Ovechkin scores

Ovechkin looks to repeat strong performance


Wednesday in Ottawa, Alex Ovechkin looked like Alex Ovechkin again. His spectacular goal late in the third period broke a 2-2 tie and catapulted the Capitals towards a 5-3 victory.

For Ovechkin, it was just his second goal in 14 games, a stretch that’s featured the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, the hiring of coach Dale Hunter, and a whole heap of criticism directed towards Washington’s superstar and captain.

But Ovechkin maintains the recent dry spell wasn’t for a lack of effort or chances.

“Sometimes you try everything and it doesn’t work. Sometimes you shoot the puck from the redline and it goes in, you never know when pucks go in,” Ovechkin said, as per the Washington Post. “Especially against Ottawa like first period I have three, 100 percent chances to score goal but I didn’t score. Third period again, I have chances to shoot the puck perfectly and make the move but I didn’t score. I say … what’s going on? Why puck don’t want to go in the net?’ It’s just a moment. When you working hard, when you make some plays, when you have opportunity to score goals — puck goes in.”

First of all, hopefully you read that using a Russian accent in your head. You’d have had 100 percent chance to make laugh.

Secondly, it will be interesting to see if Ovechkin can put together another strong performance tonight versus the Leafs at the Verizon Center.

According to assistant coach Dean Evason, the Caps have been trying to get Ovechkin to mix up the repertoire once he gets in the attacking zone.

“We’re just trying to get him to have different looks,” Evason said, “show different looks, pull up a little more, shoot from different angles, go to different places on the ice and open himself up. He’s doing a real good job of recognizing that and fitting it into his game.”

We can’t be sure what Ovechkin was thinking at the time, but perhaps his goal in the Ottawa game was a good example of what Evason was talking about. There was no attempt to force a cut to the middle upon entering the zone on the left wing; instead he took the puck wide and waited for an opportunity to present itself. (And that opportunity was Erik Karlsson forgetting how to stop.)

Bruce Boudreau talks to the media in Anaheim

Bruce Boudreau

It only took about twelve hours for Randy Carlyle to be fired, Bruce Boudreau to be hired, and for the new coach to meet with the media in Anaheim. Pro Hockey Talk was there as Boudreau addressed the media, talked about his expectations for the rest of the season, and the Ducks players should still expect to make a run at the playoffs.

Here’s the transcript of Bruce Boudreau’s portion of the press conference:

Boudreau statement:

“It’s great to be here. It’s been a wild ride for me for the last week as well. Like Bob said, I sat there on Tuesday and I didn’t believe that this was a team that had the possibilities and the makings of something special, I think I would have sat at home and waited. But I don’t think opportunities like this come around every day with the talent we have here. I talked to my wife about it, I said: ‘I think we should jump at this.’ I know it’s only been a day basically since I got let go, it was something that I thought was a chance that I wouldn’t get again. So, I jumped at it and got in the plane yesterday, and here I am. It’s a new start, I’m looking forward to it, can’t wait to play, and let’s get going.”

Boudreau: “Salvaging the season is winning regularly. Every team has its warts; it’s a question of making less mistakes than the other team. I know it’s very basic, but we don’t get a chance, and I didn’t get a chance, to see Anaheim play as often as I’d like to being a) in the Eastern time zone, and b) the Eastern Conference; we didn’t pay that much attention to them. I do know a few of their players and I do know that they have some great players. They have the players in really prominent role positions that need to be to be a good team. So, not taking anything away from Randy [Carlyle], if we do it together, we should hopefully make strides. Every night and every day. And it’s going to take time, but I think it could be done within the next four months.

On the circumstances being very similar to when Boudreau took over the Caps, memories of first days and months when he took over Caps:

Boudreau: “I think the biggest thing I tried to instill in the Capitals was confidence. They were beaten down a little bit and they had lost for many years. They didn’t believe in themselves. This is a totally different story in that respect, is that they haven’t lost. They have been a really good team. They have just sort of lost their way a little bit. But I told them this morning, I believe in them. I think they’re a really good team and I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t believe that they have a really good shot of doing a lot of good things this year. I want them to believe in themselves. If they do, then good things can happen.”

On the Bobby Ryan rumors that have been floating around this week:

Boudreau: “I just got here. I haven’t paid too much attention to that. I’ll let the first day go before I address [the rumors]. You know, [I need to] talk to Bobby…

On his reputation of being an offensive coach and will he have defensemen jumping into the play?

