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Bolts' Boucher eager to find next mountain to climb

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 02:39 PM

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BOSTON -

He left one last news conference. His wife, Marsha, joined him in the hall. They whispered to each other. Game 7 had ended, and with it Guy Boucher's audacious first season as an NHL coach. The Lightning had come up short of the Stanley Cup finals.

It's never easy when relentless has nowhere to go.

After the Boston Bruins' 1-0 win, Boucher was stopped by a couple of reporters. He spoke first, thanking them for their coverage. That's just him. He helped rebuild the Lightning into something we needed to watch again.

Boucher thought about his exhausted team, nothing left to give, and the finals …

"It would have been quite a mountain," he said. "But they would have been willing to fight that mountain."

All along, Boucher marked the way.

Our sports town is on a most excellent run on first-timers. There's Joe Maddon at the Rays and Raheem Morris at the Bucs. And now there's Guy Boucher.

Two years ago, he was coaching major junior hockey in his native Quebec. One year ago, he was coaching in the American Hockey League. Friday night, he coached the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Guy Boucher doesn't turn 40 until August.

After Game 7, before he spoke with media, Boucher had already watched a replay of Boston's goal five times.

That's just him.

A defensive breakdown, one of the few, Bolts looking at each other to see who would pick up Boston's Nathan Horton in front — but no one did. A detail that was lost. Boucher loves details. The Lightning, cautious all night, maybe a little too cautious, couldn't recover.

There are always new lessons to learn.

"Just that one transition we couldn't get," Boucher said. "We're a good transition team. We couldn't get that one transition that would give us that goal."

The real transition was from a franchise seemingly dead in the water to one full of life, a team at fever pitch, fueled in part by the man behind the bench, always intense, always the teacher, the psychologist, the motivator, and he coaxed an amazing 57 wins from the Bolts, playoffs included, molding them, welding them, making them a family.

It was a towering NHL debut.

That concept, family, made Friday difficult, and the coach wasn't immune. Boucher saw the tears in Marty St. Louis' eyes. Boucher got choked up himself as he thought about assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who is battling a brain tumor. The Lightning dedicated the playoffs to him.

"We talked about Wayne, because we wanted this for Wayne," Boucher said.

And there was the spectacular play of 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson, who shook off some bad moments in this series to keep the Lightning in Game 7.

"He represents exactly what we were all year long," Boucher said. "It's that relentlessness, that resiliency, the never-die. I think that's the most beautiful thing that our guys were. It's hard to ask more."

And there was sadness, too, at the thought of something lost.

"Sometimes in a lifetime, you don't know when that comes around again," Boucher said. "You might have a better team next year, get some injuries, that's what's going through your mind, that moment, that fine line, you're one goal away, really."

There surely will be changes in the Lightning for next season. Players will leave, new ones will arrive. It's hard to recreate a season like this. Maybe this was Lightning in a bottle.

Or maybe it's just the beginning.

"It has to be," Guy Boucher said. "It has to be the start of something."

There's always another mountain.

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