WASHINGTON -- The Tampa Bay Lightning staved off elimination three times in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins on their sheet of ice in Game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
That would lead at least some to believe that they enter Friday night's game at Washington with a ton of momentum, right?
Perhaps, but Lightning coach Guy Boucher isn't a part of that group.
"In the playoffs, I'm a non-believer in momentum," Boucher said after the Bolts skated Friday afternoon at Verizon Center. "Every game comes back to zero and it's the team that has the most desperation. We just won three in a row, but it's a new team, a new day. We've got to start all over again. I think that's the beauty of hockey, especially in a series. There's always the next game until the last one."
Steven Stamkos agreed. Stamkos, who had 2 goals and 2 assists against the Penguins, doesn't see how the momentum gained during the opening round can find its way through the Verizon Center's doors. Basically, the Bolts will have to create momentum all over again.
"I think in the playoffs, momentum is what happens during games," Stamkos said. "I think once that game ends, everyone forgets about it -- whether you had a really good game or a really poor game. It's easy to throw games out the window come playoff time, because you know how big the next game is. This is a totally different series.
"You could say they have momentum because they handled the Rangers in five, or you could say we have momentum because we won three straight to come back to beat Pittsburgh. I don't think it's a factor heading into a brand-new series."
A series that features teams that combined for 94 victories during the regular season. That would lead some to believe that this will be an evenly-matched battle between fierce division rivals, but Boucher views the No. 1-seeded Caps as the clear-cut favorite.
"Either we see it as a threat or we see it as a challenge," Boucher said. "It's a great challenge for us. If they lose this, for them, it's a huge failure. There's a lot of pressure, but at the same time, there comes a lot of energy with pressure.
"I think it's going to be like a boxing match. They'll look at us, we'll look at them and we'll figure each other out and try to adapt as we move on."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL