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Boudreau knows Ducks' playoff expectations are high

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- Bruce Boudreau's chats with reporters are a little different than those of other coaches at this time of the season.

Instead of talking about jockeying for position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoreboard watching and desperation, the Anaheim Ducks coach is asked about winning the Presidents' Trophy and resting his top players down the stretch.

It's a familiar scenario for Boudreau, who for the second straight season will follow a successful regular season with high expectations for the playoffs.

Anaheim entered its game Wednesday against the Dallas Stars (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN) leading the Western Conference with 50 wins and 107 points, slightly behind last season’s conference-best and Ducks-record 54 wins and 116 points.

The expectations might be bigger this time around.

"I think they always get higher, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse here," Boudreau said. "Let's win the first round and then we'll talk about winning the second round. I don't think there's anyone in the room that doesn't sit at home and dream about what they would do with the [Stanley] Cup, you know? I mean, that's your boyhood dream.

"But it just so happens there's, right now, probably 20 teams dreaming the same thing every night. It's not like just because we want to win, it's going to happen. We have to go out there and beat other teams."

If Boudreau sounds wary of disturbing the hockey gods, he has good reason. It's been well documented that he has never advanced past the second round and is 1-5 in Game 7s (three losses with the Washington Capitals and two with Anaheim).

The Ducks have not advanced past the second round since they won the Cup in 2007, so they identify with their coach.

"We've done the same thing," said defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who was on the 2007 team. "We've had a few good runs, but it's been eight years now since we've won the Stanley Cup, so it's been a long time. And even though we've had good teams, a lot of those years we were just in one or two rounds and then were kind of out of it. We [want to] take a step forward and make sure we go a longer way this time."

The hype surrounding Anaheim's potential to make a deep run seems more legitimate because they look better suited with the additions of center Ryan Kesler this summer and defensemen James Wisniewski and Simon Despres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.

Boudreau said he thinks they are deeper defensively but young up front with forwards Jiri Sekac, Rickard Rakell and Emerson Etem, who have a combined 15 games of playoff experience.

"All of these guys are young guys," Boudreau said. "I think the experience of what happened last year hopefully … has given them a little more self-preparation than what they were in store for right off the bat."

Last season Anaheim found itself in a dogfight Western Conference First Round series, defeating Dallas before losing an epic inaugural playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, who beat Anaheim 6-2 in Game 7.

"I think we've understood where we've kind of gone wrong in the past," Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said. "I think it's now time to keep playing and pushing forward because the time is now in terms of piecing things together for the playoffs. It's going to be a [heck] of a playoffs in terms of the teams that are going get in and teams that are in the wild card right now. We have to be at the top of our game to beat those teams."

Boudreau said he wants the younger players and the mainstays to learn from that 2014 loss.

"I hope the memory is long," Boudreau said. "They know what it feels like to win and they know what it feels like to lose, and I think the feeling to win is a lot nicer than the other one. But there's also a price to pay. That's got to be such a priority of hard work and everything else and another two months of potential hard work. I hope the core has seen that and they know what they have to go through. They've been building up to it all season long. It's not going to be easy to do."

Boudreau, whose contract runs through the 2016-17 season, will inevitably field questions about his playoff history. It's a stigma that's been attached to him because it's so difficult to ignore. He is known for making curious lineup changes and perhaps overthinking them, but his passion is undeniable.

Affable, candid and emotional, Boudreau doesn't hide how much he wants to take the Ducks on a long playoff run. But he is well aware of how regular season success doesn't mean anything once the puck is dropped for Game 1.

He mentioned that the 2012 Kings proved there isn't much separation between the top seed and the second wild card. Though his team is better equipped to go far, he said knows those hockey gods are listening.

"I think we've done well in the regular season, but for us to do better, or to have success, we've got to do better than we did in the regular season," Boudreau said. "We can't stay at that same level because the game of hockey level steps up."

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