BOSTON, MA - MAY 17: Dominic Moore #19 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal past Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 17, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain" -- Harvey 'Twoface' Dent
It's entirely possible that we all got so swept up in seeing our beloved Tampa Bay Lightning as David against the NHL's Goliaths that we sort of forgot that we were in the process of running off an eight-game winning streak. If David had put a streak like that together, he'd have stopped being thought of as the prototypical underdog and become a guy who just went around killing big people.
At this point in the playoffs, there are no more lowly underdogs or prohibitive favorites. There are just four teams who have earned the right to be where they are, scrapping it out for the Stanley Cup. So the Bruins broke through and bloodied our noses last night to keep themselves out of a deep hole in the series. If that makes us the villians, so be it. But what's next?
First of all, give Boston credit for doing what it had to do to win game 2, but understand that it happened in large part because the Lightning got away from doing the things it does well. That's not to say that they let the Bruins win (again, give credit where credit is due), just that it wasn't as difficult for Boston as it should have been. The good news is that the Lightning know this is true.
"To be honest with you. We got away from our system and structure as a team the first two periods. And we came out in the third, played our system a little bit better and our style a little bit better. So for us it was just not sticking to what we had to do win a hockey game." -- Dwayne Roloson
"We just need to stick to what works for us, and that's sticking to our structure and game plan and not get caught up in other things." -- Steven Stamkos
"I think it was more decision-making that we started doing. And sometimes it kind of snowballs and it snowballed in the second period...I think, yeah, definitely some decisions that - maybe a few turnovers, you know, just maybe mental on where to be on the ice, to be in that structure, we weren't there." -- Vincent Lecavalier
Knowing what the problem is/was means it can be fixed.
Secondly, streaks like the one that ended last night are freak occurrences. You're not supposed to sweep a playoff series and you should never, ever expect to do so. This is the playoffs, the best of the best. Nobody flukes their way in. When players and coaches say they expect a series to go the distance, they're not doing it to make their opponents feel good about themselves. They say it because they sincerely mean it. Sweeping the Capitals was an anomaly. To be tied at 1-1 with the Bruins, the team with whom they shared indentical regular season records, is not.
Third, understand that winning one of those two games in Boston still counts as a huge success, whether it was game 1 or game 2. It's now a best-of-five series with three of those games slated to take place (if necessary) at the St. Pete Times Forum. And regardless of the success road teams have had in the playoffs so far, don't think for a minute that having home ice at this point in a series isn't an advantage.
Fourth, and probably the most important, you don't have to worry about any lasting psychological damage from having the streak snapped. if anything, the streak may have been something of a detriment in that it let players get a little too confident and more comfortable than they should have been.
"We know that we've been successful because we stuck to our plan and the players are extremely dedicated to details, and it's just one more proof out of so many this year that the minute we get out of how we want to be, we're not successful. And I know we've been scoring a lot of goals. But our focus has always been defense first. And when we don't do that, we scored five goals in an opponent's rink, it just proves that even if we do focus on offense, it's not going to give us any success. There's things we don't want to allow players to do and didn't allow themselves to do because they know by now we have the entire year to figure out what kind of group we've got and what kind of game we need to play to have success. And we didn't play that last game. So to give ourselves a chance in these games we at least have to be on the same page on the things that have made us successful and stay away from the things that haven't. And that's going to be our focus for the next game." -- Guy Boucher
Not unlike riding a bike when you were a kid; the first time you thought you were good enough at it to let go of the handlebars, you ended up face-down in mom's begonias. If you were smart, it was a while before you tried that again.
Add in the fact that the number one thing that sets athletes at this level apart from people like us is that they are blessed with ridiculously short memories. While you and I are stewing over what went wrong 24 hours ago, they had probably put at least 90% of it out of their minds by the time the plane landed back in Tampa, re-setting their focus on the next game and what they need to do to win it.
All in all, The Streak is over but the Lightning are in very good shape heading into game 3.