[On Thursday, Bruce Boudreau did a conference call with hockey media near and far (including a question from our own Stephen Pepper regarding the penalty kill). Here's the transcript (and apologies for typos and whatnot, but it's the League's transcript - take it up with them).]
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. With us we have Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. Thanks to Bruce for take the time today to join us and answer your questions and thanks to Paul Rovnak and Nate Ewell for helping to arrange this call.
There season Washington has set franchise records in wins with 53 and points with 118. The Caps lead the NHL with 310 goals scored, and are the first team to score 300 in a season since 2005/2006.
This past Sunday they clinched the Presidents' Trophy as regular season NHL champions and Bruce has guided them to three consecutive Southeast Division titles. Bruce also captured the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach in his first season 2007/2008.
At this time Alex Ovechkin is tied for the league goal scoring lead with 48 and is second in overall points with 106. Nicklas Backstrom is fourth in scoring with 98 points, while Mike Green leads all defensemen with 74 points. The Caps also have the top four in plus?minus led by Jeff Schultz with a plus 44 rating.
Washington hosts Atlanta Friday and finishes the regular season on Sunday against Boston on NBC. Thanks again to Bruce for taking the time to join us and answer your questions. We'll open it up for questions now.
Q. With the playoffs coming up, do you feel Ovechkin plays even better in the post-season?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: I think he did last year. When we got beat out by Pittsburgh, he was leading the league in scoring at that time. I think he's like any other player, he gets excited for the playoffs and will ramp it up a little bit.
Q. Do you feel he's having his best season? He's missed 10 games, but still has so many goals and points.
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Yeah, I think every year is going to be his best season. He just seems to get better. He hasn't reached his prime as far as age goes.
As far as the numbers go, it's not just the numbers. The 11 games he's missed, when he's come back, it's taken him a while to get going again, too. If he would have been healthy all those times I think his numbers would be really out of here, out of reach.
Q. Bruce, can you describe what it's like for these coaches who are going into this final week and still fighting for the playoffs, what it's like to be in that position?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Every day is really exciting and every day is really nerve?wracking. The wins and losses that the coaches are going through now, when they lose, I mean, the degree of emotion, you go right to the bottom. When you win, you feel like you're on top of the world.
For me, when we were doing it, it was a real exciting feeling, but I didn't get to, I guess, have the failure part because we won the last seven games to sneak in by a point. So, I mean, I didn't get the lows. But they're certainly there for every team that's lost a game.
Q. I was talking to somebody who expressed concern about the Capitals, saying their biggest concern would be you guys would be going into the playoffs without having played a really meaningful game in a long time. How big a concern is that for you?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: It's not. Every game we've played has been meaningful. I'm being serious when I say that. When we played Boston this last weekend, if we're playing them, it's very meaningful for us. We played Atlanta. We're getting other team's best effort.
It's not like last year when we were in a position, I think our last 12 games were against non?playoff teams that weren't going to make it. So, I mean, no matter how you try to pump them up, we weren't probably getting the best effort from the opposing teams, as well as ourselves.
I think it's been a totally different situation this year because we're getting great efforts from everybody we play. I mean, they all have reasons to keep playing as hard as they can.
Pittsburgh, for example, on Wednesday, you know, they're now two points behind New Jersey. So they had to play well in their building for a lot of reasons. I mean, they want the No. 2 seed. They want to stay ahead of Ottawa. Like I said, Boston is fighting for their lives. So, of course, they were playing I think as good as they could play maybe last Sunday.
So I find we've got lots and lots of reasons to play hard.
Q. Lots of depth that you have has allowed you to keep guys fresh, rest guys that may be nicked up or need the rest down the stretch. What can it do for you in the playoffs, to have three healthy NHL forwards and two healthy NHL defensemen not playing?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, if they don't want to play, I think it can be a healthy situation if everybody's on the same page, which I think we are. Could be a negative if the ones that aren't playing haven't bought into the whole program.
