I really like Bruce Boudreau. Heck, my wife (born in California, couldn’t care less about hockey before we met) started her own blog based around Boudreau’s neckwear called Bruce’s Nooses.
What Boudreau did for the Capitals, when he took the reins from Glen Hanlon, is nothing short of impressive. Who among us doesn’t remember the amazing comeback season, when the Caps beat Florida on the last game of the regular season to capture the Southeast title?
Boudreau is a character in the best sense of the word—a cranky, cantankerous coach whose foul-mouthed tirades shocked many watching HBO’s Emmy-winning 24/7 series. He managed to yank a downward-spiraling team out of its losing streak with a change in its system, mid-season… no easy task given the offensive mindset that dominated the team since Alex Ovechkin arrived.
But after the Capitals’ sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boudreau simply needs to go.
If Coach Boudreau cannot get past the second round with a team this talented at the NHL level, he likely never will. And a sweep adds an exclamation point to that assertion.
The problems abound: The too-many-men negating that all-important first goal in Game 3 (there’s a reason they call it a bench minor—after all, who runs the bench?). The consistently poor effort in the third periods of pretty much every game against a supposedly more-tired team. The woefully ineffective powerplay, aided by the early insistence on keeping Alex Ovechkin on the point when, it seems, he is clearly more effective elsewhere.
Tampa adjusted to the game situation on the fly. When the Lightning were in the lead, they went for the kill, abandoning their 1-3-1 system to put pressure on the Caps. When the Caps had the lead in the third period of Game 3, what did they do? They went into a defensive shell, as if one goal were a safe-enough margin. After the game, too many players said something to the effect of, “We took our foot off the pedal” in the third period. The only reason to take one’s foot off the pedal in that situation is to put that foot onto the opponent’s throat. That’s something a coach must reinforce.
Boudreau never seemed to really “get” the problem. This morning, as per Scott Burnside of ESPN, when asked this morning if Michal Neuvirth was going to start, Boudreau waffled. “Maybe. I’m not going to talk about players,” he said.
To that point in the series, Neuvirth was the main reason they were so close to pulling out a win or two. He held his own against the Bolts and Roloson despite far too many breakdowns by his defense. Why would Neuvirth’s coach waffle? Why would he leave any doubt as to his starter. Yes, Neuvy started Game 4, but that response seems to be one of indecisiveness—not a characteristic of a winning playoff coach.
Mind you, significant questions remain regarding the Caps’ lineup, and they are worthy questions to be sure. But the lack of focus, the lack of drive, from an otherwise talented bunch falls squarely on the coach.
So as much as I like Boudreau, it’s time to move on. Does anyone have Dale Hunter’s number handy?
(Nancy Drew fan? Yeah, Mrs. OC is too.)