For the record, coach John Tortorella said neither myself nor Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune were the clowns to which he referred after Tuesday night's 4-3 shootout victory over the Senators (go ahead, take your best shot). But his reference to at least one unnamed person in the Tampa Bay media, made for an interesting discussion.
Here's the scene:
It was going to be an innocent question in Tortorella's postgame meeting with reporters. Erik wondered to Tortorella if he took the positive out of a victory or was concerned that the team lost another two-goal lead in the third period. Before the question was even finished, Tortorella cut him off.
"I'm not talking any negatives,'' the coach said. "We won a big hockey game. Let's go there.''
Fair enough, a confidence boosting win against the No. 1 team in the East, no need to run down the effort that, in total, the team should be proud.
So, the conversation continued between Erik, myself and Torts, who admitted mistakes were made in the third period, but also added, "I'm not going to address them with you guys. There's a lot of sarcasm and I'm sick of it.''
As he said that, Torts stared right at me. Wasn't quite sure if he was just looking to me for the next question or was signaling that I was the culprit of distributing the sarcasm to which he was referring. I didn't really think so because I try very hard not to take cheap shots when I write. Criticism is fine, but I have to deal with these guys every day, so cheap shots do nothing but cause people to distrust you.
Still, the stare was pretty intense, so I asked if he was referring to me.
"No,'' he said. "Not at you. I'm not naming names.''
The interview finally wound around to how Lightning players were quite down on themselves after the game; glad for the victory but upset that they let the third period get away from them by allowing two goals in 36 seconds with under two minutes remaining.
Said Tortorella: "The team has always been that way,'' meaning good at self-assessment. "Some of the (media) clowns around here don't understand it. Not you two,'' he said of me and Erik.
Tortorella didn't say at whom he was upset. But something certainly got under his skin somewhere between the morning skate and the end of the game. No one around the team seemed to know the cause of his agitation, or at least they weren't saying.