Brooks Laich defends Boudreau and the Caps
Very few of the Caps were overly critical of the team's playing style during Friday's exit interviews, but they certainly know the criticism is out there. Brooks Laich was asked explicitly about that critique, and the idea that the Boudreau system just can't work in the postseason.
"I wish I could swear about that right now, but I can't, because that criticism is unjust," Laich said. "Nobody cares about the Capitals more than Bruce. There's no coach in the NHL that's more prepared than Bruce. He's at the rink earlier than any coach, he watches hockey later at night than any coach.
"Any criticism directed toward him should be directed toward us as players. We didn't execute. And none of the blame should be on him. He makes the game so easy for us to play. I can't say enough. Him, Dean Evason, Bob Woods. I've raved about these guys. I've raved about Dean for the five years I've been with him. Bruce, I won a championship with him [in Hershey], so I know that his style can be effective in the postseason. Just the blame falls on us as players, and it should be in no way directed towards any of the coaching staff."
Some of the players did suggest that the effort was somehow lacking in the postseason, and when told this, Laich again strongly disagreed.
"I'm always on the defensive on that," Laich said. "People don't know how much we care about this. So when somebody says that, I kind of take that to heart, and I'll really fight that until the end of the day. Because I believe in our players, I believe in how hard our guys try. You know, Montreal did a good job on us. They did a good job. They were determined, too. And I don't know specifically who that person's talking about or what they saw, but from my standpoint, I competed as hard as I could. You try and win, and when it doesn't go your way, it's really really frustrating."
Laich -- who is flying out Saturday for the world championships in Germany -- also was asked if he wants to see the current group return for another try.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's the oldest cliché ever, but they say sometimes you have to lose to learn to win. This is bitter disappointment, but in no way does it ever shake the belief in our players. I think we have a tremendous group of guys, and I think we are on the right path. We just have to learn things.
"We have to become better, we have to take the next step to become a postseason team. Winning a Presidents' Trophy is one thing, that's a step in the right direction, but now we have to take that even further, and I believe in our players in the locker room, every single one of them. I hope they're all back. Obviously with the salary cap here and unrestricted free agency, that might be tough to get everybody back, but they're good friends and I think they're great professionals, and I enjoy playing alongside them, and I believe in them. So I don't think there's any reason to blow anything up...."
"As a group, our best players are kids. Nicky Backstrom is 21 years old, 22. Alex Ovechkin's 24. Most kids are just getting out of college and still living at their parents' house or something and looking for a summer job at that age. So our young guys are still learning, and they're getting better. The talent and the upside is incredible with these guys. But there are areas where we can improve, and I think this loss is gonna make everybody a lot more motivated, give us a kick in the ass."
Of course, this sounds similar to what was said last year after the loss to the Penguins. Laich was asked this, too: why last year's disappointment wasn't a kick enough, and why the lessons weren't internalized then.
"Well, and it seemed like throughout the year for the most part that we had," Laich said. "After that loss, I remember talking here last year, saying how disappointed I was and how mad I was, and you take that with you. People underestimate how much this stings, and it's because you tried so hard, and it's because you want it so much.
"In the regular season I think we proved that we had learned a little bit from last year, and then unfortunately things didn't go our way in playoffs. But it's tough to sit here and say I've learned a lot from [the Montreal series] already. I have to watch the games, I have to let it sink in, I've got to take some time to really understand what went on and to analyze it from an unemotional point of view. And then you figure out ways to improve."
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