Bruce Boudreau

Five Thoughts: Lay off Alex Ovechkin; Bruce Boudreau’s future murky at worst


After tonight, one top seed is in serious trouble while the other found a way to get things done in overtime. What kind of trouble lays ahead for the Capitals? Possibly a lot. Meanwhile the Canucks looked like they figured things out in a couple of ways. One thing we’re not lacking on is drama all around.

1. Game 3 was such a tough game for the Capitals and while they looked motivated and ready to get back into the series for the better part of the game, when Ryan Malone scored a goal off his skate just 15 seconds after Steven Stamkos tied the game at 3-3 you could see the life and the fire to compete disappear from the Caps’ eyes. They’d been victimized so much by goals against that either bounced in off their own defensemen or ones where it took a beneficial bounce off a Lightning player now that Malone’s goal may have been the one that broke them.

I don’t expect the Caps to lay down and get rolled over tonight in Game 4 but the way the Capitals are playing now is reminiscent of how they played during their eight game losing streak back in December. The way they’re playing they look resigned to losing. Accepting that fate well before a game is over is unacceptable.

2. Should the Caps be finished off soon we expect that Alex Ovechkin will end up taking a lot of the heat for such a second round failure and another season without Washington at least making the Stanley Cup final. It’s what happens when you’re the captain and that’s how things go, but if you’re a fan and you’re pointing at Ovechkin as a reason why the Caps lost, you’re nuts.

With so many guys on the Caps roster to choose from that either are playing poorly or looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than on the ice when they’re losing, singling out Ovechkin is wrong. There’s not another guy out on that ice, aside from maybe Mike Knuble, that is busting their tail harder than Ovechkin to try and will his team into winning. In the past Ovechkin has wilted a bit in the face of disaster, but not now. If anything, losing is pushing him to play even harder and considering the level he plays at in every game that’s a frightening thing.

Fans can question Ovechkin’s ability to lead all they want, but if they were following his example in how to get back into a game, the Caps would never be in this position in the first place.

3. If the Caps are swept the call for Bruce Boudreau to be fired will go up immediately if it hasn’t already started happening. Caps fans will want someone to suffer for another playoff failure and while series losses can happen, getting swept doesn’t. My thought on this is pretty straight forward. Boudreau won’t be fired because that’s not how GM George McPhee or owner Ted Leonsis works, but he’ll be officially on notice to get the Caps into the Eastern final or Stanley Cup final next year or else.

Dominating the regular season is all well and good, but coming up empty against teams like Montreal last year and Tampa Bay this year who are outworking and outcoaching him just will not do. With a team that’s as good as the Caps are, failing in the playoffs cannot continue and while Boudreau did well to get his team to adjust and be more of a playoff-ready team this year, getting snuffed out like this won’t sit well and Boudreau will be on the clock to get it done next year… Or else.

4. A lot was being made of Vancouver’s inability to take advantage of Nashville on the power play. The Canucks appeared to figure out a plan against Pekka Rinne as Ryan Kesler scored two power play goals including the overtime winner. Vancouver was able to crash the net and either get Rinne scrambling like they did on Kesler’s first goal, or park out in front of him so he couldn’t see the shot coming all and deflect it in as he did in overtime. It doesn’t always have to be a gigantic overhaul of what you’re doing to that gets you results, sometimes it just takes hard work to make it happen.

Lots of people are eager to dump on Vancouver for doing things the hard way rather than flat out dominating opponents. Domination doesn’t just happen in the playoffs though. Vancouver’s going to need to be rough like that the rest of the playoffs because nothing will come easy.

5. The one guy that might be the most terrifying to go up against in Game 4 of the Nashville-Vancouver series will be Shea Weber. The Predators captain got booked for hooking in overtime and that penalty led to Kesler’s game winner. If you think he’s going to take that and not use it as motivation to play harder and tougher than he ever has, you’re crazy. Expect Game 4 to be a physical war and Weber to be leading the charge to try and even the series up at 2-2. Weber’s a prideful guy and he’ll take all the responsibility for Game 3’s loss on his shoulders and use it to play harder the rest of the way.

Bruce Boudreau on Alex Ovechkin: “Big stink about a non-story”

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals - Game Five

Controversy and apparent drama can certainly help make a day fly by and in Washington this morning, we certainly had our fair share of things to talk about. If you missed it this morning, there were some curious eyebrows turned up thanks to Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s post-game chat with reporters in which Caps captain Alexander Ovechkin was overheard laughing it up when talking with Russian countryman and opponent from that night Ilya Kovalchuk. Boudreau seemed perturbed by the whole thing leading to speculation that there could be an issue with Ovechkin.

