Bruce Boudreau, Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin might pout, but Capitals are digging Boudreau’s new way

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.

Here’s the thing, though: players like Karl Alzner told CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley that they prefer this new era of no-nonsense accountability.

“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.

Did Alex Ovechkin curse out Bruce Boudreau for benching him?

Alex Ovechkin

If you missed it last night, the Capitals pulled a huge comeback victory out over the Ducks, winning 5-4 in overtime. What you really missed out on was seeing Alex Ovechkin benched in the final minute of play while Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-tying goal. You also saw Ovechkin nailed to the bench for the better part of overtime before helping factor into Backstrom’s game-winning goal in overtime leading Versus’ own Mike Keenan to take Ovechkin to task.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was hailed as a “genius” after the game for making all the right moves, but did Alex Ovechkin call him something else when he was told he was sitting down? It sure seems that way according to video from our friends at

We’re not lip readers here, but it sure looks like whatever Ovechkin said to Boudreau as he was telling him he wasn’t going out for the face off wasn’t too pleasant. Boudreau saying that he didn’t think the best pure goal scorer on his team had it in him to score the goal they needed makes for an awfully large condemnation of Ovechkin’s play last night.

Ovechkin’s line hadn’t been performing up to par all game long and while it was their third line that was doing the damage, not even having Ovechkin out there with your goalie pulled as the extra attacker defies all conventional wisdom.

Is Boudreau a genius here or did he manage to cause a rift with the team’s best player? You can’t bag on a guy when he’s right, but when you’re looking to get your best player motivated, perhaps poking the bear will pay off in the end.

For Boudreau’s sake, he’d better hope so.

Alex Ovechkin doesn’t seem happy with Bruce Boudreau’s comments

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals - Game Five

It’s not often that an undefeated team faces as much heat as the Washington Capitals are dealing with, but their sloppy win against the Tampa Bay Lightning raised red flags. Alex Ovechkin’s struggles weren’t lost on Bruce Boudreau, who said the star winger “has a long way to go.”

Judging by his comments to’s Chuck Gormley, Ovechkin wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to respond to his coach’s criticisms.

“I think everybody can be better,” Ovechkin said. “I think that has to be between me and him and I don’t want to comment on it.”

Boudreau isn’t exactly going the low-risk route during a season of intense scrutiny. He showed the courage to ruffle his best player’s feathers and made the gut decision to start Michal Neuvirth instead of Tomas Vokoun in the season opener. Those aren’t exactly easy situations to deal with, but Boudreau’s doing his best to show that his stars won’t live in a bubble this season, which seemed to be one of the main points of Matt Bradley’s summer critique.

To some, that might be a sign of a bench boss on the verge of a panic attack. Here’s the rub with that line of criticism, though: Boudreau made the right choice in both cases.

Boudreau on Ovechkin: ‘He’s got a long way to go’

Alex Ovechkin

Tomas Vokoun received the most criticism for the Washington Capitals’ sloppy 6-5 shootout win last night, but he wasn’t the only player who drew Bruce Boudreau’s ire. Pretty much all of the team’s big name players looked lousy in that game, but Boudreau singled out the biggest of them all: Alex Ovechkin.

“I think he’s got a long way to go to get to where he needs to be and should be,” Boudreau said after Ovechkin was a minus-2 in the Capitals’ wild 6-5 shootout win over the Lightning. “He’s our No. 1 player, but he can be better, there’s no doubt about it.”

It was difficult to shake the feeling that something was a little “off” about Ovechkin last night. He registered zero points and a -2 rating against the Tampa Bay Lightning and only has one assist and five shots in two games so far this season.

Ovechkin isn’t exactly a shutdown forward in his own end, so his offensive dry spells tend to be a little more noticeable. Ovi is coming off the worst year of his NHL career – which would be an outstanding season for just about any other player – but hopefully things will start bouncing his way soon enough.

If you ask Boudreau, Ovechkin could do a little more to “earn” those bounces.

Bruce Boudreau expects Alex Ovechkin to be an even better leader this season

Alex Ovechkin

When Alex Ovechkin was named captain of the Washington Capitals in January of 2010 it was a move that surprised many people. After all, the Caps had just been captained by veteran forward Chris Clark and after he traded there was a lot of discussion about who would take the captain’s “C” in D.C. After one full season and two different playoff runs as team captain, many have questioned whether or not Ovechkin is the man for the job.

After all, with veteran leaders acquired in recent time like Mike Knuble and Jason Arnott (now off to St. Louis) to help out in the locker room, some wonder if it’s a role that the still young Ovechkin is ready for. After Ovechkin’s play the last season and a half and continuing to lead the Capitals in scoring and even being labeled by the NHL as one of the league’s biggest hitters, at the very least Ovechkin is leading by example.

As for what his coach Bruce Boudreau thinks of how Ovechkin is doing as the team captain, he’s expecting that Ovechkin will be an even better team leader this season as the Caps shape up as a favorite for the Stanley Cup. Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post speaks to Boudreau about what he sees Ovechkin doing more of this time around to lead the Caps.

“It’s hard sometimes to go up there and criticize your teammates,” Boudreau said, before pointing out, “His English is getting better. His knowledge of North America is getting better. That’s going to have an effect. They’ll follow his lead.”

As for Ovechkin’s down statistical season last year that saw him hand out far more assists than goals (32 goals, 53 assists), it was still a great season, just not what we’re used to seeing out of the electrifying Ovechkin. Boudreau sees Ovechkin coming back this season as motivated as he ever has been.

“I fully expect Alex Ovechkin to come back into [training] camp mean as a bear,” Boudreau said. “I’m sure — and it’s well documented — that individually for him, he took more criticism at the end of last year for his totals in goals and points, and not being up for the Hart, and not being up for other awards.”

“He’s so proud, he’s probably like, ‘I’m going to show you.’ That’s his M.O. It’s not bravado. It’s a quiet, ‘I am one of the best, I want to be one of the best and I’m going to show ’em I’m one of the best.’”

An angry, motivated Ovechkin is the kind of Ovechkin we want to see on the ice. After a down goal scoring season, seeing Ovechkin reach the 50+ goal plateau again would help get his critics off his back. Of course, doing that while winning a Stanley Cup for the Capitals would damn well make sure to shut everyone up about the job he does on the ice. Sometimes being one of the best players in the game isn’t enough to satisfy the critics. Ovechkin will hope his motivation and his leadership can help keep the wolves at the door.