Bruce Boudreau

Under Pressure: Bruce Boudreau


“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Anaheim Ducks we pick… coach Bruce Boudreau.

Let’s get one thing straight here before we get rolling: Bruce Boudreau has been a great coach for the Anaheim Ducks.

Ever since he replaced Randy Carlyle behind the bench in Orange County, all he’s done is get things turned in the right direction. In his two-and-a-half seasons, the team has only steadily gotten better under his watch. During the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Ducks won the Pacific Division and were one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Last season they were the best team in the West in the regular season.

As we know, the playoffs are what pays off and that’s where things have gone bad for the Ducks.

Two seasons ago they were bounced out by the seventh seeded Detroit Red Wings in seven games. This past season, they survived the first round against the eighth seeded Dallas Stars in six games only to lose in the second round to their hated rivals – the Los Angeles Kings – in seven.

If the story line about having dominant regular seasons only to come up short in the playoffs sounds familiar for a Boudreau-coached team, just imagine how he feels after his time with the Washington Capitals.

On the upside, it seems like Boudreau hasn’t taken the loss to the Kings as poorly as he did the Caps’ failure against the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, but with great success over the 82-game schedule comes expectations that playoff success will follow. After seeing L.A. win the Cup twice in three seasons, the pressure is even higher for the Ducks to win it again for the first time since 2007.

The Ducks have the talent to compete for the Cup. With Ryan Getzlaf playing like an MVP, Corey Perry scoring goals in bunches, a young defensive corps that will get better each year, and goaltending coming out their ears, everything is lined up to win.

The problem Boudreau has is he’s in a brutal Western Conference where success doesn’t come easily. He has a very good team to work with, but figuring out how to beat the likes of L.A., Chicago, St. Louis, and San Jose is what he’s got to do if he’s going to ever win that elusive Stanley Cup.

Boudreau has ‘never coached a team in the NHL’ with a 2C like Kesler

Bruce Boudreau

“I’ve never coached a team in the NHL that’s had a second-line center that you’re going to have with Ryan Kesler. It’s a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited.”

That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau (per, talking about his team’s big offseason acquisition from Vancouver. A former Selke Trophy winner, Kesler will play behind Anaheim’s top center, Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf, giving the Ducks one of the top 1-2 center combinations in the NHL.

“This makes us a bona fide threat to become an elite team,” said Boudreau.

So, exciting times for Ducks fans, who saw firsthand what the Los Angeles Kings did with a one-two combo of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter in these past playoffs.

But fans of the Washington Capitals may also have perked up at Boudreau’s remarks, given the cavalcade of second-line centers that auditioned in D.C. to play behind Nicklas Backstrom.

From Japers’ Rink:

The last time the Capitals entered an offseason knowing who the second-line center would be for the upcoming season was 2008, and Sergei Fedorov was playing for the Caps. Fedorov retired from the NHL after that 2008-09 season, and in each of the ensuing four and a half seasons the Capitals have had to find a new player to handle the second-line center spot.

The 2C spot is still up for grabs in Washington, with Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Evgeny Kuznetsov expected to compete for the role following the departure of Mikhail Grabovski to Long Island.

Ducks GM Murray: Boudreau needs to be better in playoffs

Anaheim Ducks Announce Bruce Boudreau

Fresh off his four-year contract extension, Ducks GM Bob Murray didn’t exactly provide a full defense for coach Bruce Boudreau after his team’s postseason shortcomings.

“Obviously in the regular seasons, (Boudreau’s) teams do very well,” Murray said, per the Ducks’ website. “I think Bruce knows, from last year’s playoffs to this year’s playoffs, we made some adjustments, and we were better. But he needs to get better in the playoffs, as we all do.”

Boudreau has an incredible 312-143-62 record in the regular season. To put that into context, he has the all-time best points percentage (.663) among coaches who have led at least 500 games. Legendary bench boss Scotty Bowman is a touch behind him at .657.

Whether you want to argue about sample sizes or the differences in eras is moot though, because no one is calling Boudreau this generation’s Bowman anyways. Bowman won the Stanley Cup nine times as a head coach while Boudreau hasn’t gotten past the second round, in large part because his teams have struggled in big games.

Boudreau called the Ducks’ 6-2 loss to Los Angeles in Game 7 an “anomaly,” but also something that the team can learn from. Murray hopes so, because he doesn’t want to be dismissive of that result.

“You don’t just say, it’s one game,” Murray said. He argued that the team needs to learn how to play under pressure, get off to better starts, and improve with the man advantage.

The general manager also weighed in on perhaps Boudreau’s most controversial series of decisions over the course of the playoffs: his handling of the goaltending situation. Starting goaltender Jonas Hiller was seldom used, even after backup Frederik Andersen was hurt.

“When it comes to Hillsy, I think we maybe should have given him some time off after the Olympics,” Murray said. “He’d come back and play a good game or two, and then he was on that high, and I think we should have been smart and given him some time off. I’ll take some responsibility for that.”

For Boudreau’s part, he doesn’t regret the moves he made in the playoffs and he remains upbeat going forward.

“We were the fifth-to-last team standing, and we’re talking as if we didn’t make the playoffs,” Boudreau said. “We didn’t play well in Game 7, and I can’t see me saying that about any other game in the playoffs. We hate it, but at the same time, it is what it is. … We’re going to start in training camp, and we’re gonna be hungry to go again. Everyone as a team will want to do better than they did this year.”

Big games haven’t been kind to Bruce Boudreau

Bruce Boudreau

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.’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’

Los Angeles Kings v Anaheim Ducks - Game Seven

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

“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.”