- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2012

It didn’t take long in these playoffs for the Washington Capitals to earn a reputation for Dale Hunter hockey.

“They’ve adapted, to a certain extent, the New York Rangers’ style,” Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They’re just sitting back in their own end and just blocking every shot they can.”

Through Sunday’s first-round games, the Caps blocked more shots (121) than any other team. They were so good at it through the first five games that Julien made a point of discussing it Sunday.

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“Where we have to be better is we have to find ways to get around that. The goaltender’s played well, they’re blocking shots and that’s the way they do it right now,” he said. “They’re content to play that way, and it’s been successful for them, so this is where we’ve got to find a way to overcome that.”

That’s what the Bruins did in their Game 6 victory, limiting the Caps to just 12 blocks. They had almost 22 per game previously in the series.

“From the point, they’re shooting it wide, missing the net more, because they don’t want to get it blocked,” Hunter said. “And we do the same thing. Tell your ‘D’: Don’t get it blocked. Don’t get it blocked. You miss the first guy going out, and that way it keeps away from your net, too. You don’t get as many shots.”

By doing that, the Bruins put pucks off the boards and can get some rebounds while the Caps’ defensemen have to turn around toward goalie Braden Holtby.

“You’ve got to be prepared for it,” Hunter said. “You’ve got to make sure you have your guys in front.”

History made

Whether tight like earlier in the series or what forward Matt Hendricks called “free-wheeling” in Game 6 Sunday, the Caps and Bruins have played entertaining games. It hasn’t just been close — it’s been historically close.

This is the first series in Stanley Cup playoffs history in which the first six games have been decided by one goal, according to Elias Sports Bureau. And while that would figure to benefit the older, more experienced Bruins, the Capitals have grown to enjoy these kinds of games.

“It’s obviously nerve-wracking, but it’s also fun,” forward Jay Beagle said. “When the pressure’s on and the games are tight, that’s the games you want to be a part of and those are the games that you’ll remember, and that’s why you play the game.”

Fun to watch, too. Game 6 on NBC drew an 8.6 rating in the D.C. area, which was the best in the market since 1993 for a non-Stanley Cup Final game.

Day off

The Caps took Monday day off from on-ice activities, with just extras skating in Arlington. They’ll practice at 10:30 Tuesday before departing for Boston.

“It’s just, obviously, a day to recover and relax and just kind of stay away from the rink a little bit,” Beagle said. “We were able to come in and get treatment if we wanted to and get a little stretch, but stay off the ice and just kind of let the body heal up and get ready for Wednesday.”

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