May 12, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau reacts during game five of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can Bruce Boudreau Finally Reach A Conference Final?

Bruce Boudreau has been coaching in the NHL since the 2007-2008 season and during his tenure as a head coach, he has managed to earn himself a reputation.

The reputation he has earned is to be a head coach with teams having played extremely successful during the regular season, but when playoff time comes, the team under performs and never meets expectations that they had earned during the regular season. It  was very common when Boudreau coached the Washington Capitals from 2007-2011. The Capitals won numerous division titles, a President’s Trophy in 09-10 and were always consistent during the regular season. But what they failed to do, was get past the second round of the playoffs.

They came close to it in the 08-09 season when they took the Pittsburgh Penguins to a seven-game series but were sent home in Game 7. In the 2011 playoffs they reached the second round again but were eventually swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Every other season aside from those, Boudreau’s team was eliminated in the first round. Boudreau had been given too many chances and after a slow start in the 2011-2012 season he was fired by the team.

The Ducks took a chance on Boudreau that same season he was fired. They weren’t able to make the playoffs that year but he stuck around as the head coach and lead the Ducks to the playoffs losing to Detroit in the first round of the playoffs in 2013 and this past season he had another successful regular season coaching the Ducks to a division title but falling short in the second round to the LA Kings.

You would have to figure that in order for Boudreau to get a contract extension, he will definitely have to exceed the second round of the playoffs.

And with all of the hype towards this Ducks team as they start to make themselves a contender you would have to ask yourself the question: Is this the year Boudreau can finally surpass the second round of the NHL playoffs?

The Ducks have not been shying away from the fact that they want to be a contender this year. They made a move that only a real contender might make by trading a young talent (Nick Bonino) for a current NHL star who could help the team win sooner rather then later by acquiring Ryan Kesler. Kesler had been to a Stanley Cup Final recently and surely can provide secondary scoring, playoff scoring and playoff experience to the team. So too can Nate Thompson who has played in a Conference Final and was acquired by the Ducks this off season and can play a lot of different defensive roles for the team and can also provide experience given that he has played in a Conference Final before.

The experience factor will help this team. It was a huge reason why the Capitals under Boudreau could never perform in the playoffs. They were a young dynamic and offensively electrifying team who weren’t yet built for playoff hockey. The Ducks are different from those Capitals. They play in a much tougher and physical Western Conference and have a ton of experience on their side. When comparing the toughness scale and playoff type players on a team, you would have to think that this current Ducks team Boudreau coaches has a much better chance of being successful in the playoffs than the Capitals did under Boudreau.

Experience won’t be the only solution to the problem of under-performing in the playoffs. The most important position for a successful team in hockey is goal-tending. And goaltending was always a concern for the Capitals when Boudreau was head coach. It was either a washed up Jose Theodore in net, young prospect Semyon Varlamov who never fully developed while in Washington or a very mediocre and inconsistent  Michal Neuvirth who had to try and lead a team deep into the playoffs. Although Varlamov showed promise, none of those goalies could ever really help Boudreau and the Caps find their way into a conference final appearance.

Boudreau’s situation in Anaheim now is different. For the last couple of seasons he had a former all-star goalie in Jonas Hiller to use but last season Hiller wasn’t used in the playoffs. It was Frederik Andersen who started the playoffs and was then taken over by John Gibson which leads to the Ducks goal-tending this year. None of these two goalies have the playoff experience that you want for a team to go deep into the playoffs, but what they do have, unlike the goalies back in Washington for Boudreau, is proven talent at the NHL level when they have been there.

May 12, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during game five of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at Honda Center. The Ducks defeated the Kings 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 25 games in the regular season Andersen has a career .923 SV% and Gibson in just three career regular season games has a .954 SV% and in four playoff games has a .919 SV%. At least with the Ducks now, Boudreau has more talent to work with between the pipes and hopefully one of them can really breakout this season and start to establish themselves among the NHL’s best goaltenders.

Goaltending and depth/experience seem like the main points of focus when analyzing a team now. It’s still a good way to look at the structure of a team but as we move on in the days of breaking down an NHL team we start to enter a new era of analyzing teams performances. The Advanced Stats era.

Advanced stats can sometimes illustrate how a team will perform sooner but they are better known to be used to predict a teams future although they aren’t always 100% accurate.

Under Boudreau, the Ducks Corsi and Fenwick numbers have increased during the 2013-2014 season from the 2012-2013 season. Both seasons where Boudreau was the head coach for the full season. In the 2012-2013 season the Ducks saw their CF% at 47.9% and their FF% at 48.5% and the next season saw their CF% increase up to exactly 50.0% and their FF% to 50.3%. Looking at these numbers could possibly tell you that the Ducks are trending in the right direction under Boudreau and this trend in possession statistics could benefit them going into the playoffs.

The only problem is their possession numbers in the playoffs are lower and decreasing under Boudreau. In the 2013 playoffs their CF% was 46.2% and FF% was 47.3% and then the next postseason their CF% was 45.3% and FF% was 45.4%. Clearly, the advanced stats tell you how much better the Ducks play during the regular season than playoffs under Boudreau so Boudreau will definitely have to try and implement new ideas towards the Ducks game plan to try and improve on those playoff numbers.

You would have to be stupid not to think that a Jack Adams award winning coach in Boudreau, doesn’t know that he has never been to the Conference Finals. I’m sure he’s aware of the advanced stats and the trend that the Ducks are currently going through. I’m sure that he and the rest of the coaching staff will try and implement new ideas to help insure the Ducks are prepared for a deep run in the playoffs so that he can insure a contract extension after this year.

Bob Murray has made the moves and assembled this Ducks team to try and be a contender. It’s all a matter of Bruce Boudreau taking this group of players to that next step, a Conference Final appearance and hopefully more.

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