Instead of standing behind the bench these playoffs Bruce Boudreau is settling for a change of scenery behind the camera. Boudreau has been added to CBC’s playoff panel and on Saturday night he was able to offer some insight on the team he spent five seasons with, including this one.
Boudreau started the season with the Caps going undefeated in their first seven games, until a slide into late November that had them sitting in eighth place at the time Boudreau was fired. The firing of Boudreau was supposed to answer the season-long question on Ovechkin: “how do we fix you?”
Under Boudreau’s watch Ovechkin racked 17 points in 22 games, formidable numbers for some, but disappointing stats for the former Art Ross Trophy winner. Then under Dale Hunter, Ovechkin rounded out the season with a career low in points, proving that a change in personnel isn’t enough to ratchet repairs on the Ovi 2012 model.
The firing of Boudreau was attributed to a rift between Boudreau and Ovechkin, something Caps GM George McPhee disagrees with. McPhee cites his decision to fire Boudreau was because he believed the players weren’t “responding” to him. Whether the firing had anything to do with Boudreau’s attempt to implement accountability by benching Ovechkin, scratching Alexander Semin, then scratching Joel Ward for missing a team meeting, is anyone’s guess, but McPhee stands firm that it wasn’t part of the rationale behind Boudreau’s pink slip.
So, now at a time when Boudreau would have been guiding the Caps along another playoff drive, he was instead giving CBC viewers a diagnosis on Ovechkin and he did it like only Boudreau can: no tippy-toeing around this one. Dale Hunter, do you have a pen and paper ready? We can wait.
Boudreau On Ovechkin’s long shifts:
“I really looked at his ice time a lot, but a lot of times and like a lot of the stars do, you play the point on the power play, you play two minutes so it really adds into your average shift length. And people at the end they look and they say well he’s averaging a minute and two seconds a shift, but if you have five power plays and you’re on for all two minutes it really adds into it. When he’s regular strength he’s pretty normal with the shifts.”
Boudreau vs. Hunter:
Boudreau: In last year’s playoffs Ovechkin led the league in average ice-time per shift with 56 seconds and 25 shifts per game. During the regular season he was given 21:22 of ice time per game on average.
Hunter: In this year’s playoffs, that have just begun, Ovechkin has shaved two seconds off his average shift length, but still averages 25 shifts per game. In the regular season Ovechkin’s ice time was down to 19:48 almost two minutes less than last year.
Boudreau on Ovechkin’s hitting game:
“I would rather have him, quite frankly, not engaging as much. He can hit, he’s not going to get hurt. He’s too big and strong. But when he starts focusing on hitting, he doesn’t focus on scoring. He’s engrained such that ‘if you hit me, I’m going to hit you.’ It’s tough not to do. [If you tell him not to he says,] ‘I can’t. I am who I am.’ I’ve seen him in battles with Chara or Douglas Murray, these big, big defenseman and they hit him and he says I’m going to get them back. And we used to say if you hit him, beware because you’re going to get it twice as hard back but if he avoids them a little bit, I’d think it’d be better for him.”
Boudreau vs. Hunter:
Boudreau: in last year’s playoffs Ovechkin averaged four hits per game, while also posting five goals and over point per game numbers in nine games. In the regular season Ovechkin crunched 241 bodies with 85 points on the season.
Hunter: it’s early yet, but as of yet Ovechkin is averaging six hits per game, while posting just one point in two games in this year’s playoffs. This season Ovechkin had 26 fewer hits and just 65 points on the season, 20 less than the previous year.
Wherever the Caps finish this year, November’s coaching shakeup still remains a profound storyline in Washington.
Matt Stephen is a writer, not a fighter. He is both a beer and fantasy league veteran and has written about hockey online and in print for The Hockey News. He now covers the spectrum from the White House to Mike Green. He carries a picture of Ovechkin in his wallet.