“It’s a relief that I won’t get asked that question anymore. I’m sure now it will be, ‘Well, you’ve never been to the Cup Final.’”
That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talking after reaching the Western Conference Final for the first time in his career. On the one hand, he hit the nail on the head. He killed the narrative about how he’s never been to the Conference Final and that’s merely shifted the discussion to a higher round. If he finds that unfair then perhaps he has cause to, but at the same time, he has a story of missed opportunities that is literally unparalleled in NHL history.
He has lost six Game 7s in his career, which is something no other head coach from past or present can claim, per Sportsnet. There are only two teams in NHL history to lose at home in Game 7s in three straight seasons: the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, according to ESPN. In both cases Boudreau was at the helm. Keep in mind that the home team has a 94-67 all-time record in Game 7s, including Chicago’s 5-3 victory tonight.
At best, Boudreau has been unlucky to the point of being a significant statistical anomaly. At worst, he’s the link the correlation suggests he is. Either way, it’s tremendously unfortunate because his teams have been terrific most of the time. His 363-167-69 regular season record gives him the best points percentage of any coach that’s led at least 500 games. Scotty Bowman ranks second on that list.
“I’ve gained an appreciation for how hard it is … I thought we had a good chance to get to the dance, but we didn’t make it,” Boudreau said after his latest setback, per the Ducks’ Twitter feed.
“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” he added. “They care so much, they’re gonna feel it for a long time.”
If there is a consolation it’s that the Ducks under Boudreau have made progress, even if it’s been painful. In 2014 they won their first playoff series since 2009. This year they made it to the Conference Final for the first time since 2007. They don’t have much further to left to climb in order to achieve their goal.
Perhaps Anaheim will bounce right back next year and win the championship. Then the story about Boudreau will be one of a man that came so close so many times finally being rewarded for his persistence and efforts. For now though, the narrative isn’t nearly so pleasant.