The Washington Capitals were hot from the first puck drop on opening night. After a scorching start to the season, Bruce Boudreau’s Capitals were 7-0 on October 22. Over the next 16 games, however, they managed a mere 5-9-1 record. Thus, on November 28, Boudreau – the 2008 Jack Adams Award winner – was fired.
On November 30, a bad start forced the Anaheim Ducks to let go of head coach Randy Carlyle after over 6 seasons and a Stanley Cup. Carlyle was immediately replaced with Boudreau.
Since taking over as the Ducks’ head coach, Boudreau has managed a 1-2-1 record after 4 games. In three of the four contests, Anaheim has either been tied or had the lead in the third period. However, they have been unable to close in two of those instances.
“We’ve been giving up leads,” Anaheim forward Corey Perry said. “We’ve had the leads early in games and we’ve just given them up. That just comes with confidence and knowing how to win. We know what we have to do and we just have to go out and do it.”
As for Boudreau, his early days in Washington were known for the high-scoring heroics of Alexander Ovechkin. While he brings his own system to the Ducks, most observe that the adjustment should not be too difficult.
“You can tell that they’ve really been paying attention to detail, so they’re going in the right direction,” Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “I’ve noticed structurally that they’ve really bared down on their system with (Bruce). I see that there’s a little bit more – for whatever reason that comes with a coaching change – there’s a little more urgency and a little more joy. I think they’ve found their focus and they are headed in the right direction.”
“The way we approach the d-zone is different,” Anaheim goaltender Dan Ellis said. “The way we approach the penalty kill is a little different. It’s just subtle changes and stuff like that. Even the way we break the puck out and how quickly we move it up has changed. Under Randy’s system it was a little more slow and methodical with more overplays whereas here we’re more of a quick-up team. We push the pace. Those are adjustments that a goalie needs to make. You’re seeing pucks come at you from different spots on the ice because under Randy’s system, maybe you pushed it to one particular area whereas under Bruce’s system will allow shots and chances from another area. That’s just the way the defensive structure is.”
“There are just different tweaks,” Perry said. “Hockey’s hockey. You can only do so much out there system-wise. For the most part, it’s pretty similar.”
“We’re still learning every day. If you see us out there in practice, we’re working on different things every day – neutral zone, defensive zone, all those things. It takes time to adjust to a new coach, but I think the guys are going to do it.”
“It’s definitely (like training camp),” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “There’s no big difference in any system in the NHL. If you ask every coach, they play a similar style. There’s a little more aggression and some things we are doing now that we were not doing before. Overall, it’s not a whole lot different. There’s different areas where we have to make adjustments and those are things that take a little getting used to.”
For many players in the Anaheim locker room, they have never experienced a midseason coaching change. Some have never experienced an NHL coaching change at all.
“That’s the first time it’s ever happened for myself,” Ellis said. “There’s an adjustment period. You’re changing all of your systems that you’ve learned through training camp. Some of our guys have been here for 4, 5, 6 or 7 years and that’s all they really know. Some of our guys have never played for another coach. Having a change like that, there’s an adjustment period, but I think it brought a positive feeling to the room. We all appreciate what Randy (Carlyle) did and what he brought, but for some reason or another, things weren’t working for us. Management decided to make a change and give us a new direction and it’s been good so far.”
“It’s a different voice,” Perry said. “It’s a different attitude. System-wise, it’s different things, but all-in-all, the players in this room have to go out and do their thing.”
“It’s been different for me, but it’s been a good thing,” Getzlaf said. “The group has a little bit of rejuvenation, a little bit more energy and I think that they’re adapting well to the system and it will be good for us down the stretch.”
For Boudreau, his main issue has been finding the time to teach his team his system.
“The more practice time you have, the better,” Boudreau said. “It’s why training camps last as long as they do and you still don’t have everything perfect in training camp once training camp is done. It’s a vital part of growing as a team.”
A new coaching regime could also mean new opportunities for new players.
“It’s almost like everyone’s trying out again,” Ellis said. “Everyone’s trying to earn his confidence and you want to earn your ice time. It’s his first time really getting to know all the players and seeing all the players. Any coach is going to gain confidence in the players that they see performing well. Whether it’s a guy that is a big name or if it’s a guy that’s just a bit of a mucker, this is a chance to establish a new beginning with a new coach and take advantage of some ice time that may not have been there previously.”
Boudreau earned a bit of notoriety for his colorful language and self-deprecating sense of humor last season due to his appearance on HBO’s 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. According to Ellis, however, that side of Boudreau has been under wraps.
“Right now he’s going through changes himself,” Ellis said. “I don’t think you’ll see the real Bruce Boudreau for another week or two. He’s being himself, but for him there’s an adjustment period. He has to settle in, too, and get comfortable with his new surroundings. He’s moved from East to West. It’s a new conference, there are new cities, there are different people. He’s doing a great job and it will only get better with time.”
After Boudreau spent over 6 seasons in the Capitals organization as a coach at both the AHL and NHL level, his first week in Anaheim has obviously been under quite a bit of scrutiny and it has been a bit of a whirlwind for him.
“It’s getting back a little bit to normalcy now,” Boudreau said. “I’ve still got a bed to sleep in each night – it’s just a different one.”