The Washington Capitals are facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, when the Lightning lost the first two games in Tampa before winning 4 straight. Only General Manager George McPhee remains for the Capitals, but the Lightning feature three players from that 2003 team, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Pavel Kubina. While Lecavalier and St. Louis have both been there the whole time, Kubina left for four seasons before coming back this year. The Caps already dispatched 2003 Lightning coach John Tortorella and teammates Vaclav Prospal and Ruslan Fedotenko in the first round. Lecavalier and St. Louis accounted for all four game-winning goals in 2003.
Those three aren't the only Bolts with playoff experience against the Caps. Like St. Louis, Dominic Moore has also scored a series winning goal against the Caps, which he did with the Montreal Canadiens last season. His Tricolores teammate, Marc-Andre Bergeron, is also on the Bolts this season. Simon Gagne was on the Flyers in 2008 when they beat the Caps, but he did not play in the series due to injury.
For some background info, here are the Lightning career scoring stats against the Capitals in the playoffs before the series began.
|Martin St. Louis||6||5||4||9|
None of the Caps have faced the Lightning in the playoffs before.
Besides the six regular season games between the teams every year and the 2003 playoff series, here's some more info on how well acquainted the players are with each other.
Speaking of Hendricks, he played with Lightning center Nate Thompson on the 2007-08 AHL Providence Bruins. Hendricks was college teammates with Lightning winger Ryan Malone for three seasons at St. Cloud State (2000-03). Malone later played with Matt Bradley on the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Eric Brewer, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, and Martin St. Louis
Nate Thompson was also teammates with Brooks Laich in juniors, playing from 2001-03 on the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds. Thompson later appeared in 4 games with the 2006-07 Boston Bruins, where he was teammates with Marco Sturm.
Oddly, much of the familiarity between the two teams comes from players and coaches who are injured or unlikely to appear in the series.
Injured Lightning winger Simon Gagne was a longtime Philadelphia Flyer where he and injured Caps winger Mike Knuble played for assistant coach Wayne Fleming. Fleming coached Knuble in 2005-06, but he is not behind the Lightning bench in this series because of a brain tumor. Gagne and Knuble also played in Philly with Lightning winger Steve Downie from 2007 to 2008.
John Erskine played for four years in the AHL with Lightning backup goalie Mike Smith, beginning on the Utah Grizzlies from 2002-04, then moving to the 2004-05 Houston Aeros and the 2005-06 Iowa Stars, where they were joined by defenseman Brian Fahey. Erskine then spent the 2005-06 season with Lightning winger Sean Bergenheim on the New York Islanders. Bergenheim spent the 2006-07 season with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL, where he was backstopped by Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov.
After that, all roads seem to go through Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and injured Caps defenseman Tom Poti. Bergeron and Poti were teammates on the 2006-07 New York Islanders under Lightning assistant coach Dan Lacroix. Poti played for the Oilers from 1998-2002, where he was teammates with Lacroix in 1998-99, and also with Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer and Caps winger Jason Chimera. Brewer and Chimera played for the Oil from 2000-04, and after Poti left in 2002, they played with Marc-Andre Bergeron from 2002-04. Brewer was then traded to St. Louis, where he played with injured Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman for two seasons (2005-07).
Bergeron's connections extend beyond the NHL. He spent the 2001-02 season with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs with Jason Chimera. He also spent the NHL lockout with Brynas IF Gavle as a teammate of Nicklas Backstrom.
Poti was traded from the Oilers to the New York Rangers in 2002. In 2003-04 and 2005-06, he was teammates with Lightning center Dominic Moore.
In international play, Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund and Nicklas Backstrom represented Team Sweden together at the 2010 Olympics. Caps rookie center Marcus Johansson and young Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman have also represented Team Sweden together at numerous international tournaments over the years. Caps D Mike Green and Lightning winger Martin St. Louis played together for Canada at the 2008 World Championships, too.
The last big connection is between Mattias Ohlund and the man who drafted him in Vancouver, George McPhee. GMGM was assistant GM of the Vancouver Canucks for 5 seasons, including during the 1994 draft when Ohlund was selected. By the time Ohlund appeared in a game for Vancouver in 1997-98, McPhee had already taken the Caps GM job. McPhee also drafted Victor Hedman's brother, Oscar.
Adam Hall and Dominic Moore