Washington Capitals: Are the Capitals Regretting Firing Bruce Boudreau?

Matt Schreiber@@schreiberstakeAnalyst IIIFebruary 19, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 21:  Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals during the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on February 21, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Capitals defeated the Penguins 1-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

At 5-9-1, Washington Capitals fans are not impressed with how their team is playing.

The stars are under-performing, goaltending has been horrendous and players can't seem to stay out of the penalty box.

When did the downfall start?

Not this season. It started back in 2010, when the No. 1-seeded Capitals were shocked by the No. 8-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

Coming into the series, the Capitals shredded through the NHL with ease.

Alex Ovechkin finished the year with 50 goals and 59 assists. Nicklas Backstrom added 101 points of his own. Alex Semin scored 40 goals. Jeff Schultz led the league at plus-50. And Ovechkin, Backstrom, Mike Green and Semin finished behind him for the next best plus-minus ratios in the NHL.

The team outscored opponents 313-227, far better than any team in the league. That was good enough for a 3.82 goals-per-game average. 

All of this ridiculous offensive output handed Washington the Presidents' Trophy, which is given to the team with the most points in the standings during the regular season.

Then came Jaroslav Halak, who would prove to be the catalyst in a Washington downfall.

The Capitals opened up a comfortable 3-1 series lead.

In Game 5, Halak would make 37 saves on 38 shots, earning him a first-star honors in a 2-1 win.

In Game 6, Halak would make an absurd 53 saves on 54 shots, leading Montreal to a 4-1 victory.

In Game 7, when his team needed him most, Halak made 41 saves on 42 shots in Washington, leading his Canadiens to possibly one of the biggest playoff upsets in NHL history.

It's not that Washington's offensive skills didn't show up for the series; they were stymied by a brick wall who saved 132 of his last 135 shots faced.

The fact that the Capitals were able to rack up 135 shots in three games proves they had the offensive weapons firing from all cylinders. 

Nothing should have changed. They should have continued playing the way they were playing. 

But for some odd reason, things did change.

A year after the disappointing season, head coach Bruce Boudreau led his Capitals to another No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They would knock off the Rangers in the first round and then get swept 4-0 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the following round. 

After a hot 7-0-0 start to the 2011-12 season, the Capitals would slump. GM George McPhee decided it was time to part ways with Boudreau, who led the Capitals to four straight division titles and revived a team that had been dead in the water prior to his hiring.

McPhee would bring in former Capitals star Dale Hunter to take over the bench. He would completely change the way the team would play. It may have been the biggest mistake the team ever made. 

Hunter was a defensive-minded coach, while Boudreau put more emphasis on offensive success.

I never quite understood why you would try and change up an offense that had the potential to put up nearly four goals per contest, but Hunter did it anyway.

It actually led Washington to a No. 7 seed in the playoffs, where they would upset the Boston Bruins in seven games on their own ice, only to lose to the New York Rangers in seven games in the next round.

Hunter decided he would head back to coaching the team in London that he left for Washington.

With the signing of Adam Oates as the new coach, the Capitals are now dealing with their third head coach in under a year.

They aren't having any success as they try to adjust to the new system that Oates has brought to the nation's capital.

As soon as the Capitals cut ties with Boudreau, the Anaheim Ducks were quick to pick him up. The Ducks have missed the playoffs two out of the last three years, but Boudreau now has the Ducks sitting at 12-2-1, which is good for the second-best record in the NHL in this shortened season.

This brings up a debatable question, did the Capitals make the wrong move firing Bruce Boudreau last season?

If you ask me, I say yes. He helped build this team when they were not going anywhere. He allowed Alex Ovechkin to play with confidence and do what he does best: score goals.

He led an offense that had the best power play in the league and was able to score the most goals. But after one poor half of a season, the GM and owner decide the right move is to cut him loose?

I think McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis will regret this one for a while, as it seems the Capitals may have to rebuild all over again if they don't turn it around quickly.


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