It could happen Tuesday night if the Montreal Canadiens sweep the Lightning from the playoffs.
Less than a week ago, it was about 46 wins, 101 points and a team that had overcome so much. It was about Game 1.
“It's unbelievable how fast everything happens,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday. “What's today? It's Monday. Easter Monday. Happy Easter, belated, for everybody. Last Wednesday, (the series) was 0-0. And if five short days, you're down 0-3. That's how fast it happens.”
Later, sitting on a bench near the Lightning dressing room the Bell Centre, Cooper thought about it again. Like his team, I think the coach is a little dazed by how this has all come apart so quickly. These are his first NHL playoffs, too, and he's learning as they go on, but now they're nearly gone.
“That's the worst part,” Cooper said. “I think about our meeting in September. And everything that's gone on. We don't need to rehash it all … and in a short five days, you do all this work to get to this spot, and all of a sudden you're almost looking in the rear-view mirror, like, 'Where did that road go?'”
You don't get do-overs in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Are there do-overs that should have happened in this series?” Cooper said with a smile. “I don't think it was us who needed the do-over.”
I'm sure the NHL loves that smarty-pants crack.
It's time for that to die.
OK, I did love when Cooper put on his lawyer pants after Game 3 and dissected the crucial play, that disallowed Lightning goal. I would have given anything to have seen him cross-examine Canadiens goalie Carey Price on a Quebec witness stand.
“Monsieur Price, did you order the Code Rouge on Alex Killorn?”
A few good Bolts.
That's all Cooper is looking for Tuesday night.
The Lightning coach has been a smash hit this series, at least off the ice.
Face it: You don't go down 0-3 by out-coaching the other guy.
But at least Cooper struck exactly the right tone Monday, when he playfully crashed a media scrum with Steve Stamkos, used a water bottle for a microphone and asked young Stammer a question. Light and easy.
Cooper went hard for his team after that goal was disallowed. I think he even swallowed his gum. He made sure his players didn't pop off, then went and did it for them. It was slightly whiny, hockey-gods-against-us stuff. But it's what coaches do.
OK, take one final bow, We Wuz Robbed.
It's time to move on. And Cooper knows it.
I think this series has rattled him and his players at times. They weren't ready for Montreal's stifling game plan, and didn't adjust all that quickly. Then again, how do you go to dump and chase when you're not built for it?
“We did it to ourselves,” Cooper said. “We fell down 0-2 at home. But who knows, you get a break here or there. I think about that (Game 1) overtime. Whether we deserved to be there or not, we were there, and some of the chances we had to win that game in overtime ... a break goes your way and who knows what happens in Game 2. Everybody knows what happened last night. Maybe we're up 2-1. Maybe we're up 3-0. Really, you can't let the playoffs sneak up on you. We were prepared, but that's the one thing: I just can't believe how fast everything goes.”
Maybes are for offseasons. And it's slightly early for concession speeches. Or is it?
“Regardless of how everything turns out, we are a better franchise today than we were when the season started,” Cooper said. “Thing is, we can't be a one-hit wonder. You have to make the playoffs next year. To me, it's inexcusable if we don't. You don't know how this story will unfold. We don't know yet. You just want to make sure we do better next year. We've got to keep pushing the envelope and make sure we never take a step back.”
That's another road.
This one is all but gone.
Hey, that was fast.