Bruce Boudreau talks to the media in Anaheim

It only took about twelve hours for Randy Carlyle to be fired, Bruce Boudreau to be hired, and for the new coach to meet with the media in Anaheim. Pro Hockey Talk was there as Boudreau addressed the media, talked about his expectations for the rest of the season, and the Ducks players should still expect to make a run at the playoffs.

Here’s the transcript of Bruce Boudreau’s portion of the press conference:

Boudreau statement:

“It’s great to be here. It’s been a wild ride for me for the last week as well. Like Bob said, I sat there on Tuesday and I didn’t believe that this was a team that had the possibilities and the makings of something special, I think I would have sat at home and waited. But I don’t think opportunities like this come around every day with the talent we have here. I talked to my wife about it, I said: ‘I think we should jump at this.’ I know it’s only been a day basically since I got let go, it was something that I thought was a chance that I wouldn’t get again. So, I jumped at it and got in the plane yesterday, and here I am. It’s a new start, I’m looking forward to it, can’t wait to play, and let’s get going.”

Boudreau: “Salvaging the season is winning regularly. Every team has its warts; it’s a question of making less mistakes than the other team. I know it’s very basic, but we don’t get a chance, and I didn’t get a chance, to see Anaheim play as often as I’d like to being a) in the Eastern time zone, and b) the Eastern Conference; we didn’t pay that much attention to them. I do know a few of their players and I do know that they have some great players. They have the players in really prominent role positions that need to be to be a good team. So, not taking anything away from Randy [Carlyle], if we do it together, we should hopefully make strides. Every night and every day. And it’s going to take time, but I think it could be done within the next four months.

On the circumstances being very similar to when Boudreau took over the Caps, memories of first days and months when he took over Caps:

Boudreau: “I think the biggest thing I tried to instill in the Capitals was confidence. They were beaten down a little bit and they had lost for many years. They didn’t believe in themselves. This is a totally different story in that respect, is that they haven’t lost. They have been a really good team. They have just sort of lost their way a little bit. But I told them this morning, I believe in them. I think they’re a really good team and I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t believe that they have a really good shot of doing a lot of good things this year. I want them to believe in themselves. If they do, then good things can happen.”

On the Bobby Ryan rumors that have been floating around this week:

Boudreau: “I just got here. I haven’t paid too much attention to that. I’ll let the first day go before I address [the rumors]. You know, [I need to] talk to Bobby…

On his reputation of being an offensive coach and will he have defensemen jumping into the play?

Boudreau: “I don’t know. I’d like to walk before I can run a little bit. It doesn’t really matter if you win 8-7 or 2-1, I just want to win. If you know me, losing grates on me quite a lot. But I think it’s assessing where your strengths are, then work to your strengths.”

On the comments that said Boudreau had nothing left in the tank in Washington:

Boudreau: “No, I had told George [McPhee] that I had tried everything that I knew with this group right now and it wasn’t working right now. It didn’t mean that it wouldn’t work a week from now, it just didn’t work right then—for those two games I was talking about. It was the Buffalo game and the Winnipeg game. And that hadn’t happened in the previous 4+ years that I was there, so it was more of a surprise for me that it hadn’t worked. I was sort of taken aback by it and I told George that.”

About extracting Carlyle’s philosophies and instilling his own with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “Well, I just do what I do. I can’t say we’re not doing this. Randy is a great coach, good teammate, good friend—all of those things. But I just got to do what I’ve done and what I’ve been used to; what I’ve done has been successful. And those are the things that I know. So we integrate those things, we did a couple of things today. Systems—there’s no right system or wrong system. Coaches have faith in what they’ve done and has been successful for them. What I was doing today [at practice] may have been different from what Randy did, but at the same time, they were both successful. We’ll see if the group can do it, whether it was better for them what I’m showing or it isn’t and we’ll adjust accordingly. I mean, I’ve been with them for one practice, so we’ll see their strengths and their weakness. I just can’t go on and do things that aren’t me. I just have to be me and see how that works.”

On the mood of the team this morning:

Boudreau: “Like all team, when there’s a change, they’re waiting to see how it affects them. It’s hard to tell. They listened very well, I thought, and they looked [like] when they went on the ice they had some ‘jump.’ But I don’t know them individually well enough to know if that was the norm or if it was a different thing for them. Time will tell. But I thought, for me, it was OK.”

