Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Bolts' Bergenheim for Conn Smythe?

Categories: Second Round, Tampa Bay Lightning, WSH vs. TAM, Washington Capitals

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Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Sean Bergenheim (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during the second period in Game 4 on Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press) Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Sean Bergenheim (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during the second period in Game 4 on Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)
Stephen Whyno, Washington Times

Sean Bergenheim is hardly a household name. Each year there are under-the-radar players who become playoff stars, but the Lightning winger has put himself in the very early discussion for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Bergenheim has seven goals, including two in Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory Wednesday night in Game 4 that finished the Capitals off with a sweep and moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

"He was one of our better players," coach Guy Boucher said. "Some people freeze under pressure, some people fly away and some people fight. He fights."

Capitals outworked

As much as Boucher all series has talked up Washington as a superior team and the favorite, Tampa Bay was the better team in all four games. The Lightning got breaks, including another goal off Ryan Malone's leg on Wednesday night, but as Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau reminded everyone, a team can make its own breaks.

"There's not a lot to say. They just outplayed us," defenceman Karl Alzner said. "They were the better team tonight, the last game and the other two games before that."

Feeling like 2004?

Just like 2004 the Lightning are in the Eastern Conference finals, and that team went on to win the Stanley Cup. Three players are on this roster - Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Pavel Kubina - won in '04, and Tampa Bay again has a goalie who can be a star in the playoffs.

"When they got Dwayne Roloson, they became a completely different team," Boudreau said.

Same old song and dance

When the Capitals rolled over the Rangers in five games, it looked like they were poised for a deep run. Six days after the series against the Lightning started, all those Cup dreams were extinguished.

Players were just as stunned as outside observers at how quickly it all happened.

"You always think when you win in five games you have a good chance," Alex Ovechkin said. "After first loss, we [weren't] not upset and after the second and after the third we was ready to go. Something went wrong and we didn't win the game."

Backstrom says no excuses

Nicklas Backstrom's playoffs ended with just two assists. For a No. 1 center who gets paid $6.7 million a year, it's not acceptable. He said he had no excuses and would not blame injury for his disappointing performance.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "It's [expletive] frustrating."

From overtime in Game 2 until early in the third in Game 4, Backstrom went 106 minutes, 13 seconds without registering a shot. But his coach said no effort was lacking.

"It's not that he wasn't putting himself in position or anything else, it's just things weren't going," Boudreau said. "Unfortunately sometimes that happens. It happened to him for a while. It's something like a snowball, it just keeps building."

Changes coming in Washington

People like calling for change in the United States capital; for the hockey team in town it could mean a new coach and a lot of different players. Boudreau may or may not be back, it seems like Jason Arnott will not be, and trades could shake up the locker room.

Ovechkin said he hoped there wouldn't be a lot of changes, but veterans know that this won't be the same exact group in 2011-12.

"Will there be changes? Of course there's going to be and who knows what it is going to be, probably rightfully so," Mike Knuble said. "As far as who it is going to be, there will be some different faces here next year. That's a guarantee probably.

Stephen Whyno covers the Capitals for The Washington Times.