Now that the Ducks have the summer off, former Caps, current Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau is now guest blogging for the LA Times to weigh in on the NHL playoff action (ST to @JapersRink for the find). This morning he shifted his attention back east and shared his thoughts on the Rangers-Capitals series, his replacement and his former team.
Braden Holtby played 14 games under Boudreau's watch, the first of his NHL career, and did so remarkably well. Despite playing behind a less than defensively sound team in 2010-11, Holtby posted an astounding 10-2 record, .934 save percentage and 1.79 goals against average in his first 14 games at the NHL level.
By the end of this year's campaign run he'll be at worst, just two games shy of those start totals. But if his play continues at current pace, he won't be far off his astonishing debut numbers. Through 10 playoff games (no, triple overtime does not give him 11) Holtby has faced 339 shots and the 22-year-old rookie ranks fourth among playoff goalies with a .935 SV and 1.94 GAA.
Pretty impressive numbers. But Boudreau is more impressed with the support in front of Holtby.
"The Capitals play a real dump-it-in, wait-for-your-chances type of game. And they are doing a great job of getting people to block shots." Boudreau said. "Everyone is lauding goalie Braden Holtby, but frankly the Rangers arent getting a lot of chances."
The Caps' commitment to protecting the crease, forcing shots to the perimeter and sacrificing their bodies can be seen regardless of which line is on the ice at the time. Their 218 blocked shots rank second among playoff teams only to their opponents' 225 and total a full 59 more thwarted attempts than the team trailing them (Phoenix).
In comparison, Boudreau's Capitals blocked 159 shots through nine playoff games last season, 188 in 14 games in their 2008-09 playoff run. But the biggest contributing factor to team toughness is a full team effort to protect Holtby. In 2011 77 percent of those blocked shots came from the blueline, 35 percent in 2009. This postseason 41 percent of blocks are coming from the forward lines, including Brooks Laich's 17.
The second-most among forwards? Nicklas Backstrom with 13. Alex Ovechkin's seven are the most of his playoff career.
A lot was made of Ovechkin's first benching under Boudreau. Whether it did or did not play a role in Boudreau's dismissal, the former Caps bench boss appreciates Dale Hunter's daring to keep the captain off the ice at critical junctures.
"I admire Dale Hunter for following the beat of his own drum." said Boudreau. "He is looking at the game and saying, 'This is how we are going to win.' Hes staying true to himself and doing exactly what he thinks is the right thing in order to be successful."
Ultimately though, Boudreau favors the one-seed to his former team in this series and thinks the Caps missed out on a big opportunity to strike while the Rangers were down.
"In the end, Ive always liked the Rangers." admitted Boudreau. "If they get Brandon Dubinsky back and Brian Boyle gets back to full strength, they can win the East."