Boudreau: “I don’t know. I’d like to walk before I can run a little bit. It doesn’t really matter if you win 8-7 or 2-1, I just want to win. If you know me, losing grates on me quite a lot. But I think it’s assessing where your strengths are, then work to your strengths.”

On the comments that said Boudreau had nothing left in the tank in Washington:

Boudreau: “No, I had told George [McPhee] that I had tried everything that I knew with this group right now and it wasn’t working right now. It didn’t mean that it wouldn’t work a week from now, it just didn’t work right then—for those two games I was talking about. It was the Buffalo game and the Winnipeg game. And that hadn’t happened in the previous 4+ years that I was there, so it was more of a surprise for me that it hadn’t worked. I was sort of taken aback by it and I told George that.”

About extracting Carlyle’s philosophies and instilling his own with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “Well, I just do what I do. I can’t say we’re not doing this. Randy is a great coach, good teammate, good friend—all of those things. But I just got to do what I’ve done and what I’ve been used to; what I’ve done has been successful. And those are the things that I know. So we integrate those things, we did a couple of things today. Systems—there’s no right system or wrong system. Coaches have faith in what they’ve done and has been successful for them. What I was doing today [at practice] may have been different from what Randy did, but at the same time, they were both successful. We’ll see if the group can do it, whether it was better for them what I’m showing or it isn’t and we’ll adjust accordingly. I mean, I’ve been with them for one practice, so we’ll see their strengths and their weakness. I just can’t go on and do things that aren’t me. I just have to be me and see how that works.”

On the mood of the team this morning:

Boudreau: “Like all team, when there’s a change, they’re waiting to see how it affects them. It’s hard to tell. They listened very well, I thought, and they looked [like] when they went on the ice they had some ‘jump.’ But I don’t know them individually well enough to know if that was the norm or if it was a different thing for them. Time will tell. But I thought, for me, it was OK.”

On everything moving quickly over the last week, if he would have hung around the house for a while:

Boudreau: “Oh, my wife wouldn’t have liked that very much. No, I was looking for something to do. It’s always important, for me anyway, to get out. I can’t lie around and [not] do anything. I was going to start watching games somewhere, going somewhere. At that time, I was making plans to go to Toronto and do some work with TSN or something. But, this was much better.”

On if any other teams contacted him (or the Capitals about him):

Boudreau: “No, not that I know of. Not with the Capitals, not that I know of; with me no.”

On which place was furthest way from Anaheim:

Boudreau: “…boy, I’ve been everywhere. I don’t know. Just distance-wise, Manchester was the furthest. But when I first started getting into coaching, when you’re coaching in Muskegon, Michigan or Biloxi, Mississippi, you really aren’t looking far enough ahead to think that you’re going to be coaching in Anaheim or Washington. I’ve been lucky.”

On the month (November) starting with his Capitals facing off with the Ducks:

Boudreau: “No, quite frankly I wouldn’t have laid [money on it]. If you could have a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been something I thought was going to happen.”

On if he’s spoken to Randy Carlyle:

Boudreau: “No. It’s too early.”

On filling the coaching staff out:

Boudreau: “I think we’ll talk to Bob when this is done and we’ll see where it goes.”

GM Bob Murray: “We have some things in the fire that may happen fairly quickly.”

On how he can prevent the players from tuning him out:

Boudreau: “If I knew how to prevent it, I wouldn’t let it happen. So I just hope it doesn’t happen. I hope that they buy into the message and we just surge from here.”

On what his message is to the players:

Boudreau: “I want them to be very positive. I want to be aggressive, I want them to play the way they’re capable of playing. With energy and thinking that they’re going to be successful. The way they should be successful. This was a team that before the season started, if you read a lot of the clippings, they said they would really contend for the Pacific Division crown, and I think they’re very capable of doing it. I want them to believe in themselves. That’s the message for today. Believe in themselves.”

On Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry being linemates going forward:

Boudreau: “The first shift tomorrow they will be. Beyond that, we’ll have to see how they do.”

On any lessons he could take away from the Ovechkin/Semin stuff that went down over the last month in Washington:

Boudreau: “You know what; I mean a lot was blown out [of proportion]. I got along really well with both of those guys and I think I’ve said that for the last week that there was never a problem. With either one. But we all tend to want to make something out of nothing. And we did. So there’s really no story there.”

