The initial sting of the playoff loss (not to mention it being the series opener on home ice) stings a bit more than a normal regular season loss. As I’m sure you all know and I have come to find out over the many years of watching playoff hockey.
Its pain hits sharper, more tactile really, in the way it hurts, in the back of the head, as it worms its way through the skull; eventually weighing heavy upon the heart. And when it happens in overtime, with one shot, and one goal, deciding all, and the particular pain that is a playoff loss, well, it begins to throb.
The one beautiful remaining thing about playoff losses, a salve really, is when they come in the first game, and that throbbing headache begins, like last night, is that in a best-of-seven series: There is always a game two. And game two’s create the opportunity of reduced pain. Or at the very least, the Bolts can stop the bleeding and keep this opening series loss from spreading out into the remaining games in the series and getting worse.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have all the reason in the world to win the next game after last night’s heart-breaker of an overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Because the Bolts will have more purpose; to prove naysayers wrong and come back even stronger with vigor to another sold out Tampa Bay crowd. The Habs will have to worry about keeping it going with the 1-0 series lead, and I think that’s a lot tougher to do, like playing with a 3-1 lead in the first period of a regular season hockey game. The odds are stacked against you of keeping that lead, and you sort of play that way for some reason, too, like you’re begging to give it up.
Running out of gas as the chase pack of cars gains ever more ground on you.
I think overall the Bolts played a really good game last night but probably only about 85 to 90 percent as efficient as they could be on defense. I saw a lot of good fore-checking and physical play in the corners (Radko Gudas and Ryan Callahan) but I saw a lot of errant passes (Matt Carle) and shooting themselves in the foot (short-handed goal anyone?) while possessing the puck that made the biggest difference in the Habs winning that game.
Defense needs to close ranks, support Anders Lindback in net (who honestly did an amazing job, I think. Lindy came to play playoff hockey. Did the rest of the Bolts’ defense?). And the Bolts need to limit the Canadiens’ shots on goal while increasing theirs.
Realize that the Bolts scored four goals on Carey Price (the supposed difference-maker for Montreal in this series) on only 25 shots. It took Montreal 44 shots, nearly double, to score an almost equivalent amount of goals on Lindback.
The Bolts can clean up these lapses in defense and increase their shots on goal. They can tighten up around Lindy. We’ve been doing that sort of thing all season long and have reaped the rewards. The Habs only have Price and I think the Lightning have seen the chinks in his armor.
Tyler Johnson said it best last night after the game: the Lightning is a resilient group and will come back in Game 2 with more direction of purpose.
He said the resilient part. I sort of ad-libbed the rest but overall I agree with him. Key word being: resilient.
The Bolts are a very resilient team. You only have to list off the myriad of challenges this team has faced in 2013-14 to convince yourself of that (if you don’t already know): New division, loss of Steven Stamkos early in the season to a gruesome injury, trade of Martin St. Louis under controversial circumstances, injuries to other key players at sporadic times during the season when we needed them most (re: Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula, Sami Salo, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman).
You could even throw in Vincent Lecavalier‘s preseason buyout to the list of new challenges the team faced this season if you wanted to.
But this team has proved resilient to such changes and challenges and it has gotten them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And I think it is that resiliency and the strong character that comes out when the unthinkable happens that will lead this team to the winning side of this opening series, and maybe even further.
They (meaning hockey analysts) said this series between Tampa Bay and Montreal, based on regular season play, should go seven games, easy. I agree with that sentiment as well.
In a seven games series, one team has to win three games and the other has to win four, obviously. Someone had to win the first game, though; regrettably it wasn’t the team we all wanted it to be.
Think of it this way: The Habs got one of their three games last night. Now it’s time for the Bolts to get the first of their four games tomorrow night at the Forum.
It’s time to apply the salve of a Game 2 victory and banish the throb of last night’s OT loss in Game 1 to distant memory.