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Boudreau thinks Heatley’s a better fit with Perry/Getzlaf than Penner

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The Anaheim Ducks took a chance last season on the idea that Dustin Penner could play on their top line after averaging just 12:41 minutes per game in 2013 with Los Angeles.

Penner had 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games until Anaheim decided to trade him to the Washington Capitals, where he played a much smaller role and consequently saw his production plummet. With that experiment in the books, the Ducks will once again try to pair up Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with a veteran forward that has struggled in recent years. This time around, it’s Dany Heatley that will get a shot on the team’s first line after signing a one-year, $1 million contract.

“Every time we’ve played (Heatley), he’s been a dangerous player,” Boudreau told NHL.com. “I think we can try him with Getzlaf and Perry. We tried Dustin Penner there … I think this can work better.”

Heatley reached the 50-goal mark in back-to-back seasons, but he’s been on the decline since his peak in 2006-07. He had just 12 goals and 28 points in 76 games in 2013-14.

At the age of 33, he’s hoping to prove that he’s not in the twilight of his career yet and he’ll get that opportunity in Anaheim.

Boudreau doesn’t know how Ducks goalie situation will ‘shake out’

Bruce Boudreau
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For better or worse, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau seems to be the type who “rides the hot hand” with goalies rather than sticking with a No. 1 guy no matter what. It’s easy to foresee such a situation repeating itself next season, too.

While Jason LaBarbera represents an emergency backup plan for a variety of situations, the battle comes down to two promising-yet-largely-untested options in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Boudreau’s assessment of the situation to NHL.com is honest, if nothing else:

“We think we’ve got two really good goalies and an experienced, veteran goalie,” Boudreau said. “I think we’re OK there, I just don’t know how it will shake out.”

Quite a bargain

The Ducks are taking an interesting and calculated gamble with their goalies.

Whether it’s Andersen – Gibson, Gibson – LaBarbera or Andersen – LaBarbera, the combined cap hit never rises above $2 million. In a league brimming with contenders who have made beefy, long-term commitments to a position that’s often erratic, Anaheim enjoys rare flexibility.

Of course, the flip side is that they face even more uncertainty than usual; while LaBarbera is an experienced (if unremarkable) journeyman at 34, Gibson, 21, and Andersen, 24, combine for 42 NHL appearances counting the regular season and playoffs.

Hindsight will dictate if the Ducks’ strategy will be considered brilliant or foolish, yet it falls into the larger narrative quite well.

Boudreau and goalies

It’s easy to beat up on the Boudreau for a tendency to rotate netminders, but it’s also fair to note that he’s rarely been handed a reliable top goalie. As great as Semyon Varlamov was last season in Colorado, he never managed to play more than 27 regular season games for the Washington Capitals in large part because of injury issues. Departed Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller suffered from his own bad luck and his numbers dipped when he was able to play. It’s difficult to argue that Boudreau has enjoyed any better long-term options through the years, so it’s not as if he’s flippantly benching people like a more robust Mike Keenan.

Long story short, it’s easier to criticize Boudreau’s practices than it is to point out what precisely he should have done differently, yet the Ducks face arguably more uncertainty than ever in net going into the 2014-15 season.

It’s interesting to note that Anaheim has been unusually willing to let goalies walk, too. Many franchises would cling to a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe-winner like Jean-Sebastien Giguere, yet they transitioned to Hiller quite seamlessly and also parted ways with a then-promising backup in Ilya Bryzgalov. One could argue that the GM and coach see eye-to-eye on this matter as much as any in Anaheim, really.

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The Ducks have been a fixture in the playoff picture through many of these seasons, but Boudreau has never coached a conference final series in the NHL. Being less chained to goalies might actually be the best strategy, yet it could be one of the talking points if this coach continues to fall short of expectations in the postseason.

Of course, the advantage is simple enough: the Ducks can easily hit the “Reset” button once again if this doesn’t work out.

Under Pressure: Bruce Boudreau

Bruce Boudreau
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“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
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“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 NHL.com), 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
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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.”