By Adam Brady
Amidst the euphoria of the thunderous Honda Center crowd and the two dozen Ducks piling on each other against the glass, there was an endearing moment in the wake of Anaheim’s dramatic overtime victory in Game 5 vs. Calgary.
Caught by national TV was the image of Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau pointing repeatedly into the stands, a huge smile beaming across his reddened face. Boudreau was gesturing toward his wife, Crystal, and his two sons, Brady and Ben, who got his attention while surrounded by the elated crowd.
“It was pretty cool because I looked right at them,” Boudreau said this morning. “They were jumping up and down and hugging each other and they turned to me and were pointing at me, so I was pointing right back at them.”
You can excuse the 60-year-old Boudreau if he allowed himself time for a little bit of celebration. The victory not only clinched the first trip to the Western Conference Final for the Ducks since 2007, but it marked the first time Boudreau himself had taken a team past the Second Round in his eight-year NHL coaching career.
“I was celebrating because you’re excited about the win, but at the same time you’re trying to stay calm under fire,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes I succeed in that and sometimes I don’t. It was a pretty nice win, so I think I’m allowed five minutes of joy.”
Boudreau has had plenty of success in his coaching career, but nothing to this extent in the postseason at the NHL level. He won a championship with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL in 1999, led the AHL’s Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup championship in 2006 and took them to the Calder Cup Final the following season.
In his first NHL season in 2008, he won the Jack Adams Award for taking the Washington Capitals from 30th place in November to a Southeast Division title. He’s the fastest coach to 300 victories in NHL history, and his two division titles since taking over the Ducks’ helm in 2012 give him a remarkable seven in eight seasons. But Anaheim’s devastating loss to the Kings in Game 7 of last season’s Second Round was yet another playoff disappointment for Boudreau.
|“I think we’ve had good teams, but I think we’ve lost for a reason,” Boudreau says. “I’ve tried not to let it trickle in and say, ‘Hey, it’s your fault that you’re not making it to the third round or fourth round.’ When you start thinking like that, you doubt your abilities and I don’t want to do that." |
“I think we’ve had good teams, but I think we’ve lost for a reason,” Boudreau says. “I’ve tried not to let it trickle in and say, ‘Hey, it’s your fault that you’re not making it to the third round or fourth round.’ When you start thinking like that, you doubt your abilities and I don’t want to do that.
“I think it’s the coach’s job to not only sound confident but to look confident, especially to your players. I’ve felt confidence, but it just hasn’t happened. There are an awful lot of great coaches in this world who haven’t gotten to the semifinals of the Stanley Cup, but they’re still great coaches. So, I try not to read too much into that.”
The players still have faith, including Ducks winger Matt Beleskey, who said last night, "Bruce has dedicated his life to this. It’s great to see him do this. I’m not sure how high he can jump, but I’m sure he was jumping for joy.”
Boudreau has been a popular coach with players, fans and media for his gregarious nature and sense of humor, but he says he prides himself on his level of calmness during the tensest moments. He admitted he strayed from that a bit when Francois Beauchemin almost ended Game 5 early in overtime last night.
“I thought I was pretty calm behind the bench most of the game, and then when Beauch almost scored, I jumped up and I had to [say to myself], ‘Whoa, Bruce. Calm yourself back down here.’ I find when I get excited behind the bench, the team gets too excited and we lose a little bit of our focus. So I tried to stay as calm as possible.”
But he certainly released that joy and relief when Corey Perry batted in a loose puck in the crease 2:26 into the extra session, a win that gave Boudreau some personal vindication to go along with the satisfaction of taking his team to the next stage.
“The instant it happened, it felt really good,” said Boudreau, whose Ducks now face Chicago in the Western Conference Final. “But a half hour later I forgot about it because we’re starting to think about Chicago. Getting to the ‘final four’ is a new experience for me, and it’s going to be interesting to see how everything goes.”
At the very least, he won’t be asked ever again about his inability to advance past the Second Round.
“I was really glad that I don’t have to answer that question anytime soon,” Boudreau said, “so in that respect, it’s always good.”