The Anaheim Ducks finished second in the Western Conference, winning their second Pacific Division banner and giving their fans high hopes for the post-season. They were expected to make the playoffs this season, but the finish, despite the presence of superstars like Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf, was a pleasant surprise.
A team with a 30-12-6 record was just knocked out of the playoffs by a team with a 24-16-8 record in a hard-fought seven game series. There's nothing to be ashamed of by that, except for the fact that the Ducks were outgunned when it mattered by a smarter Detroit team. People who counted the Red Wings out this season did so at their own risk. Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches in the league, and he proved it this series.
Bruce Boudreau was, again, outmatched. He actually told the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James that he was mentally tired after each game:
“It keeps you in the game,” Boudreau said after the Ducks’ morning skate. “You don’t have time to let your mind wander, for sure. You’re always looking at the other bench and at who they’re putting on, who is not playing as well for you as you think, and maybe making changes. You try to think three steps ahead, but it’s difficult.
“I know at the end of each of these games, I’m pretty whipped. That tells me I’m having to do more thinking than I really want to do. And besides, when you’re trying to match wits with Mike (Babcock), who has been in every pressure situation in the world, it’s not the easiest thing.”
Wow. Never mind, Michel Therrien. Boudreau just surpassed you as the leader in "what coaches don't need to say" contest. Sure, on one hand, you can view this as a compliment on Babcock's style - and it is. On the other hand, though, do you really want to say - in the middle of a series - that the other coach is making you think more and work harder than you want to?
Boudreau, by the end of the series, was showing the coaching fatigue, and this isn't the first (or the earliest) that this has happened. As coach of the Washington Capitals, he led explosive regular-season offenses no farther than the Eastern Conference semifinals. Fingers were often pointed at Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin, but this year it's Ryan Getzlaf who captained a Boudreau-led team. He's won a Stanley Cup, and is a bona fide successful playoff leader. He won't get the fickle finger his way.
Four straight Southeast Division banners might sound impressive - and they're nothing to scoff at. Neither's a Pacific Division banner. Boudreau teams have proven that their high-octane playing style can get them through the regular season with ease. Once the playoffs start, and the opposition's defense clamps down tighter than a clamshell, Boudreau never seems to have anything to counter with. Once the other team figures his team out, that's all she wrote. They melt faster than a pint of Haagen-Dazs.