"You've got to be true to yourself. I found that I was getting away from that this year. People were saying, ‘Do this' and ‘Do that.' I wasn't doing what I believed was the right thing. ... A head coach needs to be doing what he believes is right. I don't know why I got away from it, because everything I had done was right - or it worked." - Bruce Boudreau
December 12, 2010. That's when it all changed.
With the entire hockey world watching as HBO's cameras captured the captain and coaches now famously trying to ignite their team, the Washington Capitals were summarily dismantled by the New York Rangers, dropping a 7-0 decision to their hosts. If Madison Square Garden were a shed, the Blueshirts took the Caps behind it, sending the visitors packing with a sixth-consecutive loss. Two more losses would follow for Washington before Mathieu Perreault helped snap the streak in Ottawa with a pair of goals in a 3-2 victory that was equal parts relief and resuscitation.
But the damage had been done. That eight-game losing streak wasn't simply a bump in the road en route to a second-consecutive Eastern Conference regular season title; it was the beginning of the end - of this chapter, at least - for the Capitals.
Brooks Laich (via Eliotte Friedman) recounts the aftermath of that night in Manhattan:
It was their first meeting after a gruesome 7-0 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 12.
"We had a day off after that game," said Brooks Laich, after the Capitals won the Winter Classic.
"I remember thinking we were going to get a visit from the GM when we got back."
Instead, they got a message from head coach Bruce Boudreau. Something along the lines of: "Guys, we're going to play the trap." It is the first time in his coaching career Boudreau's used it.
There it was. The trap.
It worked, to varying degrees, for Boudreau and later for Dale Hunter. Boudreau's Caps went on a 30-12-8 run and advanced to the second round of the following spring's playoffs, but a cold run after a hot start in the fall of 2011 would be the end of Boudreau (whatever happened to him, anyway?). Hunter's snooze-inducing version of the trap snuck the Caps into the playoffs on the season's last weekend and ended up knocking off the defending champs and pushing the East's top seed to a seventh game in Round Two.
Sometimes the coin-flip comes up heads, sometimes it doesn't.
Capitals: When Everything Changed... And If It Needed To
Japers' Rink | Feb 7