Not only are the Washington DC and Tampa Bay metro regions patiently waiting for the start of the series tonight at Verizon Center, but the British are totally anxious to see this series get underway too.
I mean, really! Did you catch any of the pictures of the crowds waiting in anticipation for Game One?! I never knew hockey was so popular in the UK! Unreal!
All kidding aside, we get this show on the road tonight. A well rested Washington Capitals team hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning, who play their fourth game in a week's time. I may hae made the point that everything resets to zero now and we're back at square one, but the physical truth is the Lightning haven't been given enough time to reset... While the Caps have had more than enough.
And while St. Pete Times beat writer Damian Cristodero likens the following quote from Lightning head coach to psychological warfare, it looks pretty much like a motivator for Bolts to me
"If they don't win, it's a failure," Boucher said and added of the best-of-seven series that begins tonight at the Verizon Center, "It's Goliath against David. That's what it is. We'd better get our slingshots ready."
Now compare and contrast that to Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau's remarks several weeks back about the Lightning tandem of Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos:
"With Steve Downie, if I were a referee I would never give a call when he's out on the ice," Boudreau said. "Stamkos, he dives every two seconds. Downie, he dives every two seconds, so you see that and you start to get a little hatred on."
Which quote seems more along the lines of psychological warfare?
Regardless, the first salvo is not going to come from coaches. It's going to come from the players when they hit the ice tonight.
The Lightning and Caps have met before in the post-season, but both teams were vastly different squads in the 2003 playoffs. The Lightning won the quarterfinal series with the Capitals, four games to two. Tampa Bay would be bounced in the next round by the New Jersey Devils.
Of course, like I said, things have changed just a small bit since then. In fact the only three players that remain from either squad in 2002-03 are Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Pavel Kubina with the Lightning. The Caps (and please correct me if I am wrong, Caps fans) have turned over the entirety of their roster since then.
The past doesn't really matter now, though, does it? The more immediate past does... Like the two shutouts by Dwayne Roloson against the Caps in January... or the overall 2-3-1 record the Lightning had against the Caps this season... Those humiliating defeats in November where the team was outscored 12-3 in two games?
Or even more immediate? Roloson's .949 save percentage in the first round playoff series with the Penguins? And Michal Neuvirth's 1.38 Goals-Against Average in the Caps-Rangers series? Martin St. Louis' 8 points in the Pittsburgh series?
I'm contradicting myself. I said it yesterday: Over. Done with. We're 0-0. Roloson's got a 0.00 and 0 shots faced in 0 games. Of course, reflection on a statistic as a base gives you a brief glimpse of what you may expect... but it guarantees nothing.
What is a stat makes me curious regarding the second round is special teams (like usual). Washington had a 95% effective penalty kill unity in their opening series against the Rangers. The Rangers power play is not the Tampa Bay Lightning power play, however. Similarly, the Lightning had a 97.1% effective penalty kill of their own in the first round... But Pittsburgh's power play could never be mistaken for the power play abilities of the Washington Capitals. That was the truth with or without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the Pens lineup.
But, like I said above, all the numbers start at zero. We start over. Round 2 commences at 7 PM.
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