Bruce, All Mighty

By Mike Wise
Friday, October 10, 2008

They all say he hasn't changed. His players. His bosses. Himself. Yet Bruce Boudreau, hockey's Crash Davis, who spent 32 years in the minor leagues as a player and coach, pulled up to work yesterday in a Mercedes sedan. He left for the team flight to Atlanta for the Capitals' first game of the season dressed in coal-black, pinstriped wool, with a mauve shirt and matching tie.

What gives, Coach Slapshot?

"The suit is 200 bucks," Boudreau explained. "It's not exactly Jos. [A. Bank], you know."

The car, it turns out, was leased to the NHL's 2008 coach of the year after he filmed a commercial for a local car dealership in which his only request was a "Cup holder. A big Cup holder." His wife, Crystal, often co-opts it, leaving Boudreau with a Chevy Impala he often prefers over luxury.

"If I can ever learn the [Mercedes's] buttons, I'll be a real wizard," he said. "Oh, man, I don't know what the hell they are."

Chris Clark, the Capitals' veteran right wing, said: "He's looking for a suit promotion, so if there's anybody out there that can help him . . . "

"Same stains on his shirt, same lines," said David Steckel, the Capitals' second-year center, who played for Boudreau in Washington last season and with the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., where Boudreau was plucked from last Thanksgiving to take over a cellar-smelling, 6-14-1 team. He was named head coach on an "interim" basis.

"He only knows how to coach one way, the way that's successful," Steckel said. "So I don't think he'll ever change."

Maybe not, but the expectations have -- going from, oh, roughly nothing to everything in less than six months.

That great back story of the 53-year-old, frumpy, stumpy puck lifer from Toronto, who finally got his shot to coach an NHL team and responded by guiding Alex Ovechkin and his teammates to the Southeast Division title on the last day of the regular season? Who went the distance with the Flyers in a pulsating, seven-game series, two weeks of theater that made forever-suffering Caps fans euphoric about their hockey team again?

So last season.

"The big difference is we're not surprising anybody," Boudreau said yesterday in Arlington before the Caps left for Atlanta, the day before Saturday's banner-hanging opening night at Verizon Center.

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