Even after victories, Hanlon's words were smart but measured. Boudreau, by contrast, is a virtual quote machine. The 52-year-old coach has been kicking around the minor leagues since the 1992-93 season, waiting for this chance, and I can imagine he made many a bush-league scribe happy with his postgame comments. After Saturday night's 5-2 win over Carolina, a reporter said he had heard Capitals brawler Donald Brashear call the coach "Mr. Boudreau," and wondered if that was out of respect or fear. "Well, it ain't fear," the coach deadpanned.
Boudreau's the kind of coach who tells the media that "it's pretty cool" to finally have a shot in the NHL after managing the bench for teams like the Muskegon Fury, the Fort Wayne Komets and the Lowell Lock Monsters. He's the kind of coach that will go into a humorous story about his son in a youth hockey tournament during a postgame press conference, and begin that story by saying, "I won't bore ya's..."
By all accounts, he's a solid hockey coach with a classic hockey personality to match. Throw in a lifetime in the minor leagues, and he's the personification of Slap Shot lore. So it shouldn't shock anyone that Boudreau has an interesting connection to the 1977 Paul Newman hockey classic.
Boudreau was a center for the Johnstown Jets during the filming of Slap Shot, the team on which the Charlestown Chiefs were modeled. He and some of his teammates were used as extras in the film, filling uniforms during the movie's brawl-filled hockey sequences. The Capitals' press notes boast that Boudreau wore "No. 7 for the Hyannisport Presidents" in the movie -- you know, the team with the inebriated centerman. He told the Toronto Star (via Capital Fanatic) earlier this year that he was "the little hog that stays in front of the net because I knew where the camera was."
When I told Boudreau he earns instant street cred with hockey fans in D.C. for his connection to Slap Shot, his face was a mixture of "here we go again" and acknowledgment of his cinematic serendipity. I asked him if this career factoid had followed him through the years. "Yeah, and it's unbelievable because I didn't do much. If I wasn't playing on the team that the movie was about, I wouldn't have been there," he said. "It was 1,300 bucks work, that's all I remember, in 1975."
He's being modest, of course. For a lot of hockey players, hearing that your coach was an extra in Slap Shot is like hearing he had a cup of coffee with the 1976-77 Canadiens. When I mentioned Boudreau's filmography -- and can someone get this guy his IMDB credit, please -- to Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, he smiled and chuckled, saying that it's a perfect representation of his new coach's journey to the NHL. "It's great. You know, I played four years in the minors, so I can appreciate that. To see the long career he had in the minors, and to see him come up and have some early success is great."
Obviously, you can't judge a coach based on two games, even when they're wins over two quality teams like the Flyers and the Hurricanes. But three things jump out at you in the very early days of the Capitals' 14th head coach:
According to a few folks at the arena Saturday night, Boudreau's teams have historically had strong power plays. The Capitals have scored four man-up goals in his first two games, and the unit has had much more zip than it did under Hanlon. Boudreau said the solution could be as simple as having the players hear the same message from a different messenger: "Maybe with a different voice, they're doing it. Different messenger. We haven't tweaked a lot."
With Hanlon gone, so go the excuses. It's on the players now to turn this season around, no matter what magic Boudreau might bring to the bench. Alexander Ovechkin said it best: "It's all about us. Nobody can help us," he said. "Glen was a great coach, great guy. We've just talked to each other, and [said] we could be next. We're getting closer together, playing for each other and just trying to have fun."
Boudreau is a man determined to shake the "interim" tag from the front of his title, and early on the players seem to be pulling for him. He's a smart coach, a bit more assertive than his predecessor, and he's earned his shot in the League. If the changes on the ice and the positive vibe in the locker room stick, he could be made a fixture behind the bench sooner rather than later.