TORONTO -- Watching live hockey play out right in front of him in a cold rink on an August afternoon had Washington coach Bruce Boudreau all revved up.
"Twenty-five days left," Boudreau told NHL.com Wednesday during the first session of the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled By G Series. "Summer is almost over. It hasn't been that long."
It was longer than expected for Boudreau and the Presidents' Trophy-winning Caps, who blew a 3-1 series lead to Montreal in the opening round of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and lost 2-1 at home in Game 7.
Boudreau hasn't been able to forget about that meltdown for several reasons, including the fact that he's always reminded of it when he does an interview. His response is also always the same: If it weren't for Jaroslav Halak, then the Habs' goalie, Washington would have moved on to the second round.
"People are asking these questions and trying to make mountains out of molehills here," he said. "We lost in seven games, and to me the goaltender did things that not too many goaltenders do. (Sidney) Crosby said it best when (Pittsburgh) lost (to Montreal in the second round). He said if they're game plan was to play three quarters of the game in their zone and then hopefully win, then they had a good game plan.
"We took a hundred shots (technically 94, according to the stat sheet) at the net in the final game," Boudreau continued. "If you can't score, you can't score. It happens and you can't change a thing. I thought we had a great year and we didn't have a good week, and we're not apologizing for the way we played because we didn't allow many goals or chances. We just didn't do what we normally do and that's score."
The shocking loss, which was actually made less shocking when Montreal went on to beat Pittsburgh before losing to Philadelphia, hasn't changed Boudreau's thinking about his team. He still believes they can do great things, that they are the elite team in at least the Eastern Conference -- and he's not alone.
"Washington is the cream," Florida GM Dale Tallon told NHL.com. "I think they are the cream of the crop. When I started in Chicago, Detroit was the model. I think now in the East it's (GM) George (McPhee) and what he's done in Washington. We want to emulate what he's done and where they're going."
If McPhee is able to re-sign Eric Belanger, as he's expected to do, the Capitals will likely return 16 of the 20 players who suited up in Game 7. Scratches that night included David Steckel, Tomas Fleischmann, John Erskine and Tom Poti, and they're all likely to be back in Washington as well.
"We have the same core that we've had," Boudreau said. "There were eight points between us and the second-place team (San Jose). We're a good team. You don't want to blow up a good team."
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