- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bruce Boudreau has known nothing but success since he joined the Washington Capitals organization.

Whether leading the Hershey Bears to back-to-back trips to the Calder Cup Finals or guiding the Caps to a Southeast Division title, Boudreau consistently has racked up victories.

This month has been a new experience for Boudreau.

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His Caps are 0-for-March to this point, and their current four-game losing skid is the longest of his tenure.

“I was thinking about that last night,” Boudreau said when asked about his last four-game slide. “It was five years ago in Manchester. It has been a while, and I don’t like it.”

The Caps will try to eradicate the recent funk Tuesday night in Nashville. This has been a trying time for Boudreau, who has experienced his first true taste of adversity as an NHL coach.

Last season’s Jack Adams Award winner has had to find a balance between fixing the team’s problems while motivating his players to give more or better effort.

“He doesn’t like losing at all,” forward Eric Fehr said. “He’s trying to take different approaches - giving us time off one day, working us extra hard one day. He’s trying to find the right way to handle it. He’s not used to losing streaks like this, and neither are we. Hopefully we can turn it around for him.”

Added veteran defenseman Tom Poti: “I think that one of his best attributes is he always knows what to say at the right time. It has been no different these past four games. That’s one of the biggest things he brings to the table - he has this uncanny ability to know when to yell or when to be nice and give you a pat on the back. That’s one of the most important things as a coach.”

After the Caps were embarrassed in back-to-back blowouts against Florida and Carolina, Boudreau scolded players for their lack of passion. But after the past two defeats - a 2-1 decision to Toronto without Poti and Alex Ovechkin and a shootout loss to surging Pittsburgh - he took a different tone.

In fact, Boudreau was probably more positive with his feedback about the game against the Penguins than he has been in some of the team’s victories this season.

“I really take my lessons from being a parent,” Boudreau said. “These are our kids here, and you can’t always yell at your kids. Sometimes they need a pat on the back. Sometimes they need a kick somewhere else.

“It is mostly on feel. I think being in this business for 34 years, I’ve sort of got a feel for that. I don’t wake up in the morning and go, ‘Ah, I can’t wait to yell at them.’ You can see it in their body language and how they’re feeling. They need sometimes to be told that they’re good.”

When Boudreau was angry with his troops last week, they felt it during a lengthy, intense practice with plenty of extra skating at the end. The past couple of workouts have been mild in comparison.

Given the grind of the schedule, Boudreau can’t overwork players in practice like he might have in the minors. Instead, there has been more work on areas of need - better execution on the power play, driving to the net for rebounds and defensive positioning.

“He gets upset, but he addresses what needs to be addressed and you fix it,” defenseman Mike Green said. “When things aren’t going well, if you’re given the wrong information about what is wrong, then you never get out of it. When stuff is wrong, he knows exactly why we’re losing hockey games and what we’re doing wrong. The next day it is addressed, and it is over and done with. He’s good about that.”

Added defenseman Jeff Schultz: “There’s been a lot of mistakes we’ve learned from. He’s done a lot of teaching in the last few days. We’ve had our thinking caps on the last couple of practices.”

Boudreau has a well-earned reputation for catch phrases and motivational analogies. He often likes to compare something in hockey to other sports, and phrases like “the difference between a rut and a groove” and “meat and potatoes” are regulars during his meetings with the media.

He can also get a little philosophical. After the game Sunday, he talked to his players about charting a hockey season on a graph with curves that go up and down (he feels his team is on an upward curve).

“I have no idea where they come from,” Boudreau said. “When I get on a rant, I just start talking. I’ve said once, ‘You’ve got to grab the bull by the head,’ instead of the horns. Sometimes I don’t know what is coming out, but they understand.”

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