Pierre McGuire was an assistant coach on the Penguins teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Later he became coach of the Hartford Whalers. These days McGuire is one of the lead analysts for NBC and Versus. He spoke with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones about the Lightning and its Eastern Conference final with the Bruins, which starts Saturday.
Are you surprised the Lightning has gotten this far?
I'm a little surprised because of the limited postseason experience they had coming in. But (goalie Dwayne) Roloson elevated his game, and depth players — guys like Nate Thompson, Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore, Adam Hall — have made a massive difference. And when you have the role players playing well and the stars playing like stars, you have this kind of result.
How has Vinny Lecavalier looked to you in these playoffs?
This is the best Vinny has played since the season after the lockout (2005-06). Players like Vinny need to be motivated by the players around him, and I think we're seeing that with Vinny and the Lightning. And it all starts at the top. There's a level of professionalism now with the Lightning thanks to (owner) Mr. (Jeff) Vinik and (general manager) Steve Yzerman and (coach) Guy Boucher. Then you have players such as Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Victor Hedman has grown as a player. You add an Eric Brewer. Vinny now sees all this around him and realizes he can be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Not that he was a problem before, but he's surrounded by so much positive that you can see he wants to be an impact player. And I think he's the healthiest he has been in a while.
Would the Lightning be here without Dwayne Roloson?
Not a chance. And this is what you have to really admire about Steve Yzerman. He did something that more general managers need to do. Clearly, he made a mistake picking up (goalie) Dan Ellis (in the offseason as a free agent). But instead of trying to cover it up and make himself look good, Stevie decided to fix it. He had seen what Dwayne had done in the past and knew what he could do now, and he made an aggressive move by going out and getting him (in a trade with the Islanders on Jan. 1).
Your thoughts on Guy Boucher?
He hasn't bailed on his system, even when they were down 3-1 to Pittsburgh (in the first round). He's getting role players to make major contributions. In the Washington series, he manipulated the media to putting all the pressure on Washington. He put a really intense glow on the Capitals, and it was a glow they couldn't handle. There's a line I like to use, and that is: be inclusive, not exclusive. Well, that's Guy Boucher. He empowers his players. He puts them in a position to succeed and then lets them do their job. Really, that's the way the whole organization is now. It starts with the owner, flows down to the general manager. From there, it flows down to the coaches and scouts. I travel a lot and run into Lightning scouts now and they walk around tall with their chests out and their shoulders square. You can see how proud they are to be a part of that Lightning organization. And it's all still growing, and it will continue to grow. No matter what happens to the rest of this season, the future is only getting better.
If you're the Lightning, what concerns you most about the Bruins?
Well, you start with Zdeno Chara on defense. He's a horse. Then there's the line of (Nathan) Horton, (David) Krejci and (Milan) Lucic. They are tough to handle and will cause way more problems than Washington's line of (Alex) Ovechkin, (Nicklas) Backstrom and (Mike) Knuble. Horton is just a runaway freight train right now. He's getting his first taste of the postseason, and he's like a shark getting his first taste of blood. He likes it and wants more.
What does the Lightning have to do to win the series?
Find a way to stabilize that first line of Boston. It has to find a way to manufacture offense against a pretty solid defense. The biggest thing is the role players have to be as successful in this round as they were in Rounds 1 and 2. Roloson has to maintain his energy level and continue to play well. If they can do all that, they have a chance in what I think is going to be a really close series.