Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher insists it's David vs. Goliath; Caps coach Boudreau differs
The psychological battle continued on Friday before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Capitals. Lightning coach Guy Boucher insisted again, as he did in today's paper, the matchup is like David versus Goliath (with Tampa Bay being the David, obviously). But Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau after Washington's morning skate called the hole thing "crap."
"Of course it’s even,” Boudreau said about the series. “They’re a great team. So if [Goliath] is 6-6, [David] is 6-5 and a half. He’s trying to not say anything in the paper and he's doing a good job at it. But we know these are two evenly matched teams and both teams know that they can win. That’s how all six games went as well in the regular season and I’m sure that’s how it’s going to be."
Boucher poured it on thick on Thursday, saying he saw no weaknesses in the Capitals.
"That’s so much crap,” Boudreau said. “You know he doesn’t want to get in trouble by saying anything. But we all know we have faults. We got as many or more as most teams and gutted out a lot of things this year.”
But Boudreau is missing the nuance. Not only is Boucher not saying anything negative about the Capitals, he is trying to plant seeds of doubt. Why else would he say something like, "If they lose, it's a huge failure," something he repeated Thursday and Friday? He said it to play off the Capitals' recent disappointments in the playoffs. He's letting them know the pressure is there to succeed after several high-profile and emotional losses.
Boucher today even used the word "pressure" to describe what the Capitals must be feeling as the East's No. 1 seed.
"There's a lot of pressure," he said, "but we know with pressure comes a lot of energy."
See, a negative cloaked in a positive. It is all calculated. Assume we will hear more of this kind of thing as the series progresses.
Other stuff from the morning skate: In a bit of a surprise, Boucher was not nominated for the Adams award given to the league's top coach. It is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association. The finalists are Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma, Nashville's Barry Trots and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault. "I'm so happy Steve (GM, Yzerman) is nominated and we have players who are nominated," Boucher said. "That's what's most important to me." Said wing Marty St. Louis: "You know what? For us, we know what he's meant to this team and how he’s brought the winning way. He’s made everybody buy in. I don’t think he needs a trophy to feel respected by his players. It would have been nice, but that’s not going to change how we appreciate the hard work he puts in and what he does for this team." ... The only Lightning player who did not skate was wing Dana Tyrell, who is nursing a lingering left foot issue sustained during a practice in Pittsburgh when he was hit by a puck. ... The Lightning called up three more players from its AHL Norfolk affiliate: forwards Mike Angelidis and Marc-Antoine Pouliot and defenseman Mathieu Roy. ... Star center Steven Stamkos still is not putting up many numbers; he had two goals and two assists in seven games against the Penguins. But Boucher said Stamkos is learning quickly what it takes to play in the playoffs. "He was like all the new guys," Boucher said. "Half our guys hadn’t played in the playoffs, and he was like everybody else, a dear in the headlights those first few games. I was really impressed by him learning fast. Mid-series we started to see the real Stamkos. He figured it out, what to do. The last games he was just driving out there paying the price, going to the net, doing all the little things that we want to see in a winner, not a star." ... Boucher was pretty animated during the morning skate, at one point yelling at his lethargic players, "You'd better wake up now. If we wait till the second period, we're (bleeped)." Asked about it later, Boucher said of the Capitals, "These guys are going to be coming out flying. They’re on a mission. Not that we’re not on a mission, but we’re learning how to make this a mission, and you don’t buy experience. You have to go through it." ... Really good quote from St. Louis about flipping the switch quickly from one series to the next: "You just have to realize the Pittsburgh series is over. We can't wait now. We can't give them any freebies because we're still happy about the Pittsburgh series. We're proud but we know there's more that we have to do to attain our goal, and it starts tonight. It can't start Sunday or when we're at home. It starts now. Hopefully, our guys understand that."