The sound bites from Wild coach Bruce Boudreau in the midst of a drill during practice are brief directions from center ice as players fan out on each side of him.
“Go to the net.”
When he’s at the whiteboard plastered on the boards, his soliloquy is longer and accented with the movement of the marker clutched in his hand.
And in the locker room between periods, his voice can go up an octave — just like it did Wednesday when Boudreau issued a blunt wake-up call to his players after a poor start against the Blackhawks.
“You can’t do it a lot because if you do it a lot, it’s like your parents screaming at you for cleaning your room,” he said. “After a while, it goes in one ear out the other.”
Aside from lineup decisions and systems preferences, coaches also can affect their teams’ play by their words — as evidenced by Boudreau’s first-intermission speech. The chat clearly resonated with his players, since the Wild bounced back from a one-goal deficit and even deeper hole in the momentum battle to eke out a critical 2-1 win in Chicago before returning home to host the Jets and Canucks this weekend ahead of a five-day break in the schedule.
It’s clear, then, that how Boudreau communicates with the Wild can vary, depending on the situation and who he’s talking to, but one aspect of his delivery doesn’t change.
Boudreau always speaks from the heart.
“I just thought I was the everyday guy as a player,” he said, “and what got through to me would get through to other people.”
Being relatable, rather than aloof, isn’t Boudreau’s only strategy.
He takes time to figure out how to connect to each individual. Some need a rant; others require a pat on the back.
“Reading people is the thing,” he said.
When he has to pull a player aside to talk one-on-one, Boudreau prepares his words ahead of time. But in the middle of games when he addresses the team, he tends to be off-the-cuff — like he was during an expletive-laced outburst he shared with the Capitals when the HBO cameras were watching in the 2010-11 season during the team’s lead-up to the Winter Classic against the Penguins.
“I didn’t know where I was going with that,” Boudreau said. “I just came in, and then all of a sudden I kept going.”
The Capitals didn’t rally to win that game, falling 3-0 to the Panthers, but it’s rewarding for Boudreau when his in-game messages do spark improvement — like it did Wednesday.
“There’s nothing better for a coach than saying something and them getting it and going out and doing it,” the 63-year-old said.
With more than 800 games on his coaching résumé and the best points percentage among active bench bosses in the NHL, after playing as a professional for 15-plus years, Boudreau no doubt has quite a few insights to share.
But even at the outset of his career, he wasn’t afraid to speak up.
In his NHL coaching debut with the Capitals, Boudreau mixed up the team’s look on the power play by putting superstar Alex Ovechkin up the middle and defenseman Mike Green in Ovechkin’s usual backdoor spot with the thought Ovechkin would get overcovered, leaving a one-timer open for Green after he received a pass from center Nicklas Backstrom.
And that’s exactly what happened.
“From that point,” Boudreau said, “I think they said, ‘OK, maybe this guy does know a little bit about what he’s talking about.’ ”