There will be more to play for than just pride at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this evening when the Lightning conclude the home portion of the regular-season schedule against the division-rival Washington Capitals.
After a season in which the team has been riddled by injuries and trades, Guy Boucher and his players are dedicating the final home game in what the Bolts head coach called his “most difficult year in hockey” to the fans.
“The score is going to be whatever it’s going to be,” Boucher said. “So, tonight is not about winning. It’s about giving every single ounce of energy we’ve got to be the best we can be. The final home game in front of our fans has to be full out and we’ve got to give everything we got so that it’s worth their money.”
As recently as Mar. 22, prior to a home game against the Edmonton Oilers with 10 games in the regular season still left to play, Boucher delivered a simple message to his team that was to cement itself in the collective psyche of the players until the conclusion of the regular campaign was done. Show up every day, put in an honest effort, and know that everything you do matters to not only yourself, but to others as well.
Two weeks later, as the Bolts prepare to play for the final time at home this season, the coach’s message still rings loud and clear.
“These fans have been unbelievable for us,” forward Steven Stamkos
said. “It’s been a tough year, so I’m sure they want to show up tonight and see us win just as a much we want to come out and win for them. They’ve shown us support all year, so we want to end things on the right note for them.”
Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos expressed gratitude for fan support this season leading up to their final home game this evening. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Boucher previously said that he did not want the players to fall into the line of thinking that they would be playing for nothing more than merely a high draft pick this summer. In fact, he added there was much more on the line tonight against Washington, perhaps even more than the players’ own sense of pride.
“Everything matters,” Boucher added. “Everything we do today matters for tomorrow, it matters for next season, it matters for the team, it matters for the organization, and it matters for the fans. We have to maintain a very high standard, not just of play, but also of character, work ethic and attitude.”
“We want to finish strong,” Bolts wing Martin St. Louis
said. “It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about the effort you put on the ice. The fans recognize the work ethic and they can appreciate that. That’s the most important thing. You do that, and you’ll usually win a few games too.”
Tonight, St. Louis and the Lightning will try to do just that. One final time at home this season for the fans.