Lightning coach Guy Boucher has been here before. In the playoffs, that is.
Not with the Lightning and not even in the NHL, seeing as how he is a rookie coach in the league. But he has been to the postseason. He took Drumondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League twice in three years and took Hamilton of the American Hockey League to the third round last season.
Maybe those teams weren't playing for the actual Stanley Cup, but they were in the postseason.
"I guess what's similar is the fact that every day is a very intense day where you've got to find solutions and you're playing against the same teams all the time," Boucher said. "It becomes a battle of details, and I don't think that's any different from any league."
The way Boucher sees it, preparing for a postseason game is no different for a minor-league coach as it is for an NHL coach. You get to work early. You stay late. You can't eat. You can't sleep. Every victory feels like the greatest victory in the history of sports. Every loss feels like the end of the world. Then you get up and do it again.
There's really only one difference.
"The players ... and the coaches are better," Boucher said.
Which means one thing to Boucher.
"You have to be better," he said.
Come playoff time, a coach has to make changes to strategy each game while anticipating the changes the other coach is going to make. It's like playing chess and trying to guess what move your opponent will make next.
"But the danger is spending all your time anticipating and not focusing on what your team is supposed to do and what they've been doing all year up to the playoffs," Boucher, 39, said. "I'm a rookie now, but I'm not 25. At 25, I always wanted to plan everything, and that wasn't so good. So hopefully, I've learned."
But whether it's junior hockey, the minors or the NHL playoffs, the playoffs are the playoffs.
"In the end, it's the same kind of feeling," Boucher said. "It's do or die every game."