lowest total of the season, but they were playing against a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, which historically run the same system that Hunter is trying to implement in Washington.
The Caps will adjust to a tighter defensive system, not something they were necessarily used to under Bruce Boudreau. With the Pittsburgh Penguins coming to Verizon Center Thursday, there will be need to worry about a lack of energy and the players will evolve into Hunter's style of play over time.
"It happens with transition," Hunter said. "They don't have it down pat yet and I think they got better as the game went on and they competed real hard. That's the most important thing and that's what you need to [do to] win."