On everything moving quickly over the last week, if he would have hung around the house for a while:

Boudreau: “Oh, my wife wouldn’t have liked that very much. No, I was looking for something to do. It’s always important, for me anyway, to get out. I can’t lie around and [not] do anything. I was going to start watching games somewhere, going somewhere. At that time, I was making plans to go to Toronto and do some work with TSN or something. But, this was much better.”

On if any other teams contacted him (or the Capitals about him):

Boudreau: “No, not that I know of. Not with the Capitals, not that I know of; with me no.”

On which place was furthest way from Anaheim:

Boudreau: “…boy, I’ve been everywhere. I don’t know. Just distance-wise, Manchester was the furthest. But when I first started getting into coaching, when you’re coaching in Muskegon, Michigan or Biloxi, Mississippi, you really aren’t looking far enough ahead to think that you’re going to be coaching in Anaheim or Washington. I’ve been lucky.”

On the month (November) starting with his Capitals facing off with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “No, quite frankly I wouldn’t have laid [money on it]. If you could have a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been something I thought was going to happen.”

On if he’s spoken to Randy Carlyle:

Boudreau: “No. It’s too early.”

On filling the coaching staff out:

Boudreau: “I think we’ll talk to Bob when this is done and we’ll see where it goes.”

GM Bob Murray: “We have some things in the fire that may happen fairly quickly.”

On how he can prevent the players from tuning him out:

Boudreau: “If I knew how to prevent it, I wouldn’t let it happen. So I just hope it doesn’t happen. I hope that they buy into the message and we just surge from here.”

On what his message is to the players:

Boudreau: “I want them to be very positive. I want to be aggressive, I want them to play the way they’re capable of playing. With energy and thinking that they’re going to be successful. The way they should be successful. This was a team that before the season started, if you read a lot of the clippings, they said they would really contend for the Pacific Division crown, and I think they’re very capable of doing it. I want them to believe in themselves. That’s the message for today. Believe in themselves.”

On Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry being linemates going forward:

Boudreau: “The first shift tomorrow they will be. Beyond that, we’ll have to see how they do.”

On any lessons he could take away from the Ovechkin/Semin stuff that went down over the last month in Washington:

Boudreau: “You know what; I mean a lot was blown out [of proportion]. I got along really well with both of those guys and I think I’ve said that for the last week that there was never a problem. With either one. But we all tend to want to make something out of nothing. And we did. So there’s really no story there.”

On the excitement to get started:

Boudreau: “I think nervous excitement goes hand-in-hand. I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. Any time you take a new challenge on, you get excited. And nervous. I’m trying to put a good analogy together—it’s like going to a new school. You want to put your first step, you want to make a good impression with everybody. And you’re following someone who had a lot of success and is really popular. So it’s tough.”

Bad Bruins injury news: Rask hurt in practice, Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

Not good, but it’s not yet clear how bad this might be. The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Grim times for Canadiens: Price struggles, surgery for Schlemko

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Forgive the Montreal Canadiens if they feel beleaguered heading into Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (which is part of NBCSN’s doubleheader).

After another captivating-but-polarizing summer of changes thanks to GM Marc Bergevin, the spotlight shone a little brighter on the Habs to start. Such magnification made it tough to hide the blemishes of what’s now a 1-4-1 start, even if abysmal luck takes the ugliness to an unrealistic extreme.

If getting beaten down in the local papers and in conventional wisdom didn’t leave them staggering, the Habs are also closing off a back-to-back set after dropping a fifth game in a row via last night’s loss to San Jose.

The hits keep on coming, too, with news that an already-shaky defense corps will lack savvy free agent addition David Schlemko for an estimated three-to-four weeks following hand surgery.

You know things are dreary when one of the more positive bits revolves around starting Al Montoya instead of Carey Price.

It’s true, though, that Montoya’s the right choice here. Most obviously, Price played last night, and you don’t want to lean too hard on any goalie, even one who will begin to cost $10M per season in 2018-19.

Price check

Price’s struggles feel like a microcosm of what this team is going through, as a whole, right now.

