No grudge is held by Neely
For much of his 19-year career as a player in the NHL, Dale Hunter was Public Enemy No. 1.
His goal on the ice was to punish opponents, which he did to the point of dirty play. The most glaring incident was his late hit on the Islanders’ Pierre Turgeon in the first round of the 1993 playoffs that landed Hunter the longest suspension in league history to that point (21 games).
Now the Washington Capitals coach, Hunter has his team buying into a strong two-way system that again served them well in Wednesday night’s Game 7 win over the Bruins at TD Garden.
Hunter finished his career with 3,563 regular-season penalty minutes, but he also racked up 1,020 points in 1,407 games.
In the postseason, he had 727 PIMs in 186 contests, with 118 points (42 goals).
One person who saw a great deal of Hunter during his playing career was Bruins president Cam Neely.
“He certainly was a competitor,’’ said Neely before the game. “He competed. The one thing that pops into my head, obviously, is the playoff series [in 1990] when he cracked [Craig] Janney in the head.
“But the guy certainly competed. I didn’t mind playing against him. I didn’t have any problems.’’
Neely said Hunter’s tactics were born out of what he felt was necessity.
“I think it was really just his understanding what he had to do to be successful in the game,’’ said Neely. “He was not a big guy but he played bigger than he was. That probably gave him an edge that he needed, to play a certain way. Obviously, lots of points, lots of penalty minutes.’’
In today’s game, Hunter would never be able to get away with what he did in the 1980s and ’90s.
“He probably had one of the longest suspensions in the game, so it would’ve been 10 times that today,’’ said Neely. “I don’t know. They’re cracking down pretty good on extracurricular activities. I’m sure he’d have to adjust like many guys back in those days would.’’
As monumental pests go, Neely wouldn’t put Hunter in the same class as Claude Lemieux.
“I was on the ice with [Hunter] a fair amount during my career, but he didn’t really annoy me like Lemieux,’’ said Neely with a laugh.
Neely said Hunter wasn’t just a pest, he also had plenty of skill.
“You don’t get that many points without doing something offensively,’’ said Neely. “It was just his will to be an impact player, one way or the other.’’
Neely remembers Hunter more for time with Washington than Quebec, in large part because of that 1990 series.
“The intensity level picks up so much more in the playoffs,’’ said Neely. “It’s the third round, so I have more memories of playing against him then.’’
He travels well
Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby had some good numbers on the road in this series. The 22-year-old was 3-1 with a 1.38 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. Overall, he is 4-3 with a 2.00 GAA and .940 save percentage . . . Washington killed 21 of Boston’s 23 power-play opportunities in the series and 48 of its opponents’ 52 chances (92.3 percent) dating to March 16, a span of 19 games.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.