LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 19, 2019
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Ovechkin, Boudreau Conference Call

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone, and I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to our call. With us we have Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau and Capitals forward, Alexander Ovechkin. Thanks to both of them for taking the time to answer your questions, and thanks to Nate Ewell and Paul Rovnak of the Capitals media relations for arranging the call.

Alex was named the "First Star" for this past week after recording seven points as the Caps won two of three games for the week. Against Atlanta on Friday he recorded two goals and two assists bringing his league leading totals to 60 goals, 46 assists and 106 points. He's the first NHL'er to reach the 60-goal plateau since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did it in 1996.

Heading into tomorrow's match up with Carolina in Raleigh (EDITOR'S NOTE: The Caps won 3-2 in a shootout, and Ovechkin scored his 61st goal), they have a record of 37-31-8 for 82 points, five behind the Hurricanes for the divisional lead, and two points behind Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since being named the 14th head coach in Capitals history on November 22, Bruce has posted a record of 31-17-7.

Ovechkin will drink your milkshake.

Q. Fifty is huge, 60 is amazing in this day and age, how did it feel to get No. 60?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Felt pretty well, but when I scoring, my mind was not 60, my mind was keeping going and you know, score one more or two more two wins game, you know.

Q. Wayne Gretzky has recently been quoted as saying he really loved to score goals when he was scoring but he says every goal for you is a huge celebration. You obviously love it very much.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Yeah, I like making nice plays, and I just don't keep my emotions. I just give my emotions.

Q. Your surge has been incredible, but still tough to gain ground with all of these three-point games going on, is that a little frustrating at times?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: After a while it is, of course, because if you win four in a row and you've only gained one point, it's not that easy to win that many in a row. But I mean, the way I'm looking at it is if you keep winning, eventually you're going to gain, and if you look now in the last two weeks, it's all inter-divisional play. As long as there's not too many three-point games and you do what your job is supposed to do, and that's win, you will gain on somebody.

Q. A lot of us wrote you guys off after those heartbreaking weekend losses March 8 and 9 against Boston and Pittsburgh. What did you do as a coach to keep the guys minds on the ball, or their eyes on the ball?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: I don't really know if I did anything. I mean, they are such a great, resilient group. I think they were more angry than they were disappointed. And they knew -- I think we said all along, they knew how many games we could afford to lose maybe before we got in the playoffs or before we were eliminated from the playoffs, and we had a couple of days to regroup after that, which was great. Gave us a chance to get everything else going again and I think after that, we had a four-game win streak.

Q. Question for Alex. I was reading some of your comments in your interview on television after your 60th goal. It doesn't sound like you are nearly as interested in talking about your individual success right now. You seem to -- it seems almost annoying for to you talk about it because you are trying to make the playoffs.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Yeah, the last two years in that time, we don't play enough, we think about vacation and we think about what we're doing in the summer. You know, we don't think about playoffs and right now we have a great chance to move forward and take one step forward and be in that spot. My personal stats, it's personal stats, but right now I think about the team.

Q. When you came up to coach the Capitals, you head-coached a number of these players two years ago when they won the Calder Cup in Hershey and last year when they played the final against Hamilton. You challenged them and said if the team was going to win the Stanley Cup this year, and a lot of people at that point didn't consider the possibility that that might happen. Can you talk a little bit about the response of your players to that challenge, because look where you are now. And then when you're done, Alex, can you talk about your new coach coming in and saying this team is going to compete for the Stanley Cup this year? What thoughts went through your mind when you heard that?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, my thought initially is, I never want to set the bar too low where you're only trying to make the playoffs. I mean, if you don't shoot for the moon, to me, you're not shooting high enough. So I mean, my biggest thing when I came in was -- I don't know if it was challenging, but it was wanting them to believe that they are capable of doing it. 

I still believe we are. We are not in a playoff position yet, but you know, I mean, we want to make the playoffs and we believe we are going to be there, but the Stanley Cup is our prize; not making the playoffs, even though people outside of our dressing room would firmly believe that if we made the playoffs, it would be a great accomplishment.

Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup like everybody else's. And we look at Edmonton a couple of years ago, just squeaking in in the eighth and going to the finals in seven games; so I mean, I don't think it's that far-fetched a goal. And I mean, I hope the players thought that it wasn't that farfetched a goal.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: He just tells us like we are good players and we are a great team and we just have to believe each other. So he came before the Philadelphia game and, you know, everybody was worried because it was a new coach and a couple guys worked with Bruce in Hershey. He knows the team a little bit, and our team started believing in each other and started winning games. You know, you see right now the results. I think nobody wants to play against us.

Q. Alexander, about 15 years ago, when he was playing with Vancouver, Pavel Bure had 60 goals twice; can you talk a little about was Bure an inspiration to you, was he somebody that you were following as you were growing up?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Not really. Like, you know, my favorite player was Nolan and Iginla because I like a physical game and I play physical and they score goals. Bure was one of the great players, but he was not my favorite player.

Q. This is the first go-around even on a playoff bubble now, can you just describe what it is like now, every day being on the playoff bubble; are you constantly looking at the standings and seeing what other teams are doing, or are just more worried about what you are doing or is it hard not to look at the standings?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Of course overall I think all of my teammates look at the results, like Boston or Philly, and what is the standings. I watch a lot of games, Philadelphia plays the New York Islanders. I like the atmosphere. I like being in that spot, like, you know, every day, anything can happen. So I think all of my teammates right now are pretty excited and can't wait when we move forward.

