Since taking over as the head coach of the Washington Capitals early in the 2007-2008 season, Bruce Boudreau has compiled a 189-79-39 record, an eviable record for any coach. He’s captured the Southeast Division every season, a feat not so impressive if you consider the quality the division in recent years. He won the Jack Adams award as the league’s best coach after his first season. Last season, he coached the Caps to the their first President’s Trophy in franchise history.
And if the Caps lose one more game to the Tampa Bay Lightning, he’ll probably be out of a job. That’s the reality of being a coach in the NHL if you under-perform in the playoffs.
The Bolts 4-3 win on Tuesday over the Caps has given them a 3-0 lead in the series with game 4 set for tonight in Tampa. There’s been speculation that if Washington can’t advance past the second round for the fourth straight season, that will be it for Boudreau.
The postseason has been a house of horror for Bruce and the Capitals. Last season’s President’s Trophy winners blew a 3-1 series lead in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens and the monster that was Jaroslav Halak. The previous season, they blew another another 3-1 series lead in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins (in the only Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby playoff matchup to date), including an embarrassing game 7 loss on home ice. The year before, the Caps were sent packing in the first round after losing game 7 at home to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Capitals are viewed as one of the most skilled teams in the league, with players like Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. Along with being skilled, the Caps have also have been called a ‘finesse’ team (i.e. soft), which is usually not all that successful come playoff time, where the physicality and intensity is ratcheted up to 11. Around the holidays, the usually offensive minded Boudreau called on his players to dial back the offense to focus on defense. In the regular season, it worked. the Caps finished fourth in the league in goals against with 2.33/game. It was a big reason, they finished first in the Eastern Conference.
After a 3-1 series win in the first round over the New York Rangers, it appeared the new look Caps were going to be tough to beat. But so far in this series, they’ve been hamstrung by some bad decisions, bad line changes, and in the case of last night’s GWG from Tampa, bad luck. All of that might add up to Bruce hitting the unemployment line with one more loss.
Not that he would be unemployed long. With several vacancies in the NHL right now, he would certainly get consideration for any just about all of them, including here in Sunrise. He’s shown to be a very good coach and is a great personality in the game. But, if Washington does indeed lost this series to Tampa Bay and is let go, which recent history has taught us is NOT a given, the questions of playoff performance will certainly follow him wherever he goes until he leads a team deep into the postseason. That’s just the reality of being a coach these days. Would it be the right move? I wouldn’t do it. I think the roster, while skilled, doesn’t seem to have the right mix of skill and grit. But some owners/GM’s think it’s easier to get rid of one guy instead of many.
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Topics: Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Bruce Boudreau, Jaroslav Halak, Mike Green, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Nicklas Backstrom, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Washington Capitals