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I’m Not “Hating” On Coach Bruce Boudreau Who Thinks His Critics “Make no sense”, but He Can Do Better

May 6, 2010

5/6/10

It has been more than a week since the Washington Capitals lost the 1st round series to the Montreal Canadiens in 7 games. So many thoughts have been sent out in the world responding to the brief playoff showing of the #1 regular season Washington Capitals. I am no different in the sense that I posted thoughts on my blog. In a previous post, I mentioned my only real unhappiness was Coach Boudreau’s seeming lack of strategic ability to respond to the Montreal strategy. I used the description ” not so smart” when referring to this strategic short-fall.

Let me clarify my initial thoughts. I have spent the better part of the last ten years studying two very specific Stanley Cup winning head coaches; Scotty Bowman and “Toe” Blake. While it’s true, I wouldn’t recommend the Bowman coaching approach that won the Canadiens all those cups under his rule to any coach working in the NHL today; the fact that Bowman is the most winningest coach in NHL history must mean something. A sentiment that is often quoted or referenced when the topic of Scotty Bowman arises is something he learned from the second-most winning coach, Toe Blake. Here is the main point, but the entire article is a “must read” for all NHL hockey fans and students of the game (as taken from this SI.com feature article):

When Bowman’s Junior Canadiens were matched up against a superior opponent in the playoffs, Blake called him in and drew up three radically different fore-checking schemes for Bowman to try. All of them worked, and Bowman learned another lesson: If you threw something different at a team, almost anything, it got the players out of rhythm, slowed them down, kept them off balance. No matter how clever the opposing coach was, it took his team some time to react to the changes. And by that time Bowman, always a step ahead, might have altered his strategy again. It was a good way to play when you were outmanned. “I found out that if you’re going to win games, you had better be ready to adapt,” he says.

I had read this article several times over the last year, so the portion quoted above was still fresh in my mind. Hence, the reason I felt Boudreau wasn’t up to the strategic challenge offered-up by Jacques Martin. I did not mention anything about “firing Gabby”. I did not state at any point in time that I felt he was “to blame” for the Washington’s down-fall. I simply saw things, especially in games 5, 6 and 7, that needed atypical thinking from Boudreau to get a handle on and from what I could see – Boudreau hasn’t figured out how to find his unconventional “Ron Wilson” side.

Before I continue; I will re-visit my original post and hold fast to my original thought, even though Bruce Boudreau publically stated that anyone (this includes me) who had anything to say about his netminding decisions were making points that “didn’t make sense”. Okay Coach – if “they made sense” to you in the first place – you would have done them – right? So, it then follows logically that anyone with a different concept or perspective will “make not sense” to you. It makes sense to me that it “doesn’t make sense” to Gabby. If you weren’t expanding your “this is good old hockey and this is my tried and true system” thinking in the first place – the rest of us feeling our “inner-Wilson” and stepping into a Blake/Bowman frame of mind would not make sense at all.

At a certain point, especially toward the middle of game 6, it should have been about as obvious as Brooks Laich’s good up-bringing that nothing standard about the way the Capitals usually play was applicable anymore. It made no difference about how well Varly was playing. It made no difference about whether or not starting Theodore would make your net less vulnerable. As a matter of fact – it had nothing to do with your actual netminders at all. JUST THE SIMPLE ACT OF CHANGING YOUR NETMINDERS WOULD HAVE BEEN SOMETHING THAT MONTREAL WOULD HAVE TO CONSIDER AND TO WHICH MONTREAL WOULD HAVE TO ADJUST. If Theodore had started in game 6 or game 7 and Bruce felt that he let one even questionable goal behind him, then by all means, switch your goalies again. That would be yet another minor adjustment for the opposing team.

There are plenty of coaches who will swap netminders and the rest of the team will respond by playing slightly better for the netminder who was replaced. This is a time-tested situation. The players will often feel that they need to do even better, because that simple goalie-swap can be perceived by the players as a statement that they have let their netminder down. It can also create a better showing from the netminder taken out of the game, if that same goaltender is put back in to defend the net. IT SURELY WORKED FOR HALAK.

I have already posted why it is not at all good idea for any NHL head coach to pull the netminder when the team is 2 goals down. This would have especially applied in game 6, because of the game theory (also applies to military battle plans as well) situations I mentioned in my previous post. In game 5, at about 2:18 in the 3rd; it was very, very, very obvious that Varlamov had taken his total focus away from the game. He was focusing on the bench to get his que from Bruce to leave the ice. That’s also the point in time I started yelling at full lung-capacity toward the TV, “DO NOT PULL THE GOALIE RIGHT NOW – NOT NOW – DON’T DO IT NOW” and the reason I was so damn sure about my “air-coaching” was because of the PATTERN OF PLAY over the previous 3 to 4 minutes which indicated that Montreal and D.C. were spending most of their time quickly changing possession and creating movement on both sides of the ice.

My “Barbaric Yawp” (that’s right- I’m pulling out some “Dead Poet Society” for this) after I saw Varly heading to the bench shook me to my core. No sooner did Varlamov have a chance to make his way over, the play changed direction and that confused Varly. IT WAS AN EASY ASSUMPTION THAT THE PLAY WAS CHANGING TOO FAST TO PULL THE GOALIE AT TWO MINUTES. I say this, because if one “delusional” little girl from the “Great Hockey Void” could see that there would be an issue if the goalie were pulled at that time – then why can’t an NHL Head coach? Was I right to feel apprehensive about pulling the goalie? Well, if me being right means that Varly got confused when the play rapidly headed back toward his net and in Varly’s confusion – a too many men on the ice penalty was called against the Capitals, then I was right. Washington went from being one goal down with 5 men on the ice to having to PK in the last minute, or so, of that game.

So, I will leave the crease alone now and continue with my main point. I agree that Bruce Boudreau should remain the Capitals bench boss. I agree that Brooks Laich, and other players, should be vehement in their defense of their coach. I still believe in the Washington Capitals and their ability to win a cup. I do not think Gabby is a bad coach. ALL I am getting at is this:  I recognize patterns very easily and the patterns of Boudreau’s maneuverings over the last three playoffs with the Capitals have now clearly illustrated to me that he should at least consider “opening his tried and true” method of thinking a bit more when he has the helm in the playoffs. That’s all. That’s it.

THANK GOD I FINALLY GOT THAT OUT OF MY DAMN HEAD!!!!

Rock your improvements this summer CAPS!! – Respect to the Boudreau – peace – mia – (sciencegirl99@excite.com)

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