Bruce Boudreau fell into the booth at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub on Tuesday afternoon and almost seemed excited when his lunch mate’s digital recorder hit the table.
“I’ve been bored out of my mind. It seems we last played a year ago,” the jovial coach said.
Boudreau’s successful first season behind the Wild’s bench — Minnesota set a franchise record with 49 victories and 106 points, the second most in the Western Conference — ended in utter disappointment with a five-game, first-round playoff exit to the St. Louis Blues a month ago.
“It’s funny. I went to the office today and we’re all down there watching video because we’re all bored,” Boudreau said. “I’ve been watching these playoff games a little more intently for whatever reason. As each passing game goes, I get madder because I believe that our team — we didn’t do it, but I believe we were as good as any of the four teams that were in the final four.
“That frustrates me every night. We were capable of doing it, but we didn’t get the job done.”
Boudreau has mostly used the past month as R & R. He has seen a bunch of movies, visited his 83-year-old mother in Toronto, played a few rounds of golf. But mostly, Boudreau spends his days counting the hours for the playoff games to begin. He has watched most every one with his wife, Crystal, and 18-year-old son, Brady, a junior goalie who will intern in marketing next month for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
“It’s such a game of inches,” Boudreau said. “I remember, during overtime in our Game 1, it was during the 10-minute break [where the ice is shoveled], I was thinking whoever loses this game, it’s going to really hurt them because I didn’t know if we could play much better for 60 minutes and I didn’t know if [the Blues] could play much worse in their minds. In other words, I knew they were going to be better and knew we couldn’t keep up that pace.
“Maybe a minute later, Charlie [Coyle] breaks his stick with an open net in front of him and we end up losing the game.”
The Wild outshot the Blues 52-26 but lost. As Boudreau predicted, the Blues played better in Game 2. But he still believes the Wild was the better team in Game 3 and 5 losses.
“That’s why I was so frustrated in all the [postgame] interviews,” Boudreau said, referring to being uptight. “I’ve never been like that in the playoffs, but I knew what that Game 1 loss did to us and I was just very frustrated because I thought we worked so hard this year to accomplished what we accomplished, to get where we were, to also get out of the March [swoon] and fight so hard to get back to where we wanted to be.
“Then to watch it unravel despite playing pretty well, I felt very bad for the players and the work they put into it.”
Boudreau pointed out the Wild went 2-0 against both Pittsburgh and Ottawa, 2-1 against Anaheim and won three of five against the Predators.
“It makes you mad because you don’t have that many chances to get where they are,” Boudreau said.
But, Boudreau insists, “I think we’re good enough where we don’t have to change a lot. We were in the top 10 in almost every category in the league, and until March 1, we were in the top five in every category.”
Boudreau and his coaching staff will begin meetings Wednesday with General Manager Chuck Fletcher, the front office and the pro scouts to strategize potential changes. There will be opportunities for trades, both with Vegas and others. They will talk about which players to expose in the expansion draft, which free agents to pursue.
“I’m excited for that,” Boudreau said. “I didn’t get to be part of that in Anaheim.”
Boudreau still believes the Wild is a legit Stanley Cup contender. He sees a lot of similarities between the Wild’s roster and that of Nashville.
“Our balance was every bit as good,” he said. “Does it equate that we’ll be there next year? No. But it does tell me, why can’t it be us?”