Big games haven’t been kind to Bruce Boudreau

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If you were to name the top 10 head coaches in the NHL, Bruce Boudreau would almost certainly factor in somewhere. Still, his lack of deep postseason success probably explains why his name rarely comes up in discussions regarding the absolute elite.

One can only wonder how different things might be if his Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks didn’t lose (and sometimes even totally flop) in Game 7 situations, though. Boudreau is now 1-5 in career playoff Game 7’s and his teams have frequently lost in ways that overshadowed fantastic regular seasons.

He’s been in those situations quite often, too. Boudreau has only avoided a seven-game series in 2010-11 (when the Capitals were swept in the second round) and 2011-12 (when he was fired 22 games into the season by Washington and couldn’t direct the Ducks into the postseason in 58 games).

Other than that, the pattern has been almost disturbing: outstanding regular seasons followed by crushing Game 7 defeats. Let’s take a look back.

Note: To keep things simple, remember that Boudreau’s team won its division in every season but 2011-12.

Washington years

2007-08: Boudreau guides the Capitals to a 37-17-7 record in the 61 games he coached, earning his only Jack Adams Award in the process.

The Philadelphia Flyers beat Washington 3-2 in OT in Game 7 of a first-round series. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin scored the Captials’ two goals in that game, but Joffrey Lupul beat Cristobal Huet for the game-winner in overtime.

2008-09: The Capitals went 50-24-8 for 108 standings points.

The 2009 postseason represents the first (and only) time Boudreau has won a playoff Game 7, as his team dispatched soon-to-be regular playoff opponent the New York Rangers in the first round. The Capitals fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 series deficits to win this series. They beat the Rangers 2-1 with Sergei Fedorov scoring the game-winner.

This set the stage for the memorable seven-game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins/a “Top this” showdown between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. The decisive Game 7 was pretty much a bloodbath, though; Marc-Andre Fleury stopped an early Ovechkin chance and the Penguins built a 2-0 lead in the first period. They eventually dominated to a 6-2 win.

2009-10: The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy by eight points with a fantastic 121-point regular season, yet they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in a first-round series that doubled as Jaroslav Halak’s peak. (Along with Halak helping the Habs beat Pittsburgh in seven games as well in round two.)

Game 7 against Montreal was another hard-luck loss for Washington in that series. Semyon Varlamov allowed two goals on 16 shots while Halak made 41 out of 42 saves. The Canadiens took the series with a 2-1 win in Game 7.

(Oddly enough, the Capitals went to two seven-game series during the 2011-12 season in which they fired Bruce Boudreau after just 22 games. Dale Hunter went 1-1 in those full-length series. In fact, Washington’s last two playoff series have been seven-game losses to the Rangers.)

Anaheim years

2012-13: The venue and conference changed, but the results seemed unsettling in their similarities: another great regular season followed by a tough Game 7 loss (once again in the first round).

The Detroit Red Wings beat the Ducks 3-2 in Game 7 of their first-round series as an Anaheim comeback bid fell short.

2013-14: One cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the Ducks didn’t manage an unlikely third-period turnaround and overtime win in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars. They avoided a seventh game in the first round, but couldn’t do so against the Los Angeles Kings in round two.

You probably remember what happened on Friday, but if not, the Kings cruised to a 6-2 win.

CSNWashington.com’s Ben Raby points out the similarities between the Ducks falling to the Kings and the Capitals losing to the Penguins in respective second-round series:

Anaheim’s Game 7 loss to the Kings had an eerily similar feel as the Capitals’ 2009 Game 7 loss at home against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Consider that in both cases: 1) the home team had an early breakaway from its leading goal-scorer (Alex Ovechkin in 2009; Corey Perry in 2014) but could not convert, 2) Boudreau pulled his rookie starting goalie once the visitors took a 4-0 second period lead (Semyon Varlamov in 2009; John Gibson in 2014) and 3) the home team pulled within 5-1 late in the second frame, before ultimately falling by a 6-2 score.

Boudreau has to hope that his team can break this unsightly pattern sooner rather than later.

