Guy Boucher has his slingshot ready. On the eve of this second-round series, the Tampa Bay Lightning coach deemed his team “David” and the Capitals “Goliath.” He repeated the same message at Verizon Center just hours before Game 1.
“Washington is at Year 5 of their plan. We’re at Year 1. And we’re aware of that,” Boucher said. “And so to be able to compete against those teams that are on a mission and have the experience from last year and the previous year to build on and know what they need. Whereas we have to learn it all right now.
“That’s why for us it’s clear it’s David against Goliath, and we know these guys are gonna be flying and coming out with an energy and they’re on a mission.”
Boucher and his players have been very complimentary of the Southeast Division Caps since dispatching the Penguins. But over at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t buying the David/Goliath comparison.
“They’re a great team. So if David 6-6, Goliath is 6-5 and a half,” Boudreau said, mixing up his Biblical analogy. “He’s trying not to 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.”
Look at the numbers, and it was pretty close. The Lightning finished just four points back of the Caps in the Southeast, and at least their final four meetings of the regular season were tight.
Terming his team as an underdog is more of a mentality. Boucher and Tampa Bay players are talking about it more based on previous seasons.
“They’ve played great all year; they’ve had a few great seasons, and we’re just kinda getting our program back in action,” defenseman Mike Lundin said.
It’s also about putting the onus on the Caps.
“We have to play a near-perfect game to win against those guys and I strongly believe that,” Boucher said. “To say that it’s going to be difficult is an understatement – it’s gonna be very, very difficult for us. But we’re up for the challenge. I think that’s the idea is either we see it as a threat or we see it as a challenge and it’s a great challenge for us. And I’m sure it is for them. I know that if they lose this for them it’s a huge failure, so there’s a lot of pressure. But at the same time comes a lot of energy with pressure so we’re aware that they’re gonna charge it up.”
When told of Boucher’s flattering comments from Thursday that the Caps were flawless, Boudreau responded: “That’s so much crap. … We got as many or more as most teams and gutted out a lot of things this year.”
The Lightning were in first place in the division for much of the second half of the season until the Caps made up ground and eventually built up some distance. And while Washington won four of the six meetings this season, players don’t get the David vs. Goliath comparison, either.
“I wouldn’t really see it that way,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “I think it’s two very strong offensive teams with a lot of firepower up front and two well-balanced teams as well.”
But in the visiting locker room, the compliments continue for Goliath.
“They’re one heck of a team,” Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson said. “We gotta play 120 percent our best hockey to have a chance to win this series.”