From 3,000 miles away Bruce Boudreau has kept a close eye on the Capitals and their historic season, mostly because, well, he can’t help himself. And yes, he’s impressed.
“As you would probably think, I watch a lot of their games,” Boudreau said in today’s Ocean Country Register. “What people don’t realize is how fast they are. But they’re also big. They’ve got the combination of speed and size and they can play any way you want to play.
“And then they’ve got the goaltender that’s as good as anybody in the world right now.”
Tonight at 10 p.m. (9:30 Pregame Live, CSN) Boudreau will see if he can get the hottest team in the NHL to beat the best team in the NHL.
And it will be very interesting to see what kind of game is played.
If you recall, the Ducks started the season by losing nine of their first 10 games (1-7-2) while scoring just 10 goals in those 10 games. Many believed Boudreau would not survive past Halloween.
Since then, the Ducks have gone 36-12-6 and have averaged 2.79 goals per game. The Ducks enter tonight’s game atop the Pacific Division and on an 11-game win streak, not so much because of their offense, but because of their stingy defense.
Anaheim is tied for first in the NHL with a goals-against per game average of 2.28. The Kings are also at 2.28, while the Capitals are at 2.29.
“That’s how (the Kings) won the Cup,” Boudreau said. “And that’s how Chicago won the Cup. There’s no secret. Offense is great, but defense wins.”
Boudreau should know from his early days with the high-flying Capitals. When the Caps last won the Presidents’ Trophy under Boudreau in 2009-10, they averaged a league-best 3.82 goals per game but ranked 16th in goals against (2.77).
Under Barry Trotz this season, the Caps rank first in the NHL with 3.22 goals per game, while ranking third in goals-against at 2.29.
The Caps are also nearly unbeatable when holding a lead through two periods (33-0-1) and so are the Ducks (23-0-3). The Caps have outscored opponents 83-51 in third periods this season, while Anaheim holds an edge of 60-45.
“It makes you feel that when you’ve got a lead, you’re very comfortable playing with that lead,” Boudreau said. “Right now we are. We’re comfortable playing with the lead. We seem to be able to – so far up to this point – shut a lot of teams down.
“If you ever want to win in the playoffs, you got to be able to do that. If we feel we can do it and we do it, it’s much better for us.”
It may seem hard to believe, but Boudreau has coached more games with the Ducks (334) than he did in five seasons with the Caps (329). And, after notching his 400th NHL coaching victory Saturday against the Kings (199-98-37 with the Ducks, 201-88-40 with the Caps) he has a chance to notch his 200th victory with Anaheim tonight.