Bruce Boudreau is the Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde of NHL coaches.
In the regular season his teams are dominant. He won four consecutive Southwest Division titles with the Washington Capitals and now back-to-back Pacific Division crowns with the Ducks. His .651 regular season winning percentage is fifth all-time.
No coach has reached 250 wins as fast as Boudreau.
But once spring rolls around and his teams head into the playoffs with lofty expectations, the grass doesn’t seem to be greener on the other side.
Boudreau’s Capitals teams failed to make it past the second round and twice were bumped in the first round. A change of scenery and conference didn’t seem to change the script as the Ducks also lost in the first round by long-time playoff nemesis Detroit.
Granted four of the five series in which his teams failed to advance went seven games and one could argue a bounce here or there could have told a different story. But his annual futility begs the question:
Why can’t Bruce Boudreau win in the playoffs?
In the regular season he does a masterful job of rolling four lines and getting contributions from top to bottom of his lineup. Twice his teams have led the league in goals including this season with the Ducks.
So why can’t that regular season success translate to the postseason?
Caps fans seem to have a bevy of opinions. Some argued that when faced with adversity Boudreau didn’t know how, or was unwilling, to adjust to his opponent. Others pointed out a lot of bad luck.
In 2010, coming off of their President Trophy season, they took a 3-1 lead on Montreal only to hit the brick wall that was Jaroslav Halak and lost three straight.
Last season was supposed to be Boudreau’s chance to throw the monkey off his back and make a deep run with a very talented Ducks team. Alas the trend continued.
Was it bad coaching that thwarted the Ducks 2013 cup hopes? Maybe.
One can’t discount a number of other factors however. In the final weeks leading up to the post season Ryan Getzlaf and Francois Beauchemin both suffered leg injuries. Not severe enough to keep them out of the lineup but clearly debilitating. Corey Perry, who was coming off of a lackluster 15-goal regular season, threw up a goose egg for the series. Jonas Hiller failed to make the big saves that the Stanley Cup playoffs require. The team also featured many players making their playoff debuts.
Despite all that the series did make it to seven games with Game 6 the fourth straight to go to overtime. The Ducks were one goal away from advancing.
Should we really put so much of the blame on the coach if the difference in the series was one goal?
Still the loss was painful and it forced the stigma on Boudreau to remain for at least another year.
There’s really only so much a coach can do. When it comes down to it, the game of hockey is won or lost by the players on the ice. Sure it’s the coach’s responsibility to set the lines and devise a game plan but once the puck is dropped it’s up to the players to execute that game plan effectively. They turn to their leaders on the ice to make that happen.
Alexander Ovechkin may be the greatest goal scorer in the world but he’s no Steve Yzerman in the leadership department. Getzlaf has come into his own as a leader on the ice but there was only so much he could do last spring with his bum ankle. We’ve seen before the team goes as Getzlaf goes and he’s been going strong this season. Many believe he’s the clear runner-up to Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy as league MVP this season.
Perhaps that’s the real answer to the riddle. Maybe Boudreau hasn’t had the proper leaders on the ice to finish the job. One can certainly see the fire in Getzlaf’s eyes these days as the sprint to Cup nears. Corey Perry is as engaged as he’s ever been. Saku Koivu knows this may be his last shot and will leave everything on the ice.
Since he has the summer off, maybe Ovechkin can root on his old coach and see how a real leader takes his team on his back and leads them to a championship.
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