- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2011

Tomas Vokoun heard about it driving to the rink from his wife, who lives in Florida. Troy Brouwer and Karl Alzner found out the news from reading it on the Internet.

Bruce Boudreau was fired as coach of the Washington Capitals, and players really had no other choice but to assume the brunt of the responsibility after a horrid stretch of hockey that pushed the team with the best start in the NHL into a tailspin.

“He prepared us and did the best he could for every one of the games that we played, and we didn’t execute as good as we should’ve,” Brouwer said. “Sometimes it’s the coach that has to be the fall guy.”

The Capitals started 7-0-0, but a 5-9-1 stretch since that time led to Boudreau being dismissed in a 6:15 a.m. meeting with general manager George McPhee.

McPhee made the move because he felt that the Caps had lost Boudreau’s voice.

“For whatever reason, as a team we weren’t really responding well enough or as good as we should have been,” said Alzner, a defenseman. “And it’s kind of ‘Where do you go from there?’ And that’s when they come into play, the guys upstairs. And they do what they have to do.”

What McPhee felt he had to do was fire Boudreau and hire Dale Hunter as the team’s coach. But it was a 3-7-1 stretch under Boudreau that had the Capitals talking about losing confidence — and then talking about losing the man who has been in charge here since Thanksgiving 2007.

“I didn’t think it’s going to happen [now]. Eventually I thought it would happen if we keep doing what we were doing,”Vokoun said. “I didn’t think it’s going to happen this quickly. But we’re all to blame. Me personally not playing up [to] my standards — also probably 18 other guys in this locker room doing the same thing.”

Multiple players noted that this is the “business” of hockey. Coaches get fired based on results, unfulfilled expectations and a lack of cohesion.

“I’m a little surprised, but obviously in this business that’s how it works,” alternate captain Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’ve just got to deal with it. I think we had the capability to be higher up in the standings than we are.”

Captain Alex Ovechkin, who has eight goals and nine assists and a minus-7 rating, was the only player to use the word “shock” to describe his reaction to a move that came after two ugly losses.

“After it happened, I have 15 missed calls, 15 messages. It is a shocking situation, but it is what it is,” Ovechkin said.

Generally, players weren’t surprised because their play indicated that Boudreau’s message wasn’t getting through. At times, even the effort was lacking.

“I think we had spurts of great hockey. We had spurts of terrible hockey. We had spurts of a lot of work ethic, and other times we weren’t,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “It was just too much of a roller coaster — with emotions, with play, with things that make us successful. We weren’t doing what we needed to do to win.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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