When hearing a player, and a team captain, laughing it up after a game which his team lost badly 5-0, some folks got upset with seeing Ovechkin seemingly not bothered by his team’s lack of success. With the Caps in the middle of a three-game losing streak, some fans are a bit sensitive over things. With the uproar circling all over the place today, Bruce Boudreau addressed the situation to let us know that everyone got a bit excited over nothing. Katie Carrera of The Washington Post shares the straight talk from Boudreau.

“We make big things about nothing,” Boudreau said. “We want to make big things about nothing. After every game in every arena you will see in the new hockey that people will be talking to their countrymen and it happens everywhere.

“When we win at the Verizon, I don’t see anybody reporting when they come over and have guys waiting at the door to talk to any of our guys. Just because I looked over, now all of a sudden we make a big stink about a non-story.”

As we said this morning, it seemed to be a bit much to read into things as far as this goes but if people are going to be talking about it, we’re in on the discussion as well. Fans getting worked up about things more than the players do can generally be commonplace but doubting how serious Ovechkin takes things is presumptuous at best. As for what Ovechkin thinks, Carrera heard from him too and he’s more focused on what he can do to help the Caps win.

“Sometimes you feel good, you just have to work harder, when things are going wrong,” Ovechkin said this morning when asked about his game lately. “I think about it all the time, what I have to do better and what’s not working. I’ve talked to Bruce about it too. It will be okay. Things happen. I make mistakes but they will be better.”

Why so serious, everyone? Bumps in the road happen and the Caps have been dealing with goaltending and defensive injuries all season long now. It’s a long season and somehow the Caps are doing just fine atop the Southeast Division. Things will turn around, Ovechkin will pile on goals and the Caps will continue to be very good. Yukking it up after the game with your friends isn’t really something to get excited about. Players are human after all.

Caps coach Boudreau upset with Ovechkin and Semin yukking it up after Caps 5-0 loss

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How would you conduct yourself after your team lost their third straight game, two of which were 5-0 blowouts? If you were just about any player in the world you’d be angry, upset, and likely frustrated about that. If you’re Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals superstar and team captain, you would feel the same way. But for Ovechkin, feeling down and out about a team struggling doesn’t last long and seeking out friends from the opposing team to share a laugh and a chat with is part of the norm… Just not usually right where the team’s coach is standing by conducting press scrum.

We’ve got drama in Washington and Corey Masisak of CSNWashington has the details of what happens when Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk start yukking it up near Bruce Boudreau who is trying to figure out how to get his Caps out of an ugly funk.

A minute or so later, Boudreau walked out to assume his place in front of the media. Already upset, he glanced to where Ovechkin, Semin and Kovalchuk were standing and he looked displeased.

During the course of Boudreau’s press conference, one of the three players let out a hearty laugh. Boudreau stuttered in the middle of an answer he was giving about the goaltending situation and had to recollect his thoughts. He was clearly steamed.

Semin eventually left for the bus but Ovechkin and Kovalchuk continued. At the end of Boudreau’s press conference, he was asked if “that” bothered him – that being the interaction between the Russian players.

“I’ll reserve my thoughts on that, if you don’t mind,” he said after a pause.

You can see how this whole thing might get blown out of proportion. A bad loss, a bad stretch of games, a frustrated coach and players seemingly not taking things as seriously as they’re supposed to.

The Russian countrymen are a pretty tightly knit community so having this mega-troika of talent get together briefly after a game isn’t too shocking. Obviously the Caps are going through a tough stretch right now but so are the Devils and Kovalchuk has been having his fair share of struggles as well. In this situation though, it’s about appearances and having the captain of the team appear to not take things seriously is a reason to raise your eyebrows a bit. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy throws in his two cents on this matter succinctly.

And it’s frankly unacceptable for Ovechkin to put himself in a situation where this becomes a story. Boudreau dropped him to the third line against Jersey. He hasn’t scored a goal in four straight, and has two goals in nine games. It’s not the best run for Ovechkin right now.

But above all that: He’s the captain. And the impression left on his coach and on his fans this morning is that a 6-4 block of granite named John Erskine handled himself better after this defeat than the guy with the ‘C’.

While I don’t believe this is as big a deal as it could be construed as, when the fans take things more serious than players do upsetting them doesn’t do much to help keep them cool. These sorts of post-game meetings aren’t uncommon and for players getting a moment to chat with pals you don’t see so often is a rare opportunity. These types of things don’t usually end up within earshot of the coach or a media scrum is what’s the issue here. Sometimes getting a peek behind the curtain of what goes on with the players when they’re not in game mode can give you a look at something you’d rather not see and potentially give you the wrong impression.

