Regular-season sweep means 'squat' now

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:46 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- No one has to remind the Tampa Bay Lightning that success against an opponent during the regular season means little when the playoffs come around.

The Lightning went 4-0 against Philadelphia this season, yet they don't expect that to give them an edge against the Flyers when the Eastern Conference finals begin Saturday.

"That means squat," coach John Tortorella said Wednesday.

"As far as what we did, what they did, you throw that right out the window. I think both teams, by the time Saturday comes along, [are] going to have a pretty good understanding about what the other team is about."

Tampa Bay has firsthand knowledge of how teams that don't fare well against an opponent in the regular season can reverse the trend in the playoffs.

After losing three of four to the New York Islanders this season, the Lightning won a first-round series between the teams in five games. In the second round, they swept Montreal after splitting four games against the Canadiens in the regular season.

"It's the playoffs, and 4-0 doesn't mean anything now," defenseman Brad Lukowich said. "The Islanders were whatever up on us. All that does is give [Philadelphia] more motivation to come out and play harder against us."

To a man, Tortorella and his players said Philadelphia, which has shuffled its lineup all season because of injuries, is not the same team Tampa Bay had its way with in the regular season.

If there is any edge for the Lightning, it's that they'll have eight days of rest before Game 1. The Flyers needed six games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, clinching the series with a 3-2 overtime victory Tuesday night.

Tortorella isn't concerned that his team, which has won seven straight and is 8-1 in the playoffs overall, will be rusty.

The coach gave the players two days off after the team eliminated Montreal on Thursday. After holding practice Sunday and Monday, he gave them another day off Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Tortorella and his assistants studied the Flyers and Maple Leafs. The staff turned their attention solely to Philadelphia when Jeremy Roenick's overtime goal ended that series.

"I think we went through the motions the first couple of days of practice, just trying to get ready," center Tim Taylor said, adding that the focus and intensity rose a notch Wednesday.

The goal is to peak -- physically, as well as mentally -- for the series opener.

"I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our players in understanding how they have to practice, and they have done that," Tortorella said.

"There's not going to be a bunch of things that are going to be major surprises for us. There's always going to be small adjustments you make as you go through a series. ... But you can't get caught up in too much thinking. It's just a matter of being prepared to battle. ... It's just simply how hard you're going to play. That's something we can control. And that's the way we approach it."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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