On the excitement to get started:

Boudreau: “I think nervous excitement goes hand-in-hand. I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. Any time you take a new challenge on, you get excited. And nervous. I’m trying to put a good analogy together—it’s like going to a new school. You want to put your first step, you want to make a good impression with everybody. And you’re following someone who had a lot of success and is really popular. So it’s tough.”

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin face off tonight going in different directions

Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby

Surprised that there’s not more heat for tonight’s Capitals-Penguins game in D.C.? We are too.

After all, Sidney Crosby gets to face off against the team that essentially knocked him out of action last season in the Winter Classic while Alex Ovechkin… Well, there’s Alex Ovechkin looking less-than awesome of late.

Crosby’s return to action has been everything it’s hoped to be. He’s looked fast, brilliant, and he’s scoring points in bunches. Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s struggles have been more than highlighted this season. Now with Bruce Boudreau out and Dale Hunter in, if ever there was a time for Ovechkin to announce his presence as a big time scorer once again, doing it against the Penguins would be a great time to do it.

The drama and hype that surrounds these two teams often makes fans pull their hair out, but tonight’s game couldn’t be more dramatic for a regular season game. Two megastars in two distinctly different places career-wise while their teams are dealing with drama of their own. The Pens have been rolling right along while the Caps have been on a roller coaster of emotion this season. Amazing how the teams mimic their stars’ production, isn’t it?

It’s the first of a handful of meetings between these two teams and these two stars, but if there was ever a time to have both stars blow up in big ways, this is it.

Boudreau calls Semin “misunderstood”


Former Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau spoke with Dan Rosen of NHL.com today and touched on a myriad of topics — his relationship with Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals’ struggles and when he knew the team had stopped responding to him.

But his most interesting comments might’ve been about mercurial sniper Alex Semin, who Boudreau made a healthy scratch earlier this season.

Boudreau said Semin was “misunderstood” and shot down criticisms of Semin lacking passion/desire to win. He did say, however, that penalties became a major issue for the 27-year-old Russian.

“Unfortunately when he took penalties he felt so much remorse,” Boudreau said. “I mean, a couple of nights ago he took a penalty and said, ‘I couldn’t play anymore after that because I was so shaken up.’ He cares, but things right now aren’t bouncing for him.

“When you’re used to doing something like scoring and you’re not scoring, it wears on your mind, and I’m sure that’s where it was with Alex. But I talked to him more this year than ever before and he talked to me more than ever before. We communicated well and he wanted to do a lot of things right.”

Semin’s on pace for a career-low 18 goals and 37 points — a stunning falloff from a guy that, just two years ago, potted 40 goals and finished 13th in league scoring. Boudreau said he’d communicated with Semin this year more than any other and never felt Semin was uncoachable.

If anything, Boudreau worked harder than ever to snap Semin and the Capitals out of their slumps. Just one problem — not everybody thought they were slumping.

“This wasn’t a slump,” Caps GM George McPhee said Monday. “You can ride out slumps. This was simply a case of the players were no longer responding to Bruce. When you see that, as much as you don’t want to make a change, you have to make a change.”

More Boudreau: Here’s BB speaking with Jill Sorenson of CSN Washington about how the Caps stopped responding to him.

Boudreau: “I tried every trick… nothing was working.”

Washington Capitals v Winnipeg Jets

Bruce Boudreau’s firing on Monday may not have been a shock to many following the Capitals’ play of late, but for Boudreau he thinks it came at the right time.

Boudreau spoke with Tarik El-Bashir or The Washington Post about being fired and as you might expect, his take on things was sad but also honest. Boudreau said he told Caps GM George McPhee, “I tried every trick I knew in 18 years and nothing was working.”

When you run out of ideas for how to tweak and motivate a team like that, there’s not a whole lot you can do. As far as the idea that players were tuning him out, Boudreau said he didn’t believe it to be true but that the last couple days he was at the helm people started saying it to him. Boudreau admits he may have been naive.

As far as whether or not Alex Ovechkin was rebelling against him, Boudreau says he’ll never want to believe that to be the case and that the good of Ovechkin’s game far outweighed the bad. That might kill a few columnists’ hopes right there.

Reading Boudreau’s comments you feel for the guy because you get the sense that he really gave it all he had and that the team was just done with him. It’s sad but it happens with a lot of teams. The well runs dry and there’s no way to reignite their will to do what you want. Now the Caps hope that Dale Hunter can find the new buttons to push.