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Bruce Boudreau lost in a Game 7 on Wednesday night, which essentially means he was coaching in the playoffs. Although he probably won’t be coaching the Anaheim Ducks any longer because of it.
That Boudreau has gone 1-7 in Game 7s with two different franchises during his coaching career is just a stunning and stupefying stat. Stunning because it’s hard to conceive of a coach whose regular-season success could cancel out such postseason disappointment, but Boudreau could be a Jack Adams finalist and be looking for a job this month. Stupefying because that’s either bad coaching, bad playing, bad luck or some other supernaturally bad thing happening.
Why does the same thing happen to the same guy seven times, like he’s some kind of hockey-centric John McClane? (OK, in fairness, there already was a hockey-centric John McClane, and he murdered the Penguins’ mascot.)
Here are five reasons why Bruce Boudreau can’t seem to win a Game 7. We were going to go to seven but in the spirit of the subject at hand, we fell just short.
1. Guess What: His Teams Aren’t Actually That Bad In Game 7s
In the seven Games 7 Boudreau teams have lost, the average margin of defeat is two goals, mainly because of those four-goal losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the LA Kings. Otherwise, he’s had four one-goal losses and another by two goals. Which is to say that his teams, by and large, aren’t getting blown out in these losses.
As our buddy JP noted about Bruce’s Game 7 performances:
By my math...
Boudreau's teams in G7's: 1-8, 55.1 5v5 CF%, 5.1 5v5 Sh%, .867 5v5 Sv%
Boudreau's teams in close-outs: 5-13, 55.6, 5.6, .892
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 28, 2016
So a 94.8 5v5 PDO for ol' Bruce in close-out games, which drops to 91.8 in Game 7's. But yeah, bad coach. Shoot better and save more, Bruce!
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 28, 2016
Which brings us to:
2. Unreliable Goaltending
As Japers noted, the EV save percentage for Boudreau’s Game 7 teams was .868, which is atrocious.
Here are the goalies that played in those games:
Cristobal Huet, Semyon Varlamov (as a rookie, and then as a sophomore), Jonas Hiller, John Gibson (as a rookie, replaced by Hiller), Frederik Anderson (twice).
Outside of Varlamov, who was again just a youngin’ in those playoffs, there isn’t a clear No. 1 starter in the bunch. There certainly isn’t a Henrik Lundqvist or a Corey Crawford or a Pekka Rinne – three goalies that faced Boudreau’s teams in Game 7.
Now, granted, Boudreau’s constant goalie shuffling can be blamed for some of the wonky netminding his teams experience in the postseason. But not as much as management should be blamed for not solidifying the position better. Especially in Anaheim.
3. Game 6
As you’re no doubt aware, this is the fourth straight season in which the Anaheim Ducks lost in Game 6 with a chance to eliminate their opponents, and then lost in Game 7 to be eliminated themselves.
Overall, Boudreau is 4-5 in Games 6, including series that didn’t go seven. His other Game 6 loss was to the Montreal Canadiens in that epic upset in the first round.
Five Game 6 losses leading to Game 7 defeats. What if being the higher seed – as Boudreau’s teams always are – and having their backs forced against the wall by opponents playing with house money has proven too much to handle?
Which brings us to …
4. Tension Convention
Boudreau is not an automaton. He’s an emotional coach, whose teams feed off that emotion. Sometimes that’s for the better, as he bellows from the bench and gets his team into another gear. And sometimes, we expect, it’s for the worst. Highs are high, lows are low, and just like dogs can smell fear, players can smell panic. Confident and collected aren’t necessarily byproducts of five Game 6 losses.
So how does that manifest in a Game 7?
Consider this: His teams start terribly in Game 7s. In six out of the seven losses, the opposing team – i.e. the road team, since Bruce’s teams are always a higher seed – scored the first goal. The lone team to score first was the 2008 Capitals against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin’s first playoff season. Maybe they’re tense out of the gate, and fail to light the lamp first?
5. He Found A Four-Leaf Clover, Mistook It For A Lucky Charms Marshmallow And Ate It.
5. Players Play The Game
Can Boudreau be faulted for his Game 7 record? Without question. It has to be more than coincidence, and there have been personnel and tactical decisions – get the Getzlaf line the hell away from Toews! – that have come back to haunt him.
But in the end, it’s on the goalies to not have a terrible save percentage at even strength in an elimination game, and it’s on the players whom you’d expect to make difference to, you know, make one. So when Alex Semin goes scoreless in three Game 7s and Mike Green musters up an assist and Nicklas Backstrom gets one goal in three games, that’s an issue. When Ryan Getzlaf gets three assists in four games with no goals, and when Corey Perry’s two goals in four games are arguably scored in garbage time, that’s an issue.
Boudreau is the common thread through these playoff disappointments, but he’s not the only reason these teams unravel.
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