Say what you will about his tactics, say what you will about his motive, say what you will about the idea in general-- but the mind games that Guy Boucher, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been playing with his playoff opponents are fantastic.
In almost a "Kill 'em with kindness" sort of way, Boucher is using self-deprecation in a way that we may not have seen before, especially against the Washington Capitals, and while it may or may not have an effect on the Caps-- what he's saying could be a lingering effect should this series go a long way.
And the best part is that his team his buying into it.
Going into the series, Boucher pretty much said that he didn't expect his team to win this series and that it was Washington's series to lose because of their experience, then after a Game One victory said that he expects Washington to come out guns a-blazin' and they'll be outstanding in Game Two.
No pressure, Caps-- you'll just have to play the best you've ever played to show Boucher and the Bolts that they should be careful what they wish for.
And that's just it-- to put the high expectation on the other team, it throws them for a loop. Look at the Penguins' series; every press conference he gave, he always stated that he thought that Sidney Crosby would play in the series and it could be that game. Sure, that's good to actually prepare for a player of his caliber to come back, but to go on public record about it, very openly, shows that he wants the reporter to maybe go back to the other side and pester them about something he knows is false.
It's one thing to have a coach say this to relieve the pressure, but when you have your team actually getting into it and following the lead of their coach by being self-deprecating and to give all the credit to the Caps-- it's something that you normally don't see too often. Sure, you'll have a captain or veteran guy back-up the coach's statement-- but the Bolts seem like, to a man, they're following the coach's demeanor off the ice and taking it in stride. Boucher has really "hypnotoad'd" the Lightning and it could be the best thing that's ever happened to him.
While it's a bit of a snub for Boucher to not get nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach in the NHL; there's going to be a time where he will actually have his hands on it, posing for pictures in Vegas at the Awards Show. The way he's got the Bolts playing, it'll be hard-pressed for any team to beat them easily, mostly because they play a frustrating brand of hockey and capitalize frequently on teams trying to change up their game plan without actually having a "Plan B" to go to.
Say what you will about the team, you have to respect a coach who is able to not only throw off the game of the opposition off-the-ice, but also to pass it along to his team without getting them down or throwing them off their own game. Whether it wins another playoff game or series this season remains to be seen, but the head games are something that's Boucher has mastered in under a year in the NHL.