Until Saturday night's Game 1 started, the Boston Bruins hadn't played an Eastern Conference Finals game since they got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mario Lemieux in the 1992 Prince of Wales Conference Finals.
Saturday night, they didn't look much different from that 1992 team. The names, to be sure, were different -- there was no Adam Oates, no Ray Bourque, no Andy Moog. Cam Neely wasn't on the ice, but was instead watching from above as his team displayed little urgency and a lack of force against a faster, more talented Tampa Bay team that's lacking a little in the strength department.
Sure, Dwayne Roloson was strong in net, but that owes more to the defense in front of him blocking a glut of shots and giving him clear looks at the shots that got to him. Sure, Tim Thomas let in a soft goal early and the Bruins played a rusty first period, which was to be expected after a week off. But the Lightning had nine days off, so the Bruins weren't about to look to rust as an excuse.
"I don't think [the lay-off affected our play]. We just made some mistakes and we could have made some better or stronger plays. We have to correct them and we have to be better in game two," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after the game.
The Bruins and Lightning each took the same road to the conference finals; Tampa dispatched of Pittsburgh in seven games in the first round, before upending division rival Washington in a clean sweep. Boston took seven games plus overtime to end Montreal's season before avenging their demons and sweeping Philadelphia in convincing fashion.
It could be said that the Bruins had already played their biggest series -- Montreal, after all, has been their most hated rival for decades, and the rivalry certainly got new life this year after the Chara-Max Pacioretty incident. The Boston-Philadelphia rivalry was brought to new heights after 2010's Winter Classic and that May's Eastern Conference Semifinal, in which the Flyers spotted the Bruins a three-game lead before winning the series on Boston's ice in Game 7.
It was, after all, an ecstatic Boston locker room that put away Montreal and a relieved one that sent the Flyers to the golf course. On Saturday night in Boston, it was a quiet TD Garden that saw Tampa Bay tally three goals in the 85 seconds in the opening period before rookie Tyler Seguin -- playing in his first career playoff game -- netted his first career playoff goal.
But even at the 15:59 mark of the first period, when Seguin scored the lone Bruins goal of the game, it was too late. The Bruins lacked the push they'd played with that had won them eight or their previous nine playoff games, while the Lightning continued to play with the drive that has seen them now win eight straight games.
The Bruins were by no means desolate after the loss - after all, they spotted Montreal a two-game lead before winning four of five - but to say they were pleased with their effort is hardly the case.
"I think we could have had a better effort. I think overall as a team, we're definitely going to need to be better," Bruins coach Claude Julien noted after the game, stating what already seemed obvious.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, recognized the importance of getting off to a hot start and winning game one to take home ice advantage away from the Bruins. Martin St. Louis summed it up, "ten days off and to get a two goal lead after the first (period) is more than what we probably envisioned. We definitely are happy about that."
Many teams, to be sure, have bounced back from 1-0 playoff deficits; both Tampa and Boston did it in round one of this year's playoffs, with Boston recouping from a 2-0 hole against Montreal.
But this isn't the first round, and Tampa is no Montreal -- no Philadelphia, for that matter, either. The Lightning are a more talented, faster team led by the rightful NHL coach of the year. And they will, as Guy Boucher announced following Game 1, continue to adjust as the series wears on.
The Bruins, many will point out, are a more complete team -- Tampa doesn't backcheck; Tim Thomas is better than Roloson; the Bruins' four lines are stronger than the Lightning's three-and-a-half. That may be, but over the course of a seven game series, it's not always the more complete team that wins. It's the one that plays better, plays more focused.
And right now, with Tim Thomas talking about Israel being under siege instead of talking about his team's preparations for Game 2, there's a lot of reason to be concerned that the Bruins aren't the more focused team.
They certainly weren't in Game 1. They played as if their fate was already decided, their victory sealed after avenging their personal demons. Perhaps Tim Thomas will be stronger. Perhaps Patrice Bergeron will return for Game 2. Perhaps they will be better in Game 2 and beyond, but they'll have to reach back and find another level to do so.
These playoffs, after all, aren't won by the team with the most moral victories.
Read more on the Eastern Conference Final at our Lightning vs. Bruins series hub. Get local coverage on the Bruins at SB Nation Boston and Stanley Cup of Chowder. Get local coverage on the Lightning at Raw Charge and SB Nation Tampa Bay.