Every Capitals player was seemingly asked at least once this week (and most multiple times) which team they’d prefer to face in the second round. You can’t choose your opponent, so no one took the bait.
They discovered Wednesday night it’ll be the Tampa Bay Lightning, who beat the Penguins in Game 7 in Pittsburgh. It’s just the second time the Caps have faced the Lightning (or any Southeast Division rival) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The series starts Friday night at Verizon Center.
Earlier in the day, Bruce Boudreau discussed the potential advantage of sitting around and watching potential opponents knowing he and the Caps were through to the second round.
“I don’t know. We’ve played each team four times, they’ve played us four times. Or actually Tampa we played six times,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of advanced scouting advantages other than one team might be a little healthier than another team.”
Tampa Bay is relatively healthy but had to go seven against a gritty Penguins team. The Caps went 4-1-1 against the Lightning this season.
Whether it’s the best matchup for the Caps is debatable, but Boudreau seemed to figure out Guy Boucher’s frustrating trap defense. Even with that, though, the Lightning feature a bevy of offensive options, including Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Ryan Malone.
But after all these off days, the Caps are glad to finally know.
“We just want to start soon,” Boudreau said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s getting a little antsy.”