Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gabby Gets Noticed

Here in DC we're used to everyone being ignored by the general media - local and otherwise. The number of times the Caps have shown up on NHL.com anyplace other than the Southeast Notebook could probably be counted on one hand. The amount of articles written about this team in the Canadian Press or the Associated Press that aren't related to the outcome of a game, just as infrequent.

Enter Bruce Boudreau.

He's the NHL's latest media darling, a good guy done good who has arguably become the biggest interview in Washington hockey. The focus has suddenly shifted from a superstar Russian phenom to a slightly chubby, talkative, middle-aged man with horrible taste in clothing and a refreshing outlook. He even got DC Sports Bog to write about hockey for a day...

It's not hard to see why exactly Boudreau is now the subject of so much interest. Besides having a quick wit and a conversational style that screams sound byte, the results on the ice simply can't be denied. The Caps have rebounded from a horrific start to the season, a stretch that saw losing streak after losing streak, crippling one goal losses and sub-par effort on a nightly basis, and are now chugging their way back into the thick of the race. Although still in last place, the gap between the Capitals and the coveted eighth spot has shrunk and teams ahead of them are starting to look over their shoulder.

The wins have been hard-fought; the losses often have been as well. Overtime wins against the Flyers and the Rangers, a one-goal thriller over the Devils, a blowout against the Thrashers - and most recently, an effort that saw the Caps go punch for punch with the league's best team, the Red Wings.

When asked about his success Boudreau's first response always seems to be that he just does what he's always done - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But it's clear that his dedication to three key concepts has gotten the team this far.

He preaches discipline. He preaches confidence. He preaches winning.

And after a less than stellar effort, Boudreau is the first one to name names, to single out players who should be playing better. And that means any player. Everyone from Kolzig to Pothier to Fleischmann to Semin has been called on the mat, but it's not in a Tortorella-esque way, where you picture the player in question cowering in a corner being admonished like a child. Instead he's matter-of-fact, respectful in his criticism and always grounding it in the belief that the singled out player can do better.

Therein lies the difference between a good coach and a blowhard...but that's an issue for another day.

Since taking over, Boudreau has managed to get good performances out of most of the team on a consistent basis. More notably, though, he's gotten great performances out of his young players who spent time with him in Hershey. Mike Green obviously stands out as someone who has blossomed this year, his confidence and his ice time increasing with every game.

But what about Jeff Schultz, who suddenly has five goals of his own? Or Brooks Laich, who has stepped up his game despite occasionally being on the fourth line and has developed into a consistently smart player? And let's not forget Quintin Laing, who has stepped in and put together an impressive stretch since being called up, doing all the little things that don't show up on the scoreboard and adding a few points as well.

This team is clicking on almost all cylinders right now. It's important not to get ahead of ourselves, and consistency will be the big test down the line. At the moment, though, this team is doing what they should have been doing all year long - proving people wrong.

5 comments:

DMG said...

So, do you still prefer Bradley over Laing?

Scott said...

There are many players we miss here in Hershey who have been proven winners over the past two amazing seasons in the AHL - Green, Shultz, Steckel, Laich, Laing, Motzko.....although we just got Motzko back in Hershey this week now that Nylander is healthy, and he already scored in a win Wednesday night for the Bears. =)

Most of all, we miss "Gabby". Everyone I know in Hershey says the same thing - it is GREAT to see these guys getting their chance on the NHL stage - the CAPS have tons of talent, and Bruce knows how to manipulate those pieces to generate wins. If they can develop the kind of consistency that they had in Hershey the past two seasons, the NHL will take notice.

Shelby said...

My theory? Everyone wants to talk to Boudreau because, well, because he looks so darn huggable. Seriously, he's like an aptly coaching, obviously effective hockey teddy bear.

Shmee said...

It certainly helps that he is quotable.

Victor said...

*is patiently waiting for the gameday preview for CC's two favorite teams*

*or maybe not so patiently waiting8