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Join Date: Oct 2004
10 questions with Bruce Boudreau
There's a reason Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau's nickname is Gabby, and it makes him a great quote no matter the question.
Boudreau took some time out of his schedule to chat last week about Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the team's incredible run toward the playoffs.
How has the fan interest grown in Washington since you've been there and what has it been like in the building?
"The fans are just as hungry as the players to have some success. They were very, very into the game, and it was quite exciting. I hadn't heard noise that loud I don't think since I was a Marlie. But I haven't been in buildings that big either. You could tell there was a buzz right from the beginning. It was just as exciting for the players as it was for the fans in the building.
"You can't hear anything. It's hard to communicate. If I was a player and I'd been in that situation I'd be very excited and very pumped up."
Why do you think Ovechkin has improved this season compared to Years 1 and 2?
"Number one, his maturity. It happens quite often when you have a great, great first season – the second season, knowing Alex the way I do now, he probably wasn't happy because he thought he could do more. I think the third season went right right off the bat.
"Two, he hadn't had a chance to play with Nick Backstrom either. Nick Backstrom is one heck of a player. We've kept that line together for the last 20-25 games, and they've really, really come on and played well.
"I think those are contributing factors. Alex also hasn't had the opportunity to play on a great power play, [and] we're sixth or seventh in the league right now, Mike Green has 18 goals – I think all of these things add up to Alex being a better player. I mean, he is a great player, but those things are contributors."
What was your approach with Ovechkin coming in?
"I was just hoping he would listen to what I said. Quite frankly. I was coming in, and not knowing what to expect, I'd met him and said hi to him in training camp. Probably the biggest thing was that quite a few players knew who I was, and those players that know who I was, he talked to, because they'd played with me for a year or more than a year."
And has he listened?
"I hope so. I think he has. The team has. He's played better defensively. He's got a lot of carte blanche; we don't curtail him too much. But he's the first one to come up and ask on the board if he doesn't know a drill, he's the first one to ask 'is this what you want, is this how we do it?' He's really attentive in all meetings and everything. I think he's finding that the team is having success, he's having success."
Have Ovechkin's numbers surprised you this season?
"It doesn't surprise me because you see him every game and it just sort of grows in expectation. Even in his worst games, he's got at least one chance to score. The biggest surprising factor is when you look and hear that someone has their 33rd goal, 'this guy's having a great year,' and then you look and say, 'well Alex has got .'
"I don't want to take anything away from [Alexei] Kovalev because he's having a fabulous year and he's a great player, but he scored his 35th the other night and they're really making it a big deal. And maybe rightfully so because no other Montreal player has done that in eight or 10 years."
How do you weigh in on the Hart Trophy race?
"I'm like a parent when you're talking about their kid. I think there's no question this year. If you look where we are and you look what he's done and you look where our next leading scorer is, Alex is the straw that stirs the drink on this team. Just as I think Nick Backstrom is the best rookie and Mike Green is the best defenceman, but I mean, that's from a prejudiced point of view before.
Nicklas Backstrom wasn't playing with Ovechkin to start the year and he's really taken off since. Was that a conscious switch on your part, when Michael Nylander went down, that you wanted to see him in that spot?
"Nick was finding his own way in the NHL at the beginning of the season, and when I got there, I still thought it was an awful lot of pressure 21 games in, putting Nick Backstrom with Ovechkin. I mean, we started him right off on the fourth line and just let him get his confidence, play the power play, get some points there, and when Nick started to get going and feeling his way, we put him with Alex. As a player, I've been in a situation where I remember being called up and being thrown with established players, and boy it's difficult, because any time there's a mistake made, you think it's your fault and nobody elses'. And you don't get to play your game."
Has his improvement come as a result of playing with Ovechkin?
"I think it's a case that they've both complemented each other really well. I don't think Alex would have the numbers he's had without Nick and vice versa."
What was the adjustment period like for Backstrom this season?
"I think it's him just growing. I mean, you're a European player, and you're coming over to America for the first time, there's a learning period, there's a learning curve and there's a getting used to culture curve, and [there are] expectations from the media. Unfortunately for Glen [Hanlon], I'm the beneficiary. Glen was the one that taught him how to handle all of this stuff and by the time I got him, he was [finding] his way around, he was starting to get the odd point here and there, and great players sometimes take a little bit of time, and he just took a little bit of time to get used to everything. And playing with Alex, after the 30-game mark, really started to come along.
What makes Ovechkin's other linemate, countryman Viktor Kozlov, effective?
"(A) They speak the same language, which really helps, and (B) he's so big and strong and he can make the plays. He sees the ice; Viktor is a very skilled player and he sees the ice and Alex gets open for him. You know we've used Viktor a lot at centre, a lot at right wing on other lines, but he has really come through now that he's playing with Alex."