Q. I was curious when you have a team that really when you think about it, there is very little, if not any, room for errors at this point; do you worry about them playing to not make mistakes? Because I know that's what Coach has always preached, you can't worry about mistakes and all that.

BRUCE BOUDREAU: I'm sure we worry about mistakes, but you know, we want to be proactive, and if we make mistakes, we just want to recover from it. But I find if we push it and push, push, push, we are going to probably create more mistakes than the other teams. And our guys are pretty good, and we believe that they know the way that they play, and the mistakes they are going to make are mistakes of effort, and not mistakes of just sitting back and not doing the right thing.

So if they make mistakes of effort, then we have to accept them, because those are the mistakes you do accept. If the mistakes that you miss an assignment because you go to the wrong spot that are hard to take, and we think that our guys know the way we play at this time, pretty well.

Q. If you do get in, it's possible it won't happen until the last game, which is the second to last day of the season.   There's a lot of uncertainty there. How do you deal with that? How do you deal with the uncertainty of not knowing if you're going to be playing past April 6?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: Well, we don't worry in the future. We talk about tomorrow, and then on Wednesday we'll talk about Tampa. We've talked and that's the way we have done it all along. I know it's a cliché, but the whole one-day-at-a-time thing. If we come into play Florida next week and it's the last game, we are not going to be sitting and talking about what happens if it's done. If anything, we'll say, okay, we'll have a meeting -- we'll have a meeting the following day to determine where we're going for the playoffs and that will be it.

We can't worry about what we have no control over, but we can control if we win, and we are going to continue playing, and that's the one thing we do know.

Q. Is it easier for a head coach in a situation like yours these last couple of weeks where your players don't need my motivation, or is there any new challenge in managing or controlling their nerves and emotions?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: You know, I don't really know because I haven't been in this situation either. I have to control my own nerves.  I'm usually watching the race for the Stanley Cup. And now, sometimes I pinch myself that we're in it.But the players don't need any motivation, and at the same time, young men get complacent and they need somebody to push them. I think that we don't allow them as a coaching staff to get too complacent. We want to push, push, push, which is I think what we do every day. The last two weeks have been pretty exciting but every time something negative happens, we bounce back pretty well.

Q. These last two weeks, and then these upcoming two weeks, how does this rank in excitement and pressure relative to your experiences with the Olympics and the world championship?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: Well, that was last week, last month, and it was a great experience for me. And everybody in the Washington organization because everybody is excited and everybody is a little bit maybe nervous, maybe, I don't know, how to say it, but right now it's a great time for us and for me and for my team. You know, Bruce is right, like we don't look forward. We only look one game. Tomorrow we have a game against Carolina and after that game, we look to the next game. We don't look forward.

Q. With the amount of success that you've had this season, does it validate the Russian hockey developmental program?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: Explain "validate."

Q. You know, does it support what the program has done?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: In other words, is the way the young players in Russia play, is it sort of better than what they do in North America?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: You know, I think me and the other players, we just play our way, and you know, we just play how we can, and Kovalchuk, goal-scoring leader, Malkin, more of a passing guy, and Kovalev, great hands, and we just use our key and it's working I think. So I don't know how to explain it, but it's Russian hockey. You know, like if you can see Crosby or Lecavalier they play the way they do, we just play how we can, and just try to use our style and use what we can.

Q. Will your success and the success of the Russian NHL'ers will lead to a brighter future for the Russian developmental program?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: I think we have great coaches, kids coaches, and I think right now, if we see a couple of years and how we're playing in the World Championship, World Cup, Olympic games, we play well. We don't win, but we always are one of the top teams.

Q. I know you're not thinking personal statistics, but can you talk about the excitement you and Malkin have generated with the fans in the scoring race?

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN: I always think about my personal statistics. I always want to be the best. But right now, the time you know, I don't care about different team, I care about my team and myself. I just want to help my team to win the game and bring points.

Q. You mentioned earlier the run the Oilers made a few years ago and the success that they had. Can you explain what do you feel is the importance of having home-ice advantage in the playoffs?  Is it as big as people make it out to be? Obviously Edmonton had a nice run there on the road on their road to the Cup.

BRUCE BOUDREAU: I think I would be lying if you said you didn't like to play in front of your own fans. But I don't think teams really care where they are playing. I think every team gets up emotionally for it, and they block out -- if they are on the road, they block out the home fans. But I mean, if you had a preference, you'd like to play all your games at home. But I don't think it's a preference. I don't think it bothered Edmonton at all, and I don't think it will bother us, and if you look around the League, there's closer now than ever before more teams playing over .500 hockey on the road.   So I don't think it has as big of an effect as it has had in the past.

Q. Most of the focus is on Philly, the eight-spot and you have two games starting tomorrow night with Carolina; is your eye still also on the ball in terms of the divisional seed if you end up on top there?

BRUCE BOUDREAU: We know it's a little bit tougher because we are five back, but we do have them twice. We'll take whatever. I mean, eighth, seventh -- if second overall in the conference isn't out of control yet, Montréal may be a little farther. Depending on who wins, it may make 92 points and there's only one team with that or more at this stage. But if we beat Carolina, we're worried about Florida right on our tails, and they play Carolina again. So anything can happen. And by hook or by crook, it doesn't matter how we get in or what position we get in; we just want to get in.

LCS Hockey: Born Again
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