But in the course of the playoffs, if you go anywhere, you're going to have injuries, you're going to have a lot of bumps and bruises. We'll be able to replace people without much of a decline in the ability. I mean, taking nothing away from Hershey, but it won't be the same thing where you won't have to go to Hershey to call up guys for the most part with the extra guys that we have.
Q. Compared to last season, your experience is much greater, not just because your guys are a year older, but you've added some guys with playoff legs. How much last year did you learn about experience mattering in the playoffs?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, I think we've got a different kind of experience. I mean, for example, Walker, still had Fedorov and Kozlov, but they were very to themselves. Great guys, great on?ice leaders, but not vocal. I think we have more vocal leadership right now.
So I just like the way everything is going. I don't know how it's going to transcend into the games next week. But, I mean, the experience of going through what we've done is probably the best teacher to everybody we've got on the team, whether they're 20 years old or 30 years old, so...
I don't know if that answers the question, but...
Q. The Presidents' Trophy is one of those things that looms over teams. Not everybody does well with it after they won it. Do you fear the Presidents' Trophy in a way?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: No. I got to believe it was one of our goals to be the best team in the regular season, and we accomplished that. Hopefully it's not our final goal. We won't spend a lot of time thinking about it. We haven't spent any time talking about it or anything. So I don't see how that can be a factor.
We've continued to play well. It's not like we've rested on our laurels or anything, I think.
Q. Bruce, I think you said before the game against Pittsburgh, you suggested the road to the Cup still goes through Pittsburgh, they're the defending champion. Do you think it's important for your guys to beat Pittsburgh either face-to-face or to go further than them to validate the season you've had? Like Detroit, seems like they had to get over Colorado in the late '90s. Do you feel Pittsburgh is like that for you guys?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: We don't think it. I think the media might think it. You guys will be the ones that will be declaring it.
I'm certainly not looking forward to playing them (laughter). I hope they lose in the first round. If we have to play 'em, we have to play 'em. I mean, I think the road has to go through them. They're the champions. No reason to think they can't do it again. They got the same cast of characters.
Q. There's been some discussion when we talk about the Penguins and Caps, we talk about Crosby and Ovechkin. There's this notion that somehow Sidney has accomplished greater things than Alexander has. If he wants to be considered among the greatest player in the league, he has to lead a team to a Stanley Cup final, a Cup championship. Do you think that's fair to say that of a player, specifically of Alex?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: I don't know if it's fair, but I know that's going to be a comparison. Pittsburgh was better early than Washington was, I mean in two years, three years. This year maybe Pittsburgh isn't as good. I don't know. Time will tell.
I mean, as far as accomplishing more on the world stage, Canada was definitely better than Russia at the Olympics. I don't think there was anything you can throw on Alex on that one. If Sidney was American and Canada had won, I don't think you would have been saying, He's accomplished this. You wouldn't be using that same example, I don't think.
Q. Your team is 29-4-6 since the organization named Alex Ovechkin as team captain. Can you talk about the input you had in that decision and hows that helped you coach the team since then?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: First of all, I haven't coached the team any different. The input I had was the same as everybody that watches us or everything else. If they were in my position, I mean, he was the only logical choice to make captain. He's signed for 12 more years. He's the leader on the ice and off the ice. He's the best player. It was his time.
You know, this is his team. I mean, it was an easy decision. Everybody, from the players to the coaching staff, were on the same page with that.
Q. Have you seen any difference in the way he's acted or has he been the same type of guy?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: He's the same guy. Hasn't changed. A little gun shy because of the suspension, but I think he's over that now. Other than that, there's no difference.
Q. This team has gone great guns in every aspect of the game. There's one weakness that sort of sticks out, that's the penalty kill rate. What are your plans to address that going into the playoffs?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, we've addressed it. I think if you look at the last four games that we've played, where we're at in penalty killing, if you take away the three goals they've got before that, I think the game before that, and the five?on?threes, you can go back as far as 10 or 12 games, and you'll see our penalty killing has been right up with the best.
So I think we've addressed it. Hopefully we don't have to address it anymore.
