Dale Hunter in search of another playoff comeback

Dale Hunter in search of another playoff comeback
May 23, 2013, 1:30 am
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Washington Capitals head coach Dale Hunter leaves the rink after the game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Washington Capitals 5-2

(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

It remains one of the most famous goals in Washington Capitals history- Dale Hunter splitting a pair of Philadelphia Flyers and beating goalie Ron Hextall in overtime of Game 7 of the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals.

The win capped off a tremendous comeback for the Capitals who trailed Philadelphia 3-1 in the best-of-seven series before rallying for three straight victories.

Twenty five years later, the former Capitals captain and coach again needs three straight wins to complete a postseason triumph.

Hunter, who returned to coach the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League this season, is one defeat away from seeing the Knights’ season end at the 2013 Memorial Cup.

Hunter’s junior team won the OHL championship earlier this month and the Knights are one of four teams competing for the larger Canadian Hockey League Championship this week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (the other teams include the Halifax Mooseheads, the Portland Winterhawks and the host Saskatoon Blades).

The Knights finished round-robin play with a 1-2 record and failed to earn the coveted bye into Sunday’s best-of-one national title game (the bye went to Halifax).

The Knights also missed an opportunity to guarantee a spot in Friday’s best-of-one national semifinal and will instead face either Portland or Saskatoon in Thursday’s tiebreaker game.

The remaining Memorial Cup schedule is included below, but simply put- Hunter’s Knights will have to win three games in four days if they hope to win their first Memorial Cup as CHL champions since 2005.

 

Thursday - TIEBREAKER: London vs. Saskatoon

Friday – SEMIFINAL: Winner of tiebreaker vs. Portland

Sunday – FINAL: Winner of semifinal vs. Halifax

 

VIGNEAULT OUT IN VANCOUVER:

Despite having won five straight Northwest Division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, the Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Alain Vigneault.

In seven seasons with the Canucks, Vigneault compiled a 313-170-57 record and won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2006-07.

Vancouver’s shortcomings though, much like the Capitals, have come in the postseason.  The Canucks have lost in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons and since taking a 3-2 series lead in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins, Vancouver has lost 10 of its last 11 playoff games overall.

“I am proud of many of the things we accomplished as a group these past seven seasons in Vancouver and only wish we were able to win the Canucks first Stanley Cup,” Vigneault said in a statement. “I am a career coach and it is what I love to do. I hope to coach again in this League and will always have good memories of my time and the fans in Vancouver."