At about 10:39 p.m. Wednesday, the Lightning finished off a 1-0 shutout of the Penguins to move onto the second round. More importantly for those around the D.C. area, it ensured that the Capitals had an opponent after waiting several days without knowing.
“It took a while,” forward Matt Bradley said.” I watched the Boston game and I figured if Montreal wins then I’d be able to go to bed, but then they didn’t, so I had to stay up another half hour to wait for the end of the Tampa-Pitt game.”
At that point, everyone got to start talking about the Caps against seemingly ancient goalie Dwayne Roloson and the exciting and dangerous Marty St. Louis and Steve Stamkos. And the Caps got to start working on defending and attacking Tampa Bay.
“It’s amazing, quite frankly, the difference of knowing who your opponent is and not knowing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You feel like you’re just sort of waiting and lost in space, but it makes the series an awful lot closer which it is anyway when you’re going against a team in your own division.”
Having faced the Lightning six times this season, the Caps admit that there aren’t many secrets to be had between the two teams. So it’s less of a hindrance that preparations for Tampa Bay last less than 48 hours.
“Now we can prepare for their tactics,” defenseman John Erskine said. “Not much time to do so, but at least we know who we’re playing now and we’re excited to get started.”
The sentiment was largely relief. For three days Caps players fielded questions about how odd it is not to know who they’re playing and which team they’d rather face. You can’t choose your opponent, so why bother?
But it’s all sorted out now.
“Yeah, we were sitting there, waiting and watching some of the other games, but it’s good to know who your opponent is,” defenseman Scott Hannan said. “We can gear up for them and expect a big game [Friday] night.”
Boudreau said “it’ll be interesting” about this series several times. That’s because there are so many different facets to this rivalry that it’s impossible to zero in on one story line. Knowing is half the battle, but now the Caps expect not just one big game but potentially seven.