Ducks coach Boudreau: ‘That first period was like men against boys’

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The L.A. Kings got off to a fast start in Friday’s Game 7 showdown. Too fast for their opponents, the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kings worked up a 3-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes, on goals from Justin Williams – we’ve talked about him and his Game 7 prowess a lot, haven’t we? – Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The Ducks, well, they couldn’t get much of anything going in the offensive end, except for a Corey Perry penalty shot attempt that was thwarted by Jonathan Quick.

And as soon as this game had started, it was essentially over. We’ve seen comebacks before in these playoffs. Not tonight. And the Kings kept pushing, chasing rookie goalie John Gibson from the Anaheim net in the second period and eventually winning this game and the series.

By the sounds of it – and by the looks of it, too – the Ducks simply weren’t prepared for this game.

“I think we were individually and collectively blown away by what they were doing,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, as per Curtis Zupke of NHL.com.

“That first period was like men against boys, quite frankly. They were bigger, stronger faster, seemed more determined,” he added.

And with that, the Kings advance back to the Western Conference Final for the third consecutive year. That’s impressive.

Added Boudreau, as per Greg Beacham of the Associated Press: I want to give the Los Angeles Kings a little bit of credit. They played like Stanley Cup champions.”

Boudreau to Sutter: No no, we’re the underdogs

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Yesterday, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter raised some eyebrows by saying his team was the underdog going into Friday’s Game 7 versus the Ducks in Anaheim.

It really raised Bruce Boudreau’s eyebrows, because Boudreau insists his Ducks are the true underdogs.

From TSN’s Mark Masters:

Just to be clear, it seems obvious that neither team is an underdog (or overdog, if that exists) — they’re about as evenly-matched as you would expect from two bitter divisional foes going to Game 7 after being tied 13-13 on aggregate through the first six games of the series.

The Ducks have won four home games this postseason, the Kings have won four road games this postseason. The Ducks have the sixth-best power play, the Kings have the seventh.  See where I’m going here? There’s just not much to choose between the two.

Online oddsmaker Bovada agrees. The Kings are slight underdogs at 1/1 for tomorrow’s Game 7 while the Ducks are at 5/6.

‘It stunk,’ says Ducks’ coach Boudreau of team’s power play

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The Anaheim Ducks will lament, at least for now, missed opportunities on the power play Wednesday evening.

The Ducks lost Game 6 of their second-round series against the L.A. Kings, and the two teams will now need a seventh and deciding game to see who advances to the Western Conference Final. Anaheim’s power play went 0-for-5 and had only six shots registered on Jonathan Quick during their combined time on the man advantage.

“It stunk. Did we get any shots on five attempts? Nothing A1,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, as per LA Kings Insider.

The Ducks’ power play in the series had been running at a pretty good clip in the first two games at the Staples Center, going 3-for-5 combined in Games 3 and 4. Not nearly the same efficiency in Game 6.

Down by only a goal late in the third period, the Ducks were unable to capitalize when Kings’ defenseman Slava Voynov was sent off for a hard high stick on Mathieu Perreault. The Kings, even in the midst of absolute chaos in and around their net in the final two minutes, managed to hang on to force a Game 7.

Quick was also strong in this elimination game, making 21 saves on 22 shots he faced.

Ducks’ Koivu, Boudreau aiming for first trip to conference final

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Bruce Boudreau oversaw four playoff runs with the Washington Capitals, but the talented squad headlined by Alex Ovechkin never got past the second round. If they had, perhaps he wouldn’t be in Anaheim now.

His Ducks are just one win away from taking him to a conference final for the first time in his career as a head coach. If Anaheim beats Los Angeles in Game 6 tonight, it will be proof that he is capable of guiding a squad through a deep postseason run, even if he couldn’t make it work with Washington.

Perhaps there’s someone on the Ducks that wants this win even more though. At the age of 39, this might be Saku Koivu’s last chance to finally get to the conference final.

“I think Saku, especially,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said, per NHL.com. “[Teemu] always wants to go out on a high note, I’m sure. Given the opportunity, I’m sure he’d love to. Saku, I know, really wants this. He wants to get to the Finals. He wants an opportunity to play for that Cup, and we’d love to give it to him.”

The Ducks know they can’t get ahead of themselves. The Kings want this too. Koivu, Boudreau, and the rest of the Ducks won’t get past them without earning it.