'I wouldn't mind playing them in the Finals'

'I wouldn't mind playing them in the Finals'
December 23, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Ovechkin scores 30th of the season with quick snap shot

Oct 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau (center) between forward Kyle Palmieri (21) and forward Jakob Silfverberg (33) during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Anaheim 4-2.

(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau was quite chatty following today’s morning skate at Verizon Center, where he’ll take the best record in the NHL into tonight’s game against the Capitals, a team he coached from 2007-11.

The following are excerpts from Boudreau’s media availability:

On the Ducks’ last visit to Washington on Nov.  1, 2011, when Boudreau sat Ovechkin in the final minute of regulation of the Caps’ 5-4 win in overtime. Boudreau was fired 27 days later:

It was a good win, but I didn’t play Ovi when I pulled the goalie. It was a great win but it didn’t work out that way. Shouldn’t have messed with Mother Nature.

On his emotions going into tonight’s game against his former team:

Hurry up and get the game going. Quite frankly, it’s hard to describe them. I’m trying to be as businesslike as possible, but there’s a lot of great memories in this building.

On the players he coached in Hershey and Washington:

I thought they were really good relationships. They were great guys. I was just watching tapes of them and, geez, we played in Hershey together and won championships together. When you win a championship, no matter where you are, you always have a special bond with that group. That will be forever, I’m sure. At the end of the season I’ll see a couple of them but I won’t even look over at them tonight, not once. I’ll be too afraid. If Greenie [Mike Green] would look at me I’d probably start laughing or something and I don’t want to do that on a game day. … Greenie was the young kid. He was 19 when he came to Hershey. Brooks [Laich], [Karl] Alzner, [Braden] Holtby, [John] Carlson. A lot of them you see grow as young kids into really good players.

On rooting for the players he’s coached:

I think that’s natural. If you like somebody you want them to do good. I don’t want them to do good tonight, but you want them to succeed. You want good things to happen to good people. It’s just natural, I think.

[RELATED: Grubauer, Laich return for the Caps]

On whether he’ll look up at the Southeast Division banners, four of which he helped win while he was behind the Capitals bench:

I don’t know what I’m going to be looking at. I’m going to try to focus totally on the game, but I know cameras are going to be on everywhere I look and that’s what they’re going to show. Oh, there he is looking at Billy Joe in the stands. I’ll be pretty focused on the game, though.

On the kind of crowd reaction he anticipates:

I don’t want to anticipate anything, quite frankly, because it’s going to be nerve-racking going on the bench. It’s going to be real exciting seeing all the red. I think that’s a great memory. All of a sudden the next thing you know you have 18,000 people wearing red. I thought that was cool. That will be an interesting memory.

On players saying he helped revitalize hockey in D.C.:

I appreciate that, but the players were ready to break out. They had good players that were just sort of stuck in a rut and maybe I gave them a little push.

On Alex Ovechkin taking his game up a notch:

I guess we may have to cover him tonight. He’s a pretty good player. We all knew. He scored 65 the one year and won two Hart Trophies when I was here. We all knew how great he was and he can turn it on at any moment. At the same time, every player that I’ve seen in any sport, has gone though a year where they have a little bit of a slump and that might have been his in my last year. He certainly has picked it back up; he’s the catalyst on this team and certainly a top candidate for MVP again.

On this year’s Capitals:

They can score. They can come from behind. They never quit. And they have a power play you don’t want to take any penalties against because they’re very good.

On returning to Washington with the best record in the NHL and an eight-game winning streak:

I didn’t plan that. We’re pretty fortunate that’s happened and we’re happy about it, but those guys earned it because they’ve worked really hard to get there with the injuries we’ve had. They just kept battling. I know we’ve played the most road games in the league. They’re a good character group in there that works and wants to win every night.

[MORE:Oates says Holtby still his No.1 goaltender]

On first thoughts he had when he first saw the ice at Verizon Center:

Hope the ice is better. [Laughter]. I thought, ‘Wow, it’s different from this dressing room.’ I didn’t even know how to get in the building from a visitor’s standpoint.

On what he misses most about Washington:

The people. The people were great. The whole city was great as far as the fans go and the way they treated me and my family and the players. I just thought they were a rabid bunch that really wanted to win. I wouldn’t mind playing them in the Finals if that were the case. I think it would be a fun environment.

On whether there was bitterness leaving Washington:

I don’t know if bitterness is the right word. I’ve never used that word, I don’t think. I was grateful to them for what they gave me. No one ever would have hired me. I’m 30 years in the minors [20 as a player, 10 as a coach], unless it was George [McPhee] and Ted [Leonsis]. They took a chance on me. Even though you got let go, I was grateful for the opportunity because I got a job basically a day later. And I’m sure if George hadn’t said anything good to [Ducks GM] Bob Murray they wouldn’t have hired me, either, because I’m sure GMs talk over that sort of thing. So I can’t be bitter.

On favorite memories of his time in D.C.:

The championships in Hershey. The raising the banners here. The comeback wins. Watching Alex versus Sidney and the hype it would bring. The Winter Classics. Everything about Washington was a really great experience.

On what he learned about coaching in Washington:

I think you learn every day and the longer you coach in this league the better you get at it because you learn more. The more different players you coach the more different approaches you can take with all of them. I think I’m a better coach now than I was when I was here. I’ve learned more about matching lines in the last year and a half than I did when we had a team where it was just, ‘Let’s just go and score six goals and see what they can do.’ Now I think we play a pretty solid defensive game most nights.  

On Nicklas Backstrom:

When I got here he was 22 games into his career. Just to watch the growth of Nick is really amazing. If he’s not one of the top five centers in the National Hockey League then there’s something wrong. Those hands are special and the one thing I always used to know about Nick is when we lost in the playoffs if you looked over at him he was genuinely just down. He wants to win all the time. He’s a real competitor and a solid person.