Another Frustrating Finale

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.)

This entry was posted in Washington Capitals and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Another Frustrating Finale

  1. VTmikey says:

    It will be an interesting off season, for sure. Over the course of 82 games, you all provide me with fuel to get through the work day. While there’s plenty to read in the off season, too, just wanted to send a stick tap your way, for simply providing kick ass hockey coverage. We’re a lucky bunch in DC for having hockey maniacs like you who cover the Caps.

  2. Mike Rucki says:

    Thanks, Mikey. It’s fans like you that help make moments like these bearable.

  3. sean says:

    Upvote @VTMIKEY. The blame can be shared all around this team, but 4 years and not once past the second round the Coach has to bear the lions share.

  4. sturt says:

    Anothe spring, another playoff heartbreak. Following the Caps is like rooting for Anna Karenina.

    I must quibble with the suggestion we turn to Dale Hunter. Great guy. Great inspirer. But what we need behind our bench is elite, modern, tertiary-educated smarts. Hockey’s no craft no more – it’s an engineering challenge. Look at Bylsma, Babcock, Boucher – young, modern, smart is what we lack to take the next step. No names spring to mind but GMGM needs to look outside our limited talent pool.

  5. Mike says:

    How does GMGM continue to get a free pass?

    Arnott 2 goals with the Caps.
    He had the chance to Fire Bruce last Summer and in December.

    We were beat by a 1st year GM and Coach.

    Schultz is re-signed for 3 more years.

    We have Semin AGAIN next year.

    We have Green AGAIN next year.

    Same issues every Summer and nobody points the finger at the man ultimately responsible

  6. @MIKE I don’t believe GMGM gets a free pass here. But, at the same time, Yzerman shouldn’t get a free pass in a good way. He did very, very little to build this roster this season.

    The role of GM takes time to manifest. And GMGM made excellent acquisitions at the deadline — a healthy Wideman, for example, could have filled the Calle Johansson role of old. But I’m with you regarding the coach… he must make the right call this offseason and jettison everyone’s favorite pitchman.

  7. Greg says:

    The old Caps played hard, but just didn’t have it. I don’t know how you’ll ever motivate Semin or figure out what the heck happens to Green’s brain. I know this… They were very effective with Wideman before he got hurt. Don’t get why you constantly have to prod this team to play hard.

  8. OldPhil says:

    Agree with Greg…Semin and Green have now proven multiple times they are not playoff performers.

  9. Alex says:

    I’m not embarrassed by the sweep. 4-3, 4-2, 4-1, 4-0. Chalk it up any way you like, but a loss is a loss is a loss. I’m more furious about not adapting than losing every game. There was no composure even in the last five minutes of this game. Hard to swallow this pill and now GMGM faces the task of answering our calls for trades and firings when his hottest assets have diminished values this summer.

  10. Colin says:

    The real question is not who goes. BB should be gone ASAP. The real question is who on this roster is worth keeping? My guess and hope is this roster gets a major makeover. In my mind, the only guys worth keeping at all costs are:


    That’s it. Everyone else should be looked at very closely with an eye to cost-benefit of trading or re-signing.

    Thanks guys at OFB for a great year. I’ve really enjoyed reading your stuff and hope to be a part of a brighter future with you guys!

  11. FART_SACK says:

    I’m curious to see if Ted is willing to stand by and watch this franchise slip back into the dark ages. The franchise stands to lose a lot of bandwagon fans and fed up DC-sports fans, potential loss of fans equates to loss in revenue. If falling short in the playoffs four seasons in a row doesn’t motivate change then perhaps the bottom dollar will. As they say, money talks…

  12. Ted says:

    My days of bread and circuses are finished.,

  13. Avtopilot says:

    The coaching must be improved.

    The decision is up to GM. There are many ways to do it and a new coach is only a part of the puzzle.

  14. Too bad about Bruce, but I’ll be glad to see the Hadeed commercials go. (The guy with the crazy eyes creeps me out.)

  15. Sean says:

    For the 36th time, let’s all say it in unison: “Maybe next year!”… Can’t wait to hang the new Southeast Division Champs banner from the rafters in Verizon to go with all those other worthless Caps blankets that hang from the ceiling in our barn of shallow hopes, broken morale, and disappointments of playoff years’ past. Just another reminder of what could have been, again. I’ll be long retired or 6 feet under before the Caps finally get to lift Lord Stanley’s cup, if they ever lift the cup.

