Photo: Debora Robinson
Alright, here we go.
The Caps’ Californian vacation is a crucible that will decide exactly of what this team is made. If the Caps can do the impossible and sweep these four games (the fourth at home against the Kings), they could once again make a late-season push for the postseason. With Tuesday’s narrow win over Bruce Boudreau and his Anaheim Ducks, those hopes are still alive.
Here’s how it all went down.
Joel Ward and the terrific third line did their thing again, crashing the net for the game’s first goal. The Ducks struck back as any Caps opponent would do: within the next minute. Before the first period was up, Troy Brouwer converted on the power play to give the Caps a one-goal lead.
The Caps survived a scoreless second period, but Mathieu Perreault found space and a screen to tie the game early in the third. That simply set the stage for Alex Ovechkin, who scored one of his cleanest Ovi shots from the Ovi spot. Halak fought off a late scramble by the Ducks.
Caps beat Ducks 3-2!
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.”
Perreault and Beagle (Photo: Patrick McDermott)
I feel sorry for all the johnny-come-lately fans who never knew Bruce Boudreau’s Caps. You know who I’m talking about: all those fake fans who started following the Caps just because of the undeniable electricity of Hunter hockey. Those trendy, fairweather fans who only bought their first Caps shirsey because they saw Ovi pile on an inconceivable 38 goals back in 2011-2012. All they ever knew of the Caps was the unlimited delight of low puck possession and the benching of fan-hated Mike Knuble.
Okay, starting over.
If you were to make a list of things that turned this franchise around in the last decade, you’d see Bruce Boudreau’s name somewhere right underneath Alex Ovechkin and the return to the red uniforms. Now Boudreau is with the Ducks and positively killing it in the Western Conference. Boose brought his league-leading team to Verizon Center for his first game since getting fired more than two years ago. The crowd and the team seemed to appreciate the emotional dimension, and we fans got a decent, if uneven, game out of it.
Mikhail Grabovski got the Caps on the board first by tapping in a pass from Troy Brouwer (and helped along by Ben Lovejoy). Nicky Backstrom converted a power play four minutes later with a sneaky shot to Jonas Hiller’s shoulder. Andrew Cogliano got the Ducks into the game by sweeping up the shards of a broken Caps defense.
The second period was polluted by penalties, and Saiku Koivu tied it with a bang-bang in the waning seconds. Hampus Lindholm got a puck through a crowded shooting lane and well-screened Philipp Grubauer to put the Ducks up with five minutes left. Alex Ovechkin rang the post, and our hearts sank.
Ducks beat Caps 3-2.
Photo credit: @mediachameleon
Two years ago, after the Washington’s eighth loss in 11 games, the Capitals fired head coach Bruce Boudreau. Gabby had glided the team to a Presidents’ Trophy and made the Caps the talk of the NHL. He had also overseen crushing playoff defeats and long losing streaks. After the latest one, general manager George McPhee had enough.
In 2013, Boudreau is on a different streak. He now coaches the Anaheim Ducks, a team he took over just two days after being fired by the Caps. Tonight, Bruce returns to Verizon Center for the first time (along with Mathieu Perreault), with his team on an eight-game winning streak. They own the best record in the NHL.
Here’s what Bruce had to say at the morning skate, via a press release from the Ducks.
Photo credit: @Sydneyhasnever
The Washington Capitals are carrying three goaltenders right now. Why? Not sure. But with Philipp Grubauer earning another start tonight, Braden Holtby decided to take a shift or two on defense during this morning’s practice.
I’m in love with this photo right now. I’d take Holtby over Urbom any day of the week.
Photo credit: David Zalubowski
Three days after he was traded by the Washington Capitals, Mathieu Perreault made his debut for the Anaheim Ducks. He centered Anaheim’s second line and skated with young stud Jakob Silfverberg and future hall-of-famer Teemu Selanne, so maybe no more feeling sorry for him.
Perreault’s performance was about as good as it could be in a lopsided 6-1 loss in which your papa bear head coach got assaulted by a pane of glass.
In 15:14 of ice time, the tiny French-Canadian won 13 of 16 face-offs (81%), had one hit, and created a bunch of chances. He wore #22 (looks so weird) and got a hair cut.
It’s only been one game, and new Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has already made a total ass of himself. Somehow I’m not surprised.
While the Ducks trailed the Avs 6-0 with 30 seconds to go, Ben Lovejoy put his leg out and caught 2012 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon with a hit in the neutral zone. Roy sure didn’t like that. And he let former Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau know once the game ended.
Consulting the 2013-14 schedule, we see two dates with the Anaheim Ducks: Monday, December 23 in DC; and Tuesday, March 18 in California. The first of those dates will be coach Bruce Boudreau‘s first game back in Verizon Center and his first against his old squad. Poor guy never got to play against Dale Hunter.
Boudreau’s Ducks went 30-12-6 last season on the back of the league’s third-
best highest PDO (the sum of two stats that don’t often persist from year to year: save percentage and shooting percentage). The team’s possession actually ranked them in the league’s bottom third— just one spot above Washington. Next season should be interesting for both teams.
Also in Anaheim is 43-year-old Teemu Selanne, recent signatory to a one-year, two-million dollar contract. I suspect the Finnish phenom will finally be finished after this season. Teemu’s powerplay time fell last season, perhaps a sign of reduced utility in his advancing years and purportedly the cause of some snags in contract negotiations. Whether Teemu will actually get more ice may depend on his even-strength performance, which– ya know– also fell last season. He’s still a legend and everything, but it seems that if Selanne cannot stop for retirement, retirement will gladly stop for him.
So here’s my question for you: how shall we greet Teemu and good ol’ Boose Boudreau come Christmas Eve Eve?
Let’s play a game. I’ll quote from an article, and you tell me if the author is talking about the 2011 Caps or the 2013 Penguins.
For the second straight postseason, [Coach] let the reins slip on his team. In both series, he fumbled and bumbled and finally grabbed them again, only it was too late to guide the wagon train away from the cliff’s edge.
That in consecutive playoff eliminations, the [team] haven’t just lost, they’ve come unhinged.
That’s Greg Wyshynski, the Puck Daddy himself, writing last week about Dan Byslma’s recent struggles, but he might as well have been talking about Bruce Boudreau after the Caps’ 2011 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a second round sweep.
Bylsma’s contract would have been up after the 2014 season, so action by GM Ray Shero seemed necessary before the season began. Shero extended Byslma, a move that the Pensblog said makes “unlimited sense.” As they put it before the signing, “If the Pens don’t extend Bylsma, firing him will be all anyone talks about next season.”
Now that Ray Shero has re-upped Bylsma and voiced unwavering support for his embattled coach, we might expect smooth sailing for the Penguins from here on out. But to do that, we’d have to ignore all the eerie similarities between Bylsma and Boudreau– and the not-too-distant memory of what happened to Bruce just a few months after his own GM endorsed him.
This is Bruce’s O-face.
While the lockout drags on, the Anaheim Ducks keep publishing episodes of their series, Bruce Boudreau: Uncensored (kind of). The premise is simple: sit Bruce in a chair, ask him open-ended questions about his illustrious coaching and playing career, and then wait for him to say something funny. That’s good content if you ask me, but then again I’m the guy who wrote a 1,500-word epic about the time Bruce wore John Walton’s pants during a game.
The Ducks recently published episode four, wherein Bruce goes into detail about the day he was hired as coach of the Washington Capitals. And we’re reminded once more that despite his age and experience, Boudreau is still just a big kid.
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