LOS ANGELES—Bruce Boudreau lives and coaches 1,000 miles from Verizon Center these days, but he readily admitted on Saturday that he still keeps a very close eye on the Capitals.
A couple of reasons. For one, Washington holds a special place in his heart because it was his first stop as an NHL head coach. And second, he currently coaches the Wild, who sit just behind the NHL-leading Caps in the league standings.
“[The Caps] are the best team in the league,” Boudreau told CSN at All-Star media day. “I’m sure Barry [Trotz] doesn’t want me to say that. They’ve been like that and they’ve had that stigma put on them for as many as seven or eight years. But when you watch them play, except for a couple of hiccups, they blow teams out of the water.”
“The one thing you notice about [the Caps] is, any other team you play except maybe for Pittsburgh, you can make mistakes and sometimes get away with it,” Boudreau continued. “Against the Caps, you make a mistake and you’re paying for it. They've got a lot of great players and that’s what happens with great players—they do great things.”
One of those great players is Alex Ovechkin, who was named one of the NHL’s greatest 100 players on Friday night. Boudreau attended the ceremony and beamed with pride when Ovi’s name was announced.
“I was very proud,” Boudreau said. “I got to coach him for over four years. It’s a great thing to tell your grandchildren and children, that you’ve been able to coach one of the greatest players of all time. And I’m sure when it’s all said and done, he’s going to be in the top-5 greatest players of all time. He’s in that conversation.”
He added, “I was lucky.”
Luck, however, has nothing to do with where the Caps and Wild find themselves at the all-star break. Both teams have rattled off long winning streaks. Washington ranks first in goal differential (+54) and Minnesota is second (+51). The teams are also 1-2 in the NHL standings, with the Caps up by three points on the Wild.
Washington and Minnesota play twice in the span of 11 days in March.
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A lot could change between now and then, but as things stand today, Boudreau believes both have a good chance of making a deep run this spring.
Asked if he’s ever daydreamed about facing the Caps in the Stanley Cup final, the 62-year-old coach nodded.
“I do,” said Boudreau, who spent four plus season in Anaheim before being hired in Minnesota. “But I’ve done that for a few years and it hasn’t worked.”
Boudreau also acknowledged how weird a Bruce vs. the Caps final would be.
“On the other hand, I don’t want to play them,” he said. “I think it would be too difficult because I want them to win and I want us to win.”
“Some of the guys on that team that I’ve made great friends with that are still there, I want them to have success,” he added. “But I wouldn’t want them to have success against me. It’s a real double-edged sword. But I think both teams right now have got a shot. Those guys look like, okay, they were the favorite last year and they lost and they’re playing like that’s never going to happen again. And we’re the young upstart team that’s never been in that situation. We’ll go as far as we go, and hopefully in May or June, one of us has a lot great success.”