Q. I was hoping to go back to your playing days in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. What were your memories of Harold Ballard, playing under the Ballard regime?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, we never knew as players what owners, GMs or anything did. We knew behind the scenes they made a lot of decisions. But to our face and to my face, Mr. Ballard was a great guy. Always said hi, was always smiling. I didn't know the interworkings. Gordy Stellick as GM has some great stories about him, but I never saw it firsthand. All I saw was the way he treated me. I didn't know if he went into the room after he talked to me and said, We got to get rid of that Boudreau, he's not good enough. That might have been said. To my face and everything else, he was great. To the players, he was on planes, him and Mr. Clancy were always the nicest of people.
Q. Talking about injuries, the Caps have been lucky this year, middle of the pack. In general as a coach, how much of a monkey wrench do injuries throw into sort of a team's master plan?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, depends on who's hurt and when they're hurt. I think we've been lucky enough that we've had good depth all year. I mean, we're over 200 man games lost. I mean, I think if you look in the first half of the year, our man games were second or third in the league lost to Edmonton and Detroit. They were up there, from my recollection.
We've been fortunate since mid January or early January to be pretty healthy. I think it helps with the continuity of the team. You get to stabilize your lines. Guys know who is playing all the time. I think it works out.
But, I mean, like I said, we've been lucky enough to I think be fairly deep. When one guy has gotten hurt, another guy has been able to come in and do an adequate job.
Q. Bruce, you spoke earlier about getting everyone on the same page with regards to how you're handling who you would sit and start in these games. Can you share how you did that? Did you talk to the guys individually or as a group in terms of making those decisions?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, we've talked about that continually for a long time. We did have individual meetings about three weeks ago, or at least after the trade deadline. We had so many players, 15 forwards, eight defensemen, that were going to be here full?time after the deadline. So it was a priority that they get on the same page.
But on the other hand we've never sat anybody out for any length of time. So even coming into the last two games, they've all played. We've ran into a few injuries, which has been easy to alleviate the sitting?out problem. If you look at our roster, since the trade deadline, I mean, I think there's only a handful of guys going into tomorrow's game that have played every game.
Q. Will you stick with that when the playoffs start or have you decided yet?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: I haven't decided. I have to believe it's going to be a game?by?game decision. If we get down 2?0 in a series, I'm sure there's going to be changes made.
Q. Was there much talk given to maybe sitting Alex in any of these games?
Q. I guess he wouldn't take it that well.
BRUCE BOUDREAU: He might. If he wants to sit, fine. But, I mean, there's a lot on the line for him. It's a really difficult decision when you think about it. I mean, not only you got the Art Ross, the Hart, the Rocket Richard, the accolades that go with that. There's a lot going on.
You know, he rested when he got suspended. He hasn't played a lot. He doesn't practice a lot. It's not a question of him needing rest. He's in great shape and he's raring to go.
I mean, you worry about guys getting nicked up. But I think if he's tied with Sidney and Stamkos for the goal scoring lead on Sunday, it would be prudent of me to play him.
Q. Bruce, have you made a decision on who your starter might be in net for the playoffs? If not, what will be the determining factor in making that decision?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, I mean, I think I have. But I'm not going to reveal it. So, I mean, the second question is moot because I think I've already made the decision.
Like I said, I'm not going to share that.
Q. Could you touch upon the contributions that defenseman Jeff Schultz has made. Has his play surprised you at all?
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, I don't think his play has surprised me. I knew how dependable and reliable he's been all year long, or in the past. He's struggled. He got hurt in the first game of the playoffs the last two years. But other than that, he's always been reliable.
I think this year we've kept him with Mike Green from the beginning. There's been sometime for Shaone Morrisonn, who has gone in there. But they've gotten to play well with each other. I think our team has played better than in the past. So his numbers show that. But he's a pretty solid defenseman. Nobody gets to know him because he's quiet and he doesn't score. You know, I mean, he just does his job. He just goes out there, moves the puck, and eliminates people.