Despite Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau’s claims to the contrary, Tampa Bay Coach Guy Boucher on Friday reiterated his belief that the Lightning is a significant underdog entering the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series, and he took the claim even further this afternoon.
After the Lightning’s morning skate at Verizon Center, Boucher went as far as to say it would be “a huge failure” for the Caps if they failed to advance past the Lightning.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult for us, but we’re up for the challenge,” Boucher said. “I think that’s the idea, is either we see it as a threat or we see it as a challenge and it’s a great challenge for us. And I’m sure it is for them. I know that if they lose this, for them it’s a huge failure. So there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time comes a lot of energy with pressure. So we’re aware that they’re going to be charging out there.”
It’s an interesting bit of gamesmanship, as Boucher is clearly trying to take some of the pressure off his team while keeping it on the Caps.
Boucher said some of his younger players, including star center Steven Stamkos, looked like “deer in headlights” during the first few games of the Lightning’s first-round series against Pittsburgh, and Boucher seems to be guarding against his players reverting to that entering a new series against the Caps.
The Lightning finished just four points behind the Caps and led the Southeast Division for a large chunk of the regular season, but Boucher said the Lightning is way behind the Caps in terms of developing a Stanley Cup contender.
“This organization hasn’t won a series except for the last one in seven years, and hadn’t made the [playoffs] in four years,” Boucher said. “Everything was to build up, and we’ve got a lot of guys who hadn’t played playoffs. . . . Washington is at year five of their plan. We’re at year one, and we’re aware of that. So to be able to compete against those teams that are on a mission, that have the experience from last year and the previous year to build on and know what they need, whereas we have to learn it all right now, that’s why for us it’s David against Goliath.”
There may be something to that, but for what it’s worth, forwards Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Pavel Kubina were key members of the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, Simon Gagne played in the finals last year for Philadelphia and Ryan Malone played in the finals for Pittsburgh in 2008.
“You don’t buy experience. You have to go through it and we’re going through it right now,” Boucher said. “We have to be aware of where we are and what we are in this series or else we’ll get lost in what we’ve gotta do.”