  16. Mark Schall says:

    Why doesnt anybody here give the Lighting credit for being the better team, This sounds like typical Washington DC sports, always controversy, 2009 was the first year since 1998 they made it past the quarterfinals, once since 1983 to the big dance, the players have to be accountable, Stop blaming Boudreau, in four years he has gotten them farther than any other coach, Superstar Ovechkin Two goals and Two assist in four games, huh Backstrom one assist, Stop complaining, you are an average team, one or two superstars makes ownership money, not a elite organization, such as the Oilers of the 80′, Canadiens of the 60’and 70′ or Detroit of the 90′ and 2000′

  17. Dark Stranger says:

    I must confess that this is the worst I’ve felt about the Caps team and the least hope I’ve ever had for the team as a whole.

    I’m convinced that if Ovi ever wants to be on a Cup winning team, he should do the following. When his contract ends 10 year from now, he should sign with whichever team is the best then (i.e. a team that’s had post season success and still looks good) and sign with that team for the minimum salary. This is due to the fact that most playoff contenders are usually at or near the Cap spending limit.

    Okay, that’s too depressing to think about…… Maybe things will change before 10 years elapse. I hate to lose all hope….

  18. Chris G says:

    First off, I’d like to thanks to the blogger (I don’t know your name). For the last couple years now I’ve enjoyed reading this page and I think your comments are insightful and usually spot on. So, thanks! Secondly, I see many comments I agree with, Hitchcock (Boudreau) needs to go, Green and Semin just can’t get it done in the playoffs, 36times, is that how many times I’ve watched this team fail in the spring, @Sean? I agree with Sturt, we need a proven, experienced coach who can fully motivate this team and adjust in game/series. Which is something Bruce just didn’t do well. Thanks Caps fans, “we’ll get em next year.” Now that’s a banner we should hang from VC.

  19. sonja says:

    @Mark S. The Lightning were the more disciplined team. You’d have to make quite a case to say they were the better team.

    I am still numb the turn this series took and can hardly believe what happened. Who were those players that were out on the ice? Where was the team that took on the Rangers with such swagger?

    Alan May had an interesting comment about the coaching on one of the post game shows last night … he said something to the effect that he thinks that BB is doing a great job, but he would look at the whole coaching staff as a team and make some changes, particularly with the special teams coach because that’s where some of the real problems are.

  20. Dave H says:

    Glad to see the trade everyone crowd is out already. A team good enough to win the top seed in their conference doesn’t need to be retooled, they need better guidance. I, unfortunately, agree that Bruce needs to go. As someone said above, it’s not losing that bothers me so much as the lack of ability(or willingness?) to adapt. I’m never excited to see anyone lose their job, but the power play situation was maddening and the more defensive style wasn’t a choice made in response to last years playoff exit, it was a mid season response to the offense not working anymore. I don’t know who the next coach is, but I hope he’s young, has an engineering degree, and wasn’t a very good player.

  21. Pingback: Caps Lose Series, Season to Tampa » We Love DC

  22. MulletMan says:

    At this point, we do not need a “Players Coach” we need a real gut wrenching, work ethic based coach! One that demands respect, the one that the players will actually look up to and listen when direction and instructions are given. Look at what Torts has done to a floundering Rangs team. Look at what Keanan did in ’94 for the Rangs. They demanded that their players actually work instead of coasting into the D zone, coasting to the bench for a line change.
    As much as I like the idea of Hunter behind the bench, I don’t think he is what the team needs, and I think he would be foolish to take the job if offered. Whoever our next coach is, they will come in walking on eggshells from day one.
    -just my two cents

    btw – I think you meant that we beat out the Hurricanes to make the playoffs back in 07-08.

  23. TG says:

    I’m not sure firing the coach is the answer. Although, I said that Hanlon isn’t the one on the ice and I didn’t think that they should fire him. So what do I know…

    If I were in charge, I’d do two things. One is I’d get BB to hire another/different assistant. Once such as Bob Hartley, or Ken Hitchcock, someone who’s been “to the mountaintop” before, a different voice, someone with a different perspective.

    They also need someone towards the tail end of their career who can act as another leader in the locker room while on the 3rd/4th lines, or the 5th/6th defenseman. Like Fedorov was, someone like Lidstrom, or Scott Niedermeyer if he were still playing.

    But like I said, there’s a reason I watch from the stands and not behind the bench.

  24. David says:

    I am sorry for the loss and Caps fans have to be tired of saying maybe next year. While I am not a Captials fan by any stretch of the imagination, I love great hockey! I especially enjoying watching the talent the Captials have (except when they play Pittsburgh) because they can play great hockey except in April.

    Boudreau simply needs to go. The Pens without Malkin and Crosby where able to push the Bolts to the brink and had a great season without their superstars. The Caps have such talent on this team and deserve more wins April and May.

