ANAHEIM -- Game 7s have not been kind to Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.
But the loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday may hurt a little bit more and a little bit longer than the previous Game 7 losses he has suffered while coaching the Ducks and the Washington Capitals.
"It was closer to winning the Cup, so of course," Boudreau said minutes after the Ducks' 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in a winner-take-all game for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Boudreau has an ignominious relationship with Game 7s. He is the first coach in the NHL to lose six such games in his career, and he is the only coach to lose Game 7 at home in three consecutive seasons. It happened to him in Washington and again with the Ducks. His career record in Game 7s dropped to 1-6.
In Boudreau's first year in Anaheim, his favored team lost Game 7 at Honda Center to the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings. Last spring, the Ducks blew a 3-2 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings and were run out of their own building in Game 7, a 6-2 loss.
This year, the Ducks fell behind 4-0 in Game 7 and wound up losing by two goals. They lost 5-2 in Game 6 after winning Game 5 in overtime. Three games in this series went past regulation. The Ducks lost Game 2 in triple overtime and Game 4 in double overtime. The back-to-back losses to end this series were the only regulation defeats during the team's 11-5 run this postseason.
"I do believe that the Blackhawks got better [as the series progressed]," Boudreau said. "They came out and got two goals in the first how-many minutes [of Game 7]. They're a tough team to catch up from."
For another summer, Boudreau will have more what-ifs than answers kicking around in his head.
He will wonder what he could have done to better counter the Blackhawks when they put forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line for the final two games. He will wonder if he made too many or too few adjustments to his lines in those two games, and he will wonder if he should have switched his goaltenders at some point. Frederik Andersen, so brilliant during the first four games of the series, allowed 13 goals in the final seven periods.
"Throughout the playoffs, [Andersen] was outstanding," Boudreau said. "I mean, it will be a question that I'll ask myself. Did he get tired? Did Chicago get much better? Were they getting better looks and chances to score on him? That I don't know. I know we gave up 18 goals in the last four games, and we didn't give up 18 goals in the whole series, in the previous series.
"Sometimes things just don't work out. Not one of these guys said, 'Hey, I don't feel like playing in the next series.' "
Things did not work out for Boudreau again this spring. His familiarity with the feeling of disappointment won't make the layoff before training camp any easier to endure.
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to hurt for a while," Boudreau said. "We truly believe that we're a different team and we had a really good chance of winning five more games.
"Didn't get done. You know, I mean, we'll have to live with that for the summer. But the same reason that these guys are great guys that came to play each and every night will be the same reason that they bounce back."
Boudreau will be back with them, ready to again try to erase his Game 7 frustrations.