Back to backs
When he is in the right mood, Lightning coach John Tortorella is one of the NHL's most engaging personalities. Get him on a subject he likes and you can expect a conversation with passion and insight. Take his pregame meeting with reporters before Sunday's game with the Penguins.
The Lightning plays Pittsburgh again Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum and Tortorella was asked if he liked playing teams back-to-back. Not only does he like it, he said the league should schedule more. This ties in very well, of course, with Tortorella's long-standing belief that games (because of the way games are called and the inconsistency of how obstruction rules are applied) have lost their passion.
That lack of passion is something Tortorella has talked of before, and readers of the Times are well aware of his views. But the back-to-back element adds a different twist. "That way you get a little blood involved and some intensity,'' he said.
Tortorella pointed to a recent back-to-back between the Maple Leafs and Bruins in which Toronto's Darcy Tucker fought Boston's Paul Mara (two former Tampa Bay players, by the way). Tucker basically challenged Mara to a rematch in their next game. It never happened, but as Tortorella said, "There was a lot of hype about what would happen in that second game. At least there was some hype which is lacking in this league right now. ... My overall beef, and whenever I have an avenue to talk about it, I don't think the game is intense enough. I don't think there is enough battling. I don't think we're going down the right road the way we're going about it.''
Why not try back-to-backs, he said. "You get more intense battles. Maybe us and Philly a couple of days in a row, or Calgary, it doesn't matter.. I'd like to see it happen that way because it isn't working this way.''
My buddy Mark Everson of the New York Post made a very interesting suggestion recently: Why not play mini tournaments within a season between three teams. For example, get the Rangers, Islanders and Devils together for a round robin with all games counting in the standings and a trophy awarded at the end. I actually like that idea.
The question for the Lightning, which really has no rivals other than the Flyers (though that is waning) and Thrashers (though that is still in its infancy), is who would it play?