In the short term, it’s difficult to imagine things remaining this abhorrent both for the star goalie and his struggling team.

Price’s save percentage stands at .885 so far this season; he’s never been below .905 for a campaign. A 3.56 GAA won’t persist for a netminder who’s never averaged anything above 2.83 (and that was almost a decade ago).

The Canadiens are still easily the worst team in the NHL in both shooting percentage and save percentage perspectives at even-strength. They’re doing so despite grading well by Natural Stat Trick’s various metrics, including getting a friendly percentage of high-danger scoring chances (their fellow dour would-be contenders, the Oilers, feel their pain).

So, a lot of those patterns will just sort of work themselves out naturally.

Still, there are some nagging concerns.

Price already turned 30, and his new, massive cap hit hasn’t even kicked in yet. While goalies have a decent track record of aging more gracefully than, say, snipers, Price’s history of knee issues provides some worry.

Even if he continues to be Carey Price in italics, there really isn’t a great comparable for his contract (Henrik Lundqvist‘s is the closest, according to Cap Friendly). Montreal could serve as a guinea pig for other NHL teams pondering building around an expensive goalie.

Growing pains or signs of a fall?

There are also unsettling questions about Bergevin’s vision, and the way Julien uses players.

Bergevin’s win-now mentality is the source of plenty of debate, but it’s objectively clear that many of his moves have made the Habs older. Shea Weber‘s considerably older than P.K. Subban, and even very young Jonathan Drouin is a grizzled veteran compared to Mikhail Sergachev.

Re-signing Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t ended that saga, and the Habs can’t just blame the media, either.

At the moment, Galchenyuk ranks ninth in even-strength ice time average among Canadiens forwards. He’s currently slated for fourth-line duty alongside Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky.

If the goal is to eventually trade him, this is a backwards way of doing so. If the goal is to “send him a message,” there seems to be a better time than when your team isn’t exactly setting nets on fire like “NBA Jam.”

***

When you break things down issue by issue, it’s reasonable to expect better times. Still, it’s tough to shake the worrying signs overall, whether you’re just looking at 2017-18 or beyond.

Things could at least look a little sunnier if Montreal can dig deep and come out of this California trip with a win or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Ben Bishop is (quietly) off to promising start for Stars

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Even after winning their last two games by matching 3-1 scores, the Dallas Stars are still off to a modest 3-3-0 start in 2017-18.

Such a record might cause some consternation, and possibly some criticism for the likes of Ken Hitchcock and Ben Bishop. Especially since Hitchcock has developed a reputation for providing the defensive structures that nurture strong numbers from a wide variety of netminders.

You might have missed this in part because Bishop was briefly sidelined by another weird failing of his goalie mask (check out his gross wound here, if that sort of stuff doesn’t turn your stomach).

Bishop is now 3-1-0 with a splendid .944 save percentage and a 1.49 GAA that might elicit fuzzy memories of Marty Turco’s prime for many Stars fans. Bishop’s been sharp since coming back from injury, including stopping 49 of 51 shots on goal during the last two games.

(Things haven’t been going quite as well for Kari Lehtonen, though.)

A valuable confidence-builder

When you look at the 30-year-old’s impressive .919 career save percentage, you might be surprised to learn that many still believe that Bishop has something to prove.

Some of that comes down to taste; NHL teams seek big bodies in net like those of Bishop, but his more “blocking” style leaves many less-than-impressed. There might be a small subset of observers who will pivot from crediting the Lightning’s system for blustering his numbers straight to giving Hitchcock the credit if Bishop continues his strong play.

(Note: Bishop’s almost certain to finish the season with a lower save percentage, unless he enjoys the sort of season we haven’t seen often since Tim Thomas was playing in Claude Julien’s system with vintage Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron hogging the puck.)

The thing is, you can see why the 2016-17 season might have shaken Bishop’s confidence.

For one thing, his numbers were down; his .910 save percentage between his final Lightning days and brief stint with the Kings is the lowest mark he’s sported since a .909 mark in 2011-12 (when he received spot duty with Ottawa).

Beyond the numbers, Bishop was traded by the team he helped lead deep into the postseason. It’s reasonable that Tampa Bay went with a younger goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy, but much like Marc-Andre Fleury with Pittsburgh, you have to think that the season hurt Bishop’s pride to some degree.

