In his fourth year behind the Anaheim Ducks bench, head coach Bruce Boudreau is one win away from reaching his first ever Stanley Cup Final. It’s a feat many thought the 60 year-old would never achieve, mostly because his resume is tainted by past playoff failures and embarrassing collapses. Now his team is on the precipice of its third Cup Final in franchise history and I can’t help but wonder, is Boudreau coaching his best hockey in these playoffs?
Boudreau Pushing All The Right Buttons
The former Jack Adams winner is in his ninth season as an NHL coach. He’s flourished a regular season coach in both the Eastern and Western Conference with the Washington Capitals and Ducks. Boudreau’s regular season numbers are beyond reproach. He led the Capitals to a President’s Trophy in 2007-08. Boudreau-led teams have amassed at least 107 points five of the last six seasons. He’s been to the playoffs in all but one of his years behind the bench. But here’s the kicker – none of those freakishly talented teams ever advanced past the second round. Making it to a Conference Final seemed destined to be Boudreau’s career-long bugaboo – until now.
One could argue that Boudreau’s had more talented teams in the past, but this Spring has been different. He’s pushed all the right buttons to get the most of this particular ensemble of Ducks. His coaching style through the first three rounds has been methodical, calculated and more importantly, effective. Whether it’s been his decision to sit deadline acquisition and veteran defenseman James Wisniewski in favor of youth, or to insert Tomas Fleischman into the lineup for a spark or to ride or die with Frederik Andersen in net, Boudreau’s had a coaches equivalent to the Midas Touch.
A Defining Moment For Both Boudreau and the Ducks
Now that Boudreau’s finally over the second-round hump, it’s clear that he’s not satisfied with simply reaching the next round.
Boudreau’s biggest test during this run came with his team one shot away from an embarrassing game 5 collapse and 3-2 series hole in the Conference Final. Past Boudreau-led teams might have caved, but the affable coach simply laid the cards of the table during the intermission. He didn’t kick a trash can or scream until his rosy cheeks were a deeper shade of red. In what could become the defining moment for both Boudreau and the Ducks in these playoffs, he calmly reminded his players of what they do best.
“I said, it’s our turn. Don’t be upset and hang your heads. Get angry. Get mad that we sort of pissed it away a little bit,” Boudreau said. “Just come back and play the way you did in the first period and things will work out.”
Anaheim regrouped, refocused and went back to what got them to this point. It’s that us-against-the world mentality that’s manifested into a never-say-die identity and led to the clubs unmatched dominance during this incredible playoff run.
Anaheim is 10-3 in this postseason and have not lost a game in regulation. The Ducks roll four very effective lines and Boudreau has not shied away from moving personal around to find the best on ice match up. Boudreau preaches the basics and his Ducks are playing with a deadly combination of physicality and speed. Anaheim’s cycle down low can, at times, mimic a shark during a feeding frenzy, reducing their opponents to nothing more than chum in the water.
So is this Boudreau’s best job coaching? Only history can determine that, but for my money there is no other coach left in the post season that I’d rather have behind the bench right now.