The Washington Capitals will return to action this evening (at Nashville, 8pm ET) for the first time since splitting a home-and-home series against New Jersey.
If you’re watching, be sure to keep an eye on Alex Semin.
The enigmatic Russian drew the ire of head coach Bruce Boudreau on Friday night after taking two penalties, but also because “he just didn’t look like he had it.” Semin looked lethargic to start the game, played just 2:54 in the second period and didn’t touch the ice in the third.
“Taking the penalties are part of the reason why he didn’t play [Friday] but it wasn’t the whole reason,” Boudreau told Capitals Insider. “He just wasn’t playing very well and we wanted to win the game, so we went with what were the nine best players at that time.”
Semin responded with a better effort on Saturday — 17:17 of ice time, 21 shifts, plus-1 rating — to which Boudreau offered a more pleasant review.
“I thought he tried really hard,” Boudreau said. “You’re not going to keep benching him and benching him and benching him.”
Okay, it was a slightly more pleasant review.
Big picture, this is just the latest example of the “my way or the highway” approach Boudreau’s implemented this season. He’s already benched Alex Ovechkin, bag-skated the team, demoted Mike Knuble to the fourth line, created a mini-goalie controversy and made Marcus Johansson a healthy scratch. We’re not even at the quarter pole yet and Boudreau has managed to rankle half of his roster — yet the Caps are still atop the Southeast Division and two points out of the Eastern Conference lead.
Some will applaud Boudreau for taking a hard-line stance on a team where inmates have been accused of running the asylum. (Come on, you saw HBO’s 24/7). And it’s probably the right move, given his uncertain job status.
That said, don’t forget the rub. Coaches only have a few motivational tools in the box, and even fewer opportunities to use them. Rather than using them all before the end of November, Boudreau might want to consider saving some for when the Capitals traditionally need them (read: April and beyond.)