Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
The Anaheim Ducks have the best record in the NHL. Their coach, Bruce Boudreau, seems to have fallen up when he was fired by the Washington Capitals in 2011. The team has won nine in row, led by offensive stars Ryan Getzlaf, number three in league in points, and Corey Perry, number three in the league in goals. They have a good chance to win their second Stanley Cup since 2007. Monday night, they extended their winning streak with a comeback victory in Boudreau’s, Bob Woods’s, and Mathieu Perreault’s return to Verizon Center.
“Nine in a row: that’s pretty cool,” Boudreau told reporters after the game. “They were trying hard for the guys that were in Washington.”
For Boudreau, it was a surreal experience, plucked from the AHL’s Hershey Bears to lead the Capitals in 2007. More than anyone save for Alex Ovechkin, Boudreau is responsible for putting hockey back on the map in Washington. Without him, the Capitals wouldn’t have had their 202nd consecutive sellout Monday night. Without him, the team wouldn’t become the talk of the NHL. Without him, there may not have been any banners.
“Four and a half years — the greatest years of my life,” Boudreau said. “They didn’t put me on the board! Oh well.”
Whatever you think of Bruce Boudreau, he will forever be a part of DC hockey lore. He transformed the Washington Capitals into contenders, won the Jack Adams his first year behind the bench, and he invigorated a languid fan base. He had stories; amazing hockey stories. After talking with Caps radio man John Walton, I’m ready to share one of Bruce’s most legendary moments.
On December 26, 2006, Bruce Boudreau — a few months after his first AHL championship and exactly a full year before he was permanently hired as head coach of the Washington Capitals — jumped onto a bus with the Hershey Bears for a 220-mile jaunt up I-95 to Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Bears had Christmas off and were forced to travel the day of the game. The drive usually takes about three and a half hours.
The team ran into post-holiday traffic, pushing their arrival time back a few hours. When the Bears finally arrived at the Arena at Harbor Yard, they had just 20 minutes before warm-ups. As each player grabbed his gear off the bus, they ran to the locker room. Boudreau, who always preferred the comfort of his track-suit on the bus, grabbed his only companion, a suit bag, and headed inside to the visiting team’s coaches’ office along with assistant Bob Woods and general manager Doug Yingst.
Two days after re-joining the Capitals as head coach, Dale Hunter made his first big change by naming Jim Johnson as an assistant late Tuesday night. Johnson — a former bruising NHL defenseman who played in 829 career games (121 as a Cap) — will replace Bob Woods who was in his third year with the team. Johnson accumulated over 100 penalty minutes in seven of his 13 seasons in the NHL and has coached before. During the 2009-10 season, he was an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He then took over the head coaching position mid-season for the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals putting up a 15-5-0-2 record in 22 games. With the Capitals’ defense floundering and ranked 28th in the league in goals against, the move certainly makes sense.
The most interesting part of the hire, however, is the fact that Hunter and Johnson actually fought each other twice during their NHL careers. Hockeyfights.com has video of their second bout from November 18, 1992 which I’ve embedded above. Hunter brutalizes Johnson in the scuffle landing eight-straight punches before the fight is broken up by the linesmen. Boys will be boys.
Alexander Semin picks up William after giving him his game jersey. (Photo credit: Shannon family)
Editor’s Note: By now, you’ve probably heard of William Shannon. He is five years old, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is everyone’s favorite little Capital. Thanks to the make a Wish-A-Wish foundation and the Caps, William had his dream realized and took the ice with Mike Green, Jason Chimera, D.J. King and Semyon Varlamov on Friday.
“This weekend was an incredible event!,” William’s father Devin Shannon said in an email. “William’s wish was to practice with the Capitals and he did! I can’t tell you how much everyone has done for us and what this weekend has meant for us.”
After practicing with the Caps, William’s journey continued on Saturday when he and his family took in Washington’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres before riding the on the Zamboni and receiving the jersey off the back of Alexander Semin after the game. I’ll let Devin take it from here:
Day two was just as amazing as day one! Allyson Butler from Make-A-Wish met us in the hotel lobby and took us out to wait for our “ride” to the game! Within minutes a very long black stretch limo appeared before us! Bill, our driver, was very nice. William and Emily quickly climbed in and all we heard for a few minutes was: “Cool!” “This is so sweet!” Then we had chatty little ones for the short ride over to the Verizon Center! It is amazing how just the little things make such a huge impression! How neat it was for the kids to get out of the limo right in front of the Verizon Center with so many fans around wondering who the V.I.P. was!
Editor’s note: After two friends won an auction at Caps Care Casino Night, RMNB reader Julie Roemele was presented with the opportunity of a life-time: to learn hockey from some of her favorite NHL pros. This past Sunday, Kettler Capitals Iceplex hosted a Capitals hockey clinic featuring workshops from Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks, Semyon Varlamov, Mike Green and Assistant Coach Bob Woods. Below, Julie describes her and her son Joshua’s experience.
When someone gives you the chance to learn from the best, you don’t pass it up. So when my friends Mark and John called to invite me to a hockey clinic with the Capitals that they’d won at the Caps Care Casino Night, I couldn’t feign disinterest because I was a little afraid I’d be unsteady on the ice. Admittedly I’m more hockey mom than hockey player, even though I’ve been taking lessons for a year now.
Once at Kettler, the participants (there were about 20 of us) were split into five groups of four to work at five different drill stations. First up, defense with Caps Assistant Coach, Bob Woods. He’d pass each of us the puck and instruct us to circle as if trying to lose an opposing player. He would then dump a puck into the end boards while we skated after. To be honest, I suck at this and I was glad when the ten minutes were up, but it’s a skill I need to improve if I’m going to be a better player. I’ll definitely keep practicing it.
Group A Observations
Group A was the second group to take the ice on Day 2, and arrival onto the ice was delayed over fifteen minutes because the coaching staff was unhappy with the ice conditions after Group B skated earlier in the morning. Of the Group A players, Eakin, Kuznetsov, and Orlov were by far the most impressive and polished. Kuznetsov was the class of the group, displaying noteworthy hustle and speed as well as solid shooting ability from the point and deft, light hands in close around the net. Two college invitees also showed flashes of brilliance. Sean Wiles, a junior forward from the University of Alaska Anchorage, threw his body around, landing several big hits and crashing the net well. Additionally, Andrew Cherniwchan, a sophomore forward from Northern Michigan University, put on a puckhandling show, leading Comcast Sports Net’s play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati, an unexpected visitor to camp, to label him a “dangler.”
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