Five Questions: Ducks' Boudreau on Team Success
NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau:
Bruce Boudreau may very well be the envy of the hockey coaching world right now.
His Anaheim Ducks are the hottest team in the NHL and have opened a 13-point lead in the Pacific Division, arguably the best division in the League. The Ducks have a five-point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Presidents' Trophy race. They have won 17 of their past 18 games and are just about unbeatable at home with a 19-0-2 record at Honda Center this season.
Better yet, the weather in Southern California has been spectacular (low-to-mid 80s and sunny) and in 11 days the Ducks will have the opportunity to play against the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium in the first edition of the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series.
Life is good. The Ducks are better, at least for right now.
Boudreau talked about his team, its hot streak, and the right ways to handle success at this point in the season during a phone interview with NHL.com on Monday.
Here are Five Questions with … Bruce Boudreau:
Why has this team been able to go 17-1-0 in the past 18 games? What is working so well for you guys?
"We've been getting really good goaltending, opportune goals, and I think probably the most important thing is we've got really good people in the room and they like to win. We haven't had some of the greatest starts in history during these games, but they're a pretty determined group and we're playing as good as we can play. Sometimes we've met up with some teams with a lot of injuries and certain things, but to go through a record like this luck has to be on your side. We've had a lot of the breaks like that. Good things are happening for us and we hope they don't change."
The last team to win 17 of 18 games in the same regular season is one you're quite familiar with, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals. You were behind the bench then and you are now. Is there something about your coaching style that breeds this kind of sustained success?
"No, but I think the fact that I've been able to get jobs with two good teams and personnel helps. The Washington team was a little bit different. That year we scored so many goals. We would just get out and blow the team away in the first period and we'd end up with a 6-3 or 6-4 game because we'd let up in the third. This team here, we have to fight and claw and we have had a lot of one-goal games, but we're comfortable in one-goal games. We seem to thrive in them."
That leads me right to my next question. You touched on it and it's true, one aspect of the game in which the team has been very good is coming back from deficits. Ten of your past 18 wins have been in comebacks and you're a League-best 15-5-1 when the opponent scores first. What is the feeling like on the bench when you get down, and why do you think this team has been able to be so good when it is trailing?
"When we get down we really believe we're not playing as well as we can, so you know there is room for improvement. It's not like for the most part we've been playing so great and all of a sudden we're down, so how can we turn it up another notch because we're playing as good as we can. I think we believe when we do get scored on early and the team has a couple-goal lead that we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing. Then we start doing things right and when we do things right [we play better]. Look at it, we've got really good scoring depth up front if you look at all four lines, so one line usually comes through. Not everybody is going to have a good night. Usually if two lines aren't playing well, the other two are. So we've had success scoring goals from everybody."
GAA: 2.34 | SVP: 0.914
You also mentioned goaltending in your first answer and that point should be noted too. Jonas Hiller struggled earlier, giving up at least four goals in five of 11 starts from Oct. 22-Nov. 26. In his personal 14-game win streak he has allowed more than two goals only three times. What have you seen in his game that has changed and allowed him to go on this run?
"I think his confidence right now is sky high. There's no doubt in my mind that when he goes into the net he likes the challenge of having the target on his back, of teams wanting to score very badly on him. I think that's one of the things. His consistency of not letting in a soft goal has been really good. I can't think of the last time in this streak, other than maybe one time, when he let a soft goal go in. That's one out of the 14 games he's played. One goal where I'm thinking, 'Ah, maybe he should have had that one.'"
What do you do during a streak like this? It's your second time through it, the team can seemingly do no wrong now, so what is your job at this stage?
"Well, continue to push and not to let anybody get satisfied. It's easy to get complacent when you're winning, but the one thing I've learned in my years in the NHL is you have to keep getting better. You can play as good as you can, at the top of your level, but if you don't get better on a monthly, weekly, even daily basis, come playoff time teams will have made the playoffs that haven't played to their potential in the regular season but are really good teams. When they lift their game up to the level that they're capable of playing, we better be able to match that. And if we're playing as good as we can in December and January, come April and May teams will rise above that. I constantly remind players of that."