Capitals coach Dale Hunter was a hated man during his playing days, as he was often accused of going over the line as a dirty player. Now, as a head coach, Hunter is accusing the Bruins of doing the same.
Hunter spoke to the media on Tuesday, and he claimed that the Bruins have been targeting the head of Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom in the two teams' first-round series.
"Every scrum, Nicky comes out with no helmet on, he gets blockered to the head by [Tim] Thomas the game before," Hunter said, according to the Washington Post.
Hunter used that reasoning to defend Backstrom, who recently returned from a concussion, after he received a match penalty for a cross-check to the Bruins' Rich Peverley as Game 3 ended Monday night. By rule, Backstrom is set to receive a one-game suspension, but there is still a chance the suspension will be rescinded.
"He's protecting his head," added Hunter. "He just came out for 40 games. You have to protect your head."
Backstrom returned to the Capitals lineup on March 31 after missing that chunk of games with the concussion.
"I think he was just trying to protect his face," Hunter said, according to the Post. "If you watch it, [Peverley's] stick's right in his eyes and it's a dangerous play on their part.
"He's got to protect himself. You get a second concussion you're out for a long time. If it wasn't there, if the stick wasn't in his face — Nicky Backstrom's not that kind of player. He doesn't just cross-check somebody in the face that he's not like that. Because the stick was there he protected himself."
Hunter also said that there was no doubt in his mind that the Bruins were intentionally targeting the head of Backstrom with his concussion history.
"Definitely, it's a head you know. It's a serious injury and they are. It is crossing the line to grab his head all the time is not the right way to play."
Because if anyone knows the "right way" to play hockey, it's Dale Hunter.
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