The Washington Capitals are 8-2-0 and are undefeated in their first six home games this season. In any sane hockey universe, that bottom line would silence critics, but head coach Bruce Boudreau’s “message sending” ways are generating the kind of controversy that should be directed at the sleepwalking Boston Bruins.
“He’s cracking down,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I really like stuff like that. It sucks for the guy it happens to, but accountability makes you work that much harder and do the right things all the time.”
In the short term, Boudreau pissed off his superstar winger Alex Ovechkin with his decision to go with six different skaters in an empty net situation, leading armchair leap readers to decode the disgruntled Russian’s reactions. Few people are talking about the positive side of this move, which includes a rare moment in which the team’s golden boy hasn’t been coddled. (Matt Bradley would probably be proud if he wasn’t playing for another team.)
Publicly speaking, both are quite comfortable with the situation; Boudreau thinks it’s downright expected for his start to be angry about the benching while Ovechkin is at least saying all the right things.
The truth is that if this is a crisis, then the Capitals are in a great place. Boudreau’s gambits have been working out great so far, from Ovechkin’s “benching” to starting Michal Neuvirth in the season opener all the way down to smaller moves regarding Mike Knuble and Marcus Johansson.
For all the excessive criticism of the team’s playoff struggles, people are oddly hard on a coach who’s clearly planting the seeds for greater postseason success. Even Ovechkin might see that once the frustration subsides.