Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remains confident heading into Game 3
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau remains confident following the Game 2 triple overtime loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. (Gary Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
The master motivator in Bruce Boudreau wasn’t about to let it slip to his Anaheim Ducks players that perhaps they were in tough against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The coach who had never been beyond the second round in his NHL career may have earlier wondered how he could match up to Chicago counter part Joel Quenneville, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the winningest active coach in the league.
But in agonizing defeat on Tuesday, Boudreau oddly gathered a boost of confidence.
The next day, players and coaches alike were still buzzing about the ‘Hawks triple overtime win in Game 2 of the Western Conference final back at the Honda Center -- and not just for the result.
The skill level of both teams combined with the high entertainment value from start to finish made it a memorable night, highlighting so much of what is good about the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But from Boudreau’s perspective, it validated the confidence he had prior to the beginning of the series that his team was capable of going toe-to-toe with a proven playoff powerhouse.
“It was two really good teams who didn’t want to lose going at it,” Boudreau said on Wednesday, an off-day for both teams to rest, recover and travel from California to the Windy City. “Both teams had an opportunity to win on numerous occasions.
“To me, it was a confidence boost, this game. I mean, yeah, we didn’t get the final result we wanted but for almost six periods we played really well. To me, that game was a game that I would look back and say ‘Hey, man, we can play with these guys.’ That’s the way I took it.”
Of course, Boudreau has been saying that for public consumption since the series began and may have even believed it. But even though the Ducks could easily have a commanding 2-0 series lead if just one of the three overtime crossbar shots found net instead of iron, suddenly they are the team facing the most pressure.
Imagine if the ‘Hawks had lost on Tuesday, a conclusion that so easily could have happened.
The questions heading into Game 3 would zero in on whether Chicago could respond, especially given the physical pounding the Ducks put them through in each of the two games. Instead, we’re wondering how Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and the rest of the Ducks will pick themselves up in the rip-roaring atmosphere of the United Center for the next two games.
“You know, never once did we think we were going to sweep the Chicago Blackhawks,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said on Wednesday. “We lost one, now we’ve just got to prepare again. It was a fun, emotional game. Obviously, you’d like to be on the winning side of it, but it is what it is.
“I think going into the series we were well aware we’re pretty evenly matched teams. There are going to be some pretty good hockey games. Overtime’s obviously part of playoff hockey and excitement. (Tuesday) was one of those great games.”
It was a great game on multiple levels, as anyone fortunate enough to be in the Honda Center would agree. From world-class goaltending at both ends, to high-end talent and speed, to the sustained effort that had very few lulls, it was a treat to watch.
And through it all, the Blackhawks enhanced their reputation as playoff and overtime machines. The last four triple overtime games in the NHL playoffs have all involved Chicago and they’ve captured three of them. The most recent came in Game 4 in Nashville in the opening round of these playoffs and the ‘Hawks are 3-0 overall in OT this post season.
But you have to love Boudreau’s reaction to Tuesday’s game and the overall attitude he is projecting to his team. Heavy in veterans, this is a team that keeps on coming at you, ready to slug it out in the centre of the ring as well as in the corners.
“We’ve done it all year,” Boudreau said when asked how he expected his team to bounce back. “I would be more surprised if we weren’t able to rebound and play a really great game than if it was the other way around.
“I’ve been with this group for a long time now. You can see it. They were, rightfully so, very angry (on Tuesday night). Not disappointed, but angry. That’s a good thing.”
The Nashville Predators provided the Blackhawks with some moments of concern, the Minnesota Wild, not so much.
But the Anaheim Ducks are proving to be a considerable step up in class for the ‘Hawks, who still managed a 1-1 split in the opening two games in Southern California.
“I think you get to this point where it’s evident what’s on the line, a trip to the Stanley Cup final,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said on Wednesday as his team attempted to recover from Tuesday’s triple overtime win and prepare for Game 3 here at the United Center on Thursday.
“I think both teams know what we’re playing for. We expected, regardless of who we were going to play against coming into the series, it was going to be a step up and it was going to be tougher hockey.
“We felt that last year, the same thing against L.A. I think we can continue to bring it higher and higher as we go through the series.”
Recover was the big order of the day for both teams. Neither practised as they faced a long flight back from Southern California.
“(On Tuesday night) we enjoyed it, we laughed and had a good time in the locker room,” Toews said. “But before long, I think fatigue set in. We were ready to jump into bed, try to get as much rest as we could.”