Former Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella talks about "consistency"
Make no mistake about it, John Tortorella loved his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning and will always have a special bond with the players he led to the 2004 Stanley Cup. But he also took to the people he met in the Tampa Bay area. Remember all the charity work he did? He even still has his house in Pinellas County and intends to keep it. So, when the Rangers come to town and Torts talks, people around here listen.
Here is what he said about tonight's game, a huge one for New York, which is just four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East:
What have you seen from the Lightning?: I haven’t seen to much of them. I was able to watch their game against Pittsburgh. They’ve got some dynamic offensive people. If they spend a lot of time in our end, they’re a pretty dangerous team. If we spend time in their end, we have a much better chance of winning the hockey game. That’s our concentration. They have a number of good scorers there. We have to make them play defense, not spend too much time in our end.
How about Steven Stamkos?: I haven’t seen enough of him, but everything I read about him, I watched him play, I watched his power play goal the other night against Pittsburgh, and, obviously, that power play is one of their biggest strengths right now. We need to be disciplined, and obviously he can shoot the puck. Everyone knew what he has as a player. It’s come along really quickly. So, sure, he’s one of those guys and that line of Stamkos, (Steve) Downie and (Marty) St. Louis is a pretty good line. So we have to be aware of them, that’s for sure.
And others, right?: They have some good offensive people. We don’t change. We just have to be aware and concentrate on our defending, especially the last couple of months, every team ratchets it up as far as defending. At times we’re really good at it, other times we struggle. You’re not going to have too many opportunities. If you struggle tonight they have some pretty good people that can hurt you right away. So, we have to defend first and have our offense come off of that.
Is the feel for you in this building different than others?: You mean because I was here? No, No. Again, the door is still open for playoffs here, and just a crazy situation in the East. The only thing we’re concentrating on is just trying to be the best team we can be and beat this team. It doesn’t matter who it is or where it is, we got to get two points, there’s not been many games left.
Other than winning, what’s your barometer for how a team plays?: Our biggest struggle this year, it’s gone game to game, it’s gone period to period, it’s consistency in al parts of our game. That’s something we really fought a lot and tried to work on is being more consistent and playing the right way all the time. There’s going to be breakdowns in a game in a 60-minute game, so that’s the battle. We played just a (terrible) first period against the Islanders the other night, and then we come back and play a really good second period and then we grow and we come along and win that hockey game and come back from two goals. It’s just been very inconsistent that way as we’ve been through most of the year.
Mental inconsistency?: I’m not sure if it’s mental focus. If I knew exactly where to put the pin on it, it’d be cured, so it comes into a number of different things. That’s why I say all facets. We’ve just been inconsistent, especially at home. We have a pretty good road record, we’ve just been inconsistent at home. I don’t think we’d be in this spot if we took care of some business aback in our building. But we haven’t we’re still here and still fighting. We’re going to try to be as consistent as possible the next half a dozen games.
You sound like Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, talking about consistency. Is that just a mantra for all coaches?: I’m sure he’s gone through the same thing. I don’t think some of the top teams in this league talk about it because they have been consistent. We haven’t and it’s not just one facet of the game. It’s been frustrating when you rind away on the road and get your wins and we’re under .500 at home. It’s tough to get in when you’re in that situation. But the way the east has been this year we have a opportunity, so it’s not so much looking back at what we didn’t accomplish with consistency, it’s trying to be consistent now in the next 11 days.
Other stuff from the morning skate: After his 27-save shutout against Pittsburgh, no surprise Mike Smith gets the start in net. ... Sounds like left wing Stephane Veilleux will be scratched and right wing Teddy Purcell, scratched again Pittsburgh, is back in the lineup. ... Defenseman Victor Hedman (hip flexor) and Matt walker (lower body) a left wing Ryan Malone (knee) likely are out. ... In three of his past four gams, defenseman Mike Lundin has hit career highs in minutes, including 29:48 against the Penguins. "The confidence grows with a game like that," Lundin said. "When the coach has confidence in you and you get the job done, you feel good, you feel confident. It's definitely gratifying after a win like that and you have a big part in it." Coach Rick Tocchet said Lundin is "arguably our best defenseman. He's taken it to another level." What does he like abut his game? "His gapping is huge," Tocchet said. "That's the way we're trying to get our D to play, that gapping style. It's not about being Scott Stevens out there. It's about gapping. We always talk about Lidstrom and Timmonen in Philly. Those guys are always in your face, and Lunds does a nice job with his stick. He's always in people's faces. That's another element he has." ... Interesting take from defenseman Matt Lashoff on how the promotion of of Norfolk coach Jimmy Johnson to Lightning assistant affected the Admirals, who were 13-2-2 after Johnson replaced the fired Darren Rumble. "It's not so much upset," said Lashoff, who spent 66 gams with Norfolk before his call-up on Wednesday. "It's more of there was so much going on down there, and off-ice factors. So, when you finally pull it together, it wasn't so much you were upset, it's like you were like, 'What now?' We had such a good thing going. But that's the nature of the game. You take an opportunity none of us would have turned down." Still, Lashoff said without the leadership from guys such as Ryan Craig, Adam Hall and Mitch Fritz, there could have been trouble. "Those guys took control of a situation that could have spiraled out of control very quickly." Added Lashoff, "A situation like that had a chance to destroy the team. But there's a good amount of guys down there who know what needs to be done. You need that core group You need guys who can grab hold of situations." ... What did Tocchet not like about Purcell's game that he decided to sit him in Pittsburgh. "We put him in a top-six role, we need a little more battling from him. When we're playing teams that are in your face, he needs to have a little more battle mentality." ... As for tonight's game, Tocchet said, "We're playing a Rangers team that's fighting for their lives, so if that room is not ready to play, I'm not doing my job. I warned them today the Rangers are going to bring it. We have to bring it. We're on our death bed, so we should be (blank) to the wall."