    Time for a change!!

  25. Mike Rucki says:

    @TG You may be right about the assistant coaches… but just like in the business world, if a project fails they look to the one who ran the project for the reason. In hockey, the Project Manager is the Coach.

    As for veteran leadership, I’d think warriors like Mike Knuble and Jason Arnott should be enough to fill that role.

  26. @MULLET MAN: You’re right, they caught Carolina that year for the SE title by beating Florida on the last game of the season.

  27. @ DAVID you make a great point about Pittsburgh. While their remaining roster were certainly not scrubs, getting 100 points without Crosby and Malkin was impressive indeed and speaks to excellent coaching.

  28. Some above have made an interesting point regarding the modern NHL trend toward savvy, brainy coaches. Hunter came to mind for me in the heat of the moment, and clearly he would have little trouble lighting a fire under his players… no dogging it to the bench for a change, that’s for sure.

    But I would also embrace a true tactician — a coach who can change a gameplan mid-stream to accommodate new data & situations. Not change for change’s sake, mind you, but rather calculated moves to improve on the fly.

  29. DD says:

    I have seen this year…after…year…after…year…after…year. I grew up watching CAPS hockey and loved the games in person. Now, it is like OH WELL… another year.

  30. jo says:

    Why is no one even suggesting the fault lies with the “absent” Russians? Year after year most of the russian players disappear in the playoffs. Ovechkin can’t do it by himself but he should be leading by example-not even there!! Same with Semin-invisible! It is a big mistake for any team to build their team around a couple of Russian players. Detroit has a few but it is their Swedish players who keep this team in contention year after year.

  31. @ JO, Ovechkin clearly wasn’t absent — he played hard and was one of the best Caps on the ice (as he should be). But Semin failed, and Backstrom failed, and Green failed. A problem to be sure, but not a Russian problem.

  32. miguel says:

    caps next year

  33. David Wolf says:

    So Ted Leonsis says The wheels fell off but does not believe a coaching change is the answer. You are to close to the problem. Capitals general manager George McPhee said Thursday he expects Boudreau to be back next season.

    Asked about the possibility of switching coaches, McPhee replied: “Does it really change things in most cases?” It always changes things. That is why it is called a change.

    It’s the fourth season in a row that Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals lost to a lower-seeded team in the first or second round under Boudreau. His postseason record is 17-20.

    Leonsis wrote on his “Ted’s Take” blog Thursday that everyone is accountable, starting with me. The wheels fell off for us. No doubt about that. How many seasons will it take before you realize the issue is coaching?

  34. Spank That Donkey says:

    Man, what happened to the good ol days when BB was God? Ya’ll made up excuses for him left and right?

    The egotistical maniac has an autobiography written for himself before even winning a Stanley Cup?

    He is so intent on cleaning the Caps of Veterans in 2007-2008 that he refuses to let Olie Kolzig start, or even relieve that pretty boy huet (who promptly spit on the Caps) in the Philly series.

    I was listening to other teams feeds, as they played the Caps, and one said that uncle fester hated defensemen so much, when he played the game, he would barely talk to the ones on his own team! Real expertise there for coaching.

    On the position of goalie… show me a year he wouldn’t ride the hot goalie into the ground? Go ahead.. look at each series.

    The Caps need a coach that understands the entire game, and the players.

  35. HBH WC says:

    It’s amazing to me how many people that do not have a job in any pro or semi-pro organized hockey league know what to do about this team. The one guy that said “Uncle Fester hated D-Men so much, he would barely talk to them”, so that’s a reliable source? If you really believe that then maybe it’s a good thing you have a vocation that does not include organized hockey leagues. Hey I’ve got swampland in Florida to sell you……..dirt cheap.
    I believe if all the pundits on this page would really know what to do about this team or any team, what to do about the coach or the players they’d be working in the league. Instead as Frank Zappa say’s you can “Wind up workin’ in a gas station”!!

  36. Spank That Donkey says:

    @hbh wc

    I was watching a feed a couple months ago, and the announcers were discussing boudreau’s AHL days. They said that. Were they telling a lie? I would think not since they are professional announcers.

    Why don’t you take the time to surmise exactly how many other coaches could have taken the Capitals to the cup? McPhee has been handing Uncle Fester the tools for three years now, and the engine keeps blowing up.

    I’ve heard these same excuses before. Just thought I would come back and remind you… Fester cursed himself with how he treated Kolzig in the Philly Series. You don’t spit on someone with that much talent, and did so much for our team.

    Where’s huet?

  37. I believe the biggest problem the caps had versus the bruins (which I am not a present fan of either)was way too much individualism–especially from your captain.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s