This round will really show Tampa Bay and its fans how far the team has come and how much more they have to go. There is no doubt that Montreal is beatable but so are the Lightning. It is funny how many times a team has a really brutal seven-game series and then they start to get that swagger.
It is a funny and strange series for the Bolts because no one really quite knows what to expect. However, in the past, they have two playoff appearance in the last four years that could qualify as absolute insanity and chaos. Things occur in the second season that just do not during the regular season.
Montreal Sweeps Tampa
Last Spring Tampa Bay had a resurgent year and was poised to go into the playoffs ready to roll when Ben Bishop suddenly could not stay healthy. People forget that Bishop was in the running for a Vezina trophy as well. Everything was set up because even last year, Tampa knew it could score some goals against the Montreal squad that got too easily spread out against offensive pushes.
When it was revealed that the Tampa goalie would miss the Montreal series, pundits had Montreal sweeping Tampa, not because the Lightning were a bad team but because Anders Lindback gave up a goal to goal and a half above what they normally gave up. It was hideous to watch Lindback in net as Montreal scored at will.
The first game saw Tampa score four goals and lose, but every game after saw at least a couple shots that went in that should not have. Ironically that Game 1 saw Lindback look pretty good, but it was the lack of puck control and turnovers that did Tampa Bay in when it came to overtime. Getting out-shot nearly two to one does not help either.
As the series went on, it became clear that Montreal had found holes in Lindback’s game, and the backbreaking goals seem to come one after the other. By the end of the sweep, the Tampa backup could not be jettisoned out of Florida fast enough. The Lightning even had to bring in Kristers Gudlevskis and that made very little difference. The damage had been done.
What was clear is that Tampa Bay could score goals against Montreal but it was just team defense then the goaltending that let them down. It was an unfortunate lesson but possibly a good one to be learned.
Nathan Horton’s Water Bottle
The 2011 Eastern Conference Final between Tampa Bay and Boston was one of those unforgettable series. There was a little of everything in this one. The goaltending was up and down, but the teams played a fast in-your-face style so some nights pucks were going to go in the net. It became the series remembered more for a water bottle incident than almost anything else.
Remembering this via Puck Daddy, the league dropped the puck badly on this one. There was no doubt the league should have taken serious issue with the throwing of a water bottle. Squirting is one thing and although not great, it was a heat of the moment situation. The tossing of the water bottle was clear and John Tortorella was suspended a game for his tossing of a water bottle. Precedent had been set.
Nathan Horton would score the only goal in Game 7 as Boston advanced. They went on to win the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Vancouver Canucks. Do you think Tampa is still mad about this?
Boston losing Horton likely would have cost them Game 7 and Tampa would have had their shot. It is funny how fate works sometimes. There is a list of things the NHL seems to miss year to year in the playoffs but this was a big one.
What will happen this year between Tampa and Montreal? Will the Lightning finally have luck on their side? We’ll know soon enough.