May 10, 2011

Fischler Report: Lightning coach Boucher living large

by Stan Fischler

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher (photo: Getty)

Guy Boucher tells us that he would have been just as content to spend the rest of his career coaching in the minors had he not been invited to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I've enjoyed coaching at every level I've been at so far," the Lightning’s rookie coach said. "What made my introduction to the Lightning so special is that the first time I ever met with Steve Yzerman, we knew that we both liked and understood each other."

The positive chemistry between GM and coach has been part of the Bolts' winning equation. Ditto Boucher's leadership. When his club was down, 3-1, in first-round games to Pittsburgh, Boucher put the accent on calm.

"We checked on what we had done wrong from the first game on and worked on improving each time,” he said. “When Game 5 came, all our focus was on that game and that alone. There was a relaxed atmosphere and it's all part of our thinking."

Boucher bridles when he hears critics constantly refer to his 1-3-1 system as the Lightning’s only modus operandi.

“We use it sometimes,” he said. “But we have several other techniques that we use depending on the occasion.”

Meanwhile, when someone asks Boucher about Sean Bergenheim’s outstanding playoff work, Tampa Bay’s leader aptly points out, “Don’t forget his linemates – Dominic Moore and Steve Downie. They are just as important.”

(In other words, Boucher is telling the media to stop exaggerating!)

Observations

* Colin Campbell rates a standing ovation for his decision to crackdown on diving and players faking an assortment of injuries. One of the most common con-jobs involves players snapping their heads back in an effort to inspire a penalty against the foe.

“Diving is increased in the playoffs as the stakes are higher, and when players get desperate, they take their credibility and honor and they throw it out the window,” warned Campbell. “Through our supervisors, we warned all the teams not to embellish. It’s becoming rampant, and we’re going to start calling the penalty more often. We’ll ramp it up next round. You may not like it, but we’ll point out the guys who we feel will embellish calls.”

Gossip

Owner Ted Leonsis’ (Lowell, Mass.) post-exit honesty is getting more plaudits than his playoff-ousted Capitals did.

An articulate, regular blogger, Washington’s affable owner succinctly explained his club’s ouster by Tampa Bay in a four-game, second-round sweep.

“Their role players outplayed our highest-paid players,” he said. “Their goaltending and special teams were better. They adhered to their coaches’ system better than we did. The wheels just fell off for us.”

Now, the most pressing question in D.C. is whether or not Bruce Boudreau will be back as the Caps bench boss next season. When it comes to focusing on who'll coach Washington, the most decisive character -- after Leonsis and GM George McPhee -- will be Alex Ovechkin. If Washington's captain emphatically supports Boudreau in conversations with the owner and GM, rest assured that Double B will be – as he should be – back.

* One of the most arresting decisions, post-playoffs, is what the Flyers high command concludes about goaltending. Does the Ed Snider-Paul Holmgren general staff go with Sergei Bobrovsky or do they once and for all listen to critics who urge Philly to sign a proven, name netminder such as Ilya Brzgalov? Figure on them staying with Bob.

* Joe Thornton did not do himself any favors in Game 5 in San Jose on Sunday night. His outrageous dive after a love-tap from Detroit’s Johan Franzen is not what we expect from an
otherwise distinguished captain. Hopefully Jumbo Joe has learned a lesson.

* At least through five games of the second round, former University of Maine star Jimmy Howard has proven that he’s here to stay as Detroit’s top banana in the nets.

*Howard Baldwin says he's aiming to have the Whale in Hartford lead the AHL in attendance next season. In an interview with the Hartford Courant's Jeff Jacobs, Baldwin asserted, "I'm more enthusiastic than ever. We put some energy back in the building and some people in the building. I'm absolutely adamant that our average attendance is closer to 10,000 next season.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@aol.com.