The proverbial gloves are off.
Since he took over for Bruce Boudreau a few days after Thanksgiving Dale Hunter has gone out of his way to sugar-coat his team's struggles. He called bad plays hockey plays and steered clear calling out players individually.
Having seen his team lose six of their last seven and 12 of their last 16 games, Hunter has added a little more bite to his post-game analysis. Following Wednesday nights 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Hunter took aim at goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
Tomas would like a few of them back, Hunter said after pulling Vokoun for a second straight game. He wasnt as sharp as he should have been. We played a good solid road game and we lose. Goaltending is a big part of the game and we need good goaltending.
Vokoun allowed four goals on 11 shots before he was replaced by Michal Neuvirth in Ottawa -- two nights after allowing two goals on seven shots and giving way to Neuvirth in Carolina. For those counting, that's eight times this season the Caps have had to switch goalies. It also marked the 50th time in his career Vokoun has been lifted from a game.
But Vokoun is not the only player who has been called out by Hunter in recent days. Hunter said he scratched veteran right wing Mike Knuble from the lineup because he wasnt scoring goals and had the worst plus-minus on the team (true statements). He told reporters he scratched veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik Wednesday night because he took a bad penalty that led to a goal (another true statement).
The days of coddling the underachieving Capitals are over. Hunter will continue talking tough.