Bruce Boudreau Bristles at Thought of Change in Washington
A six-game losing streak will do that to a guy, especially when one asks if the Washington Capitals' skid has the coach on the hot seat.
"I don't think about it at all," Boudreau quipped at the team's practice facility on Tuesday. "It is what it is. We have a great group. I'm not even going to answer such a dumb question."
It's a question, however, that needs to be asked.
Boudreau, a journeyman player turned nomadic coach in the minors, is in his first stint as an NHL head coach. All the equity he's built -- beyond the simple fact he's an adored figure in the nation's capital -- since he took over as the Caps' coach in November 2007 has come via the regular season, winning the Southeast Division three times and the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best record a season ago.
But Boudreau has yet to lead the Caps' star-studded roster that includes the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom past the second round -- and losses like Sunday's 7-0 beat down by the New York Rangers aren't good for his look either. The Caps enter Wednesday's home tilt against the Anaheim Ducks on their longest skid March 2007.
"We have good chemistry. We have a good team (and) a great coaching staff," said Ovechkin, who squared off against Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky in an attempt to rile up his team on Sunday. "It's just a moment in (the season). You can see over the last couple years we haven't been in this situation. We don't know what we have to do to win. It's horrendous. It's a bad experience, but we need a bad experience."
Ovechkin, who is in his first full season as captain, has only two goals and an assist during the current consecutive loss streak, which includes a total of eight Caps goals and two losses via shutout. Backstrom has three points (all assists) and is a minus-5. Alexander Semin has no goals and two assists.
"A lot of the guys want to be perfect," Boudreau said. "If they're not, they're getting down. It's an imperfect world that we're in. If we play the way we're supposed to, we're going to win more than we're going to lose."
For a team expected by many to play for the Stanley Cup come this June, it's hard not predict a change. (Maybe it's in the air since Verizon Center is blocks from the Capitol.) Beyond coaching, there's been talk that the team could be in the market for a veteran goalie. Washington appears to have enough space below the cap to absorb the salary of a netminder like Florida's Tomas Vokoun, who has been subject to trade talk previously. Former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov has also returned from a disastrous stint in Russia's KHL and is looking for a team.
Boudreau, however, said there's no need to look beyond his two young goalies (Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth) even if they haven't been stellar as of late.
"We have two great young goalies," Boudreau said. "Not good. Two great young goaltenders. We are not going and getting anybody else. Every now and then they have a hiccup, but our two guys will be there when it's all done. They have beaten the best and will beat the best again."
There's an added dimension to the team's slide: HBO Sports' cameras are catching all of it for the network's "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic" four-part series. Making any major changes before the New Year's Day game at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field would make for great TV, but it would be a gutsy call for GM George McPhee, who was not immediately available to talk on Tuesday.
Veteran forward Mike Knuble said it will happen at some point, however, if the team's struggles continue.
"It doesn't weigh on you because it's a reality. It's a fact," Knuble said. "That's the way it is. That's always the peripheral damage that happens. Your team you have in the fall is never the team in the spring. You change guys in and out here. Does it get George on the phone a little bit sooner? I'm sure it did. This could be forcing the issue a little bit more."