Once upon a time…not too, too long ago…there was an NHL team trailing three games to one in an opening round playoffs series. Facing a game-five on the road, this team was on the verge of being unceremoniously kicked to the postseason curb.
But they trampled all over their foes to avoid elimination, beating them 8-2. They followed that up with a 4-2 win at home in game-six then denied their opponents even one single goal in the deciding seventh game. They then rode that wave straight into the next playoff round and swept there next opponent…the best team in the conference after regular season play… right to that same postseason curb they almost found themselves days earlier.
Again… after finding themselves down three games to one they rattled off seven in a row, four of them on the road.
This is not a tail of a team’s playoff success from years ago. No, the subject of today’s story is the current-day Tampa Bay Lightning. And after last night’s 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals they became the first team to advance to the conference finals…the Final-Four of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With their run into the conference finals the Bolts are, in my humble opinion, becoming the story of this spring’s Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Certainly they made an impression on Caps forward Mike Knuble.
“It’s very frustrating. I don’t think any of us saw this coming down, happening like it did. Probably the last thing that was in our mind, but you have to give them credit,” Knuble said of what the manner his team was handled by the Lightning. “They played well, and they held their own when they had to.”
“And really, when they got their chances they capitalized. It was pretty amazing how well they could do it.”
Now that the Capitals have made yet another disappointing exit from the playoffs, the chatter has already begun about head coach Bruce Boudreau should be on the hot seat. After taking over behind the bench in the fall of 2007, he’s led the Caps to four straight playoff appearances, the last two years as top seeds in the east. Last season they finished with the Presidents’ Trophy added to their mantle.
But they’ve yet to progress past the second round in any of those four playoff campaigns and it’s caused some to speculate whether a change is needed. In fact, the players had barely finished shaking hands and left the ice before the talking heads on Versus began the discussion.
Personally, I don’t believe Boudrau’s to blame here and I certainly wouldn’t show the door to a coach that has helped hang four division banners in the rafters in as many years. But I’m sure there are more than a few Caps fans and pundits in D.C. that have grown tired of seeing the team fail to translate the regular season success into a serious run at the Cup come postseason.
So…let the debate begin.
Flyers And Red Wings One Loss Away From Joining Caps At The Curb
The Bolts may not have to wait long to find out just who their opponents will be in the conference finals as the Boston Bruins have now jumped out to a commanding three-OH lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Last night they belted Philly 5-1 behind a pair of goals by defenseman Zdeno Chara and 37 saves by Tim Thomas.
It didn’t take Boston long to get things rolling at home. They netted two goals in the opening 63 seconds of the game and never looked back, adding two more in the second period. That’s when the Flyers revolving door in goal began to turn again as starter Brian Boucher gave way to reliever Sergei Bobrovsky for the second time in this series.
Boucher has started seven games for Philadelphia during the playoffs and has been yanked three times. He has a 3.13 GAA and .904 SV% during nine games played.
Friday night the Bs on Boston’s jerseys could stand for “Brooms” as they’ll have a chance to sweep the Flyers to that same proverbial playoff curb the Caps now find themselves.
Elsewhere, the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings drew the short straw and played in the NHL mandatory nightly overtime game Wednesday evening. It was the 20th time so far this spring that extra time has been required to determine a winner.
Devin Setoguchi’s hat trick goal 9:21 into overtime sent the Sharks to a 3-0 lead in that series. He came off the bench during a rush and snapped off a wrister that beat Jimmy Howard.
Setoguchi, who scored the OT winner in game-thee versus the LA Kings in the first round, became the hero just 2:10 after being sprung from the sin-bin where he sat for holding Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi.
Like the Bruins, San Jose will be able to advance to the next round Friday with a win.
If they are able to wrap it up then, they’ll then await the outcome of the Canucks-Predators matchup. Vancouver leads Nashville two games to one with game-four set to get underway tonight in the Music City.