April 12, 2012

Aucoin set to make long-awaited NHL playoff debut

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON – To say Capitals forward Keith Aucoin has waited a long time to participate in the NHL playoffs might just be the biggest understatement one could ever profess. 

Prior to be called up by the Capitals, Keith Aucoin (Chelmsford, Mass.) had 70 points in just 43 games for the Hershey Bears. (Getty)

The Chelmsford, Mass., native has an array of accolades on his hockey résumé. After winning a state championship with Chelmsford High, Aucoin shined at Norwich University and led the school to a Division 3 national title in 2000. After ranking among the AHL’s leading scorers countless times, the 5-foot-8 forward won back-to-back championships with the Caps’ top minor-league affiliate, the Hershey Bears, in 2009 and 2010.

He’s played in a total of 825 regular season games in the UHL, the ECHL, the AHL, the CHL and the NHL as a pro and 93 minor-league playoff contests. He’s been everywhere and he’s done just about everything but suit up for a postseason tilt in the National Hockey League. The fact that he’ll finally get to do so in his hometown makes Thursday’s series opener against the Boston Bruins all the more special.

“Yeah, I’m excited to get going,” said Aucoin, who had 11 points in 27 regular season games for Washington this year. “Obviously I’m going to be a little nervous going out there for warm-ups, playing in front of family and friends for the first time in the playoffs, but once you get out there it’s just another game.”

As expected, Aucoin idolized the Black and Gold during his days growing up in the Bay State.

“I grew up a pretty big Bruins fan,” he said. “I watched Ray Bourque his whole career when he was here. Me and my whole family were Bruins fans and we’d watch them a lot.”

The Aucoin clan spent plenty of time in the old Boston Garden when Keith was a kid.

“I probably went to five to ten games a year,” said Aucoin, who played for the P-Bruins in 2002-03 and 2004-05. “Obviously when I was younger it was the Boston Garden. My Christmas present every year was Bruins’ tickets.”

The two-time Calder Cup champion sang the praises of fans throughout Boston.

“They’re passionate about all their sports,” said Aucoin. “It’s live or die for every game and it’s a great sports town. Fans are real knowledgeable about all their sports and they expect a lot out of their teams.”

Aucoin, was among them last year when the B’s advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, where they defeated Vancouver to win their first championship in 39 years.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I didn’t see many playoff games last year. We were on vacation, so I missed a lot of the playoffs once we (the Capitals) were out of the playoffs. I saw a couple of the games in the finals and obviously I was rooting for them. It was great for the city. They were due. It was good to see them do that, especially for all the Bruins fans that have been fans for a long time.”

While Aucoin took great joy in watching Boston capture the Cup last spring, it’s safe to say he won’t be rooting for the Black and Gold at any point in the next two weeks, as he hopes to make the most of his first trip to the playoffs a the NHL level. Now in his 11th pro season, he’s certainly earned the opportunity to do just that.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.