Ovechkin’s love of the game has never been questioned in his career, but now he’ll have to deal with questions about whether he cares enough to get mad about things when losing badly. Whether or not he can handle the added pressure and speculation that will go into that will present a new twist into Ovechkin’s life as captain of a Stanley Cup contender.

Boudreau, Knuble reflect on Ovechkin hit

gabbyandovie.jpgAmid the deluge of opinions on blogs, Twitter and newspapers, certain voices standout. Fellow teammates of the “victim” will usually make safe but critical comments. The most interesting perspectives often come from teammates and coaches of the “accused” though.

First, let’s take a look at Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau’s perspective on Alex Ovechkin’s two game suspension. Tarik El-Bashir caught up with the Capitals’ coach in the late afternoon. Here are some excerpts from Boudreau’s reactions. (H/T to Puck Daddy by way of Chris Burton)

“The decision has been made. I don’t agree with it. But maybe if I was [Chicago Coach] Joel Quenneville, I wouldn’t think it wasn’t enough …”

“I watched [the hit] frame by frame, trying to think what they would think. To me, there’s no way that was anywhere near a vicious as [Colorado enforcer David] Koci’s hit on Mike [Green on Dec. 15].”Alex pushed [Campbell]. He pushed him. If he doesn’t fall awkwardly into the boards, a) Is it a penalty? b) Are we having this discussion? … Alex is so much stronger than everyone else. So we’re penalizing him for being strong. …

“I was so upset for him. I told [GM George McPhee], ‘I can’t tell him.’ I feel so bad for the guy. All he wants to do is play hockey and play the game hard.”

On the other hand, Mike Knuble seemed to pull a mild “Bill Guerin” by sharing some mild concerns about his teammate’s style of play. Read more about his comments after the jump.


Pressing Playoff Question: Is this finally Alex Ovechkin’s time?

Alex Ovechkin

What a difference a year makes.

Around this time in 2014, Alex Ovechkin experienced a season so rotten his hair literally turned gray. The Caps missed the playoffs, people obsessed over his plus/minus rating and the Russian Olympic hockey team crashed and burned in Sochi.


Some paint Barry Trotz as the wizard who finally got Ovechkin to play along. Others say No. 8’s scoring stats really aren’t that different from 2013-14. Wherever you land in that specific argument, the tenor is far more positive regarding the Ovechkin this year than it was the last.

Much of sports writing revolves around praising or lambasting a star player when his team wins or loses — yet the dirty secret is that success or failure often boils down to the supporting cast.

So the biggest reason why this might be Ovechkin’s year isn’t because he stopped “gliding.” It’s because the Caps are the most competent and stable they’ve been since the happy days of the Bruce Boudreau era.

“This is a different team compared to the last couple years,” Ovechkin said, per CSN Washington. “A mature team, an experienced team.

“It’s a lot different.”

Simply put, Ovi’s getting a lot more help.

source: AP
Source: AP


Braden Holtby’s put together a borderline Vezina season; while Semyon Varlamov showed flashes of brilliance with Washington, the bottom line is that Holtby’s the best net option the Capitals have had since Ovechkin first put on that goofy eagle sweater.

The Capitals also invested big-time in their defense this offseason, and it’s paid off. Matt Niskanen is starting to feel it, with 11 of his 31 points pouring in since March. John Carlson’s enjoying easily the best season of his career, and Mike Green hasn’t been too shabby as he chases a new deal, either.

Washington’s offense isn’t as explosive as it once was, yet there’s reason to think that they can survive a slow night or two from their big guns. Ten different players scored at least 10 goals this year; 17 skaters scored at least 17 points. Marcus Johansson found the back of the net a career-high 20 times, and Troy Brouwer tied a personal best with 43 points.

Caps GM Brian McLellan says the club’s secondary scoring behind Ovechkin (and Nicklas Backstrom) could be vital for a successful Cup run.

“That’s going to be the key, I think, to winning a lot of the games,” he said, per CSN Washington. “Goals scored by third and fourth line guys at the right moment. A rebound goal, a traffic goal. I don’t think it’s total numbers, I think it’s more impact goals than it is anything else for those guys.

“We’re going to need all those guys to chip in – [Jason] Chimera, [Joel] Ward, Brooks Laich, [Curtis] Glencross – we’re going to need big goals from those guys to be successful.”

Overall, the Capitals have the most forward depth, best goalie and best defensive group since Ovechkin came to DC. They also have an experienced head coach in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

Will that be enough for Ovechkin to finally break through at the team level after all those years of frustration? A lot of things can happen in the postseason, obviously, but it’s been a long time since Ovechkin’s outlook was this optimistic.