So, yeah, it probably means quite a bit to Bishop to start strong.

Truer tests await

It’s good that Bishop shook off some cobwebs, because the Stars face stormier weather soon. They play one road game, one home game, and then go on a five-game road trip during the next seven contests. With only one back-to-back set, it’s feasible that the Stars will turn to Bishop for the bulk of those challenges.

(For more on the Stars’ schedule, check here.)

***

During an 82-game season, workhorse goalies are going to see peaks and valleys. Right now, Steve Mason is looking like a 1B at best in Winnipeg, but that could very well change. Carey Price probably won’t struggle through November, let alone all of 2017-18.

Ben Bishop will probably face some tough times. Judging by that schedule note above, it might not be long before his confidence is tested.

Still, it’s worth noting that he’s passing his early tests with flying colors.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Reports: Matt Duchene still wants trade from Avalanche

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Winning might fix a lot of things, but can it repair a bridge that has been burned?

In the case of Matt Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche, the answer may very well be “No.”

On Monday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston declared as much during an intermission interview with Jeff Marek (no video or audio available at this time). Elliotte Friedman backed up such sentiments in his latest “31 Thoughts” piece for Sportsnet, deeming it “unlikely” that winning would patch things up.

The most promising element might be that the Avs seem to be a little more open-minded when it comes to the sort of return they’re expecting for the speedy forward:

I do think they are doing work on non-NHL prospects of potential trade partners — especially left-handed defenders. That might be a way to break the trade stalemate, providing Colorado’s scouts like what they see.

Getting NHL teams to shake loose quality defensemen who are already on their rosters is easier said than done, but it’s easier to sell management and fans on guys who haven’t made an impact yet.

(Although that’s not always true, of course, as sometimes people tend to inflate a prospect’s chances when their work lives largely in their imaginations.)

Really, whatever it takes to get Duchene out of his misery, what with sad-looking photo shoots and comments from Peter Forsberg/other childhood heroes.

Other NHL teams – not to mention Avs GM/other Duchene hero Joe Sakic himself – should take this as another reminder to be careful how they handle players, even if they’re shopping them. Whether it comes down to official statements or allowing things to “leak,” you can really damage a relationship if you lack a certain level of finesse.

History repeating?

Allow a digression: it’s difficult not to think of how the Avalanche had a falling out with Ryan O'Reilly when considering the Duchene situation. There’s the possibility that it provides a window into Duchene’s thinking.

Back in 2015, PHT looked at resurfacing reports about tension between the two forwards toward the end of ROR’s time with Colorado. Duchene explained that O’Reilly was a great teammate “at the rink” and seemed irritated that the two-way forward was trying to break through what seemed like a $6M ceiling in Colorado.

So, in Duchene’s mind, he might have taken less money than he could have in accepting $6M per year.

Imagine, then, the frustration he felt in being a team player and then seeing his team dragging his name through the mud. Even if his take wasn’t that dramatic, the treatment came across as harsh.

Would a few early wins really smooth all of that over?

Either way, even that narrative is fading out, as the Avalanche are on a two-game losing streak to fall to a more modest 4-3-0 so far in 2017-18. That’s still a quantum leap from the historic lows they hit last season, but Duchene can be excused if he doesn’t believe that putting the team before his feelings will open the door for some deep run.

***

Look, it’s understandable that the Avalanche want to get a great return for Duchene. Sports are littered with quarter-on-the-dollar trade where contenders give up junk for struggling teams’ best players.

On the other hand, every now and then, the planets align for fair NHL trades. Ryan Johansen goes for Seth Jones. Brandon Saad and Artemi Panarin meet specific needs for their respective new (old-new) squads. Even Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa was pretty reasonable, considering the circumstances the then-Atlanta Thrashers were facing.

Still, trades are fun, and it’s tough not to feel a little jealous of the NBA’s frenzy, where super teams aligned and realigned seemingly on a weekly basis.

It would just be straight-up fun to see Duchene try to take the Columbus Blue Jackets to another level or make the Nashville Predators seem downright scary. One might even change Duchene’s soundtrack from Simon & Garfunkel to the theme for Dawson’s Creek in rapt anticipation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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