Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella clearly wasn’t happy about the way his team played in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals. He was pretty clear about it after his team’s 4-1 loss.
His post-game press conference shouldn’t be described as “vintage Torts,” it was more like “Torts classic”.
After a few minutes of answering questions, Tortorella got fed up with the line of questioning.
“We weren’t good,” Tortorella said after the game. “We weren’t good! There’s no sense in asking me things about the game. I’m telling you, we laid an egg. So I’m not going to break it down for you. We sucked! We sucked! So let’s move by it and see if we play better on Saturday afternoon.”
The next reporter tried to ask a follow-up question and was given the same treatment.
“We laid an egg. That’s all I have to say guys, I’m sorry. I’m not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. We have to figure it out and we will.”
Torts walked off after the next question.
After winning the first two games of the series on the road, the Blue Jackets managed to drop both contests at home. This best-of-seven series is tied up at two, with Game 5 coming up in Washington on Saturday afternoon.
They’ve got to be better than they were in Game 4. The stats don’t lie:
Where would the Blue Jackets be without Sergei Bobrovsky? Luckily for Columbus, they haven’t had to find that out.
As James O’Brien pointed out in yesterday’s edition of “The Buzzer,” Bobrovsky was outstanding in a 2-1 overtime win in Montreal.
“It’s the key of winning in the national hockey league,” Jackets head coach John Tortorella said after the win over the Canadiens. “Your goaltender has to do it. A couple of saves (Bobrovsky) made in the third period, and put that with the save he made in Detroit (on Saturday night), it’s a big reason why we’re getting points.
“He’s an athlete. The things he can do as far as going side-to-side is just so impressive…. Right now, I think the Columbus Blue Jackets own the best save of the year on the highlights and I think the second best save of the year on the highlights.”
Here’s the first save Tortorella was referring to:
As Torts pointed out, this is, in his mind, the save of the year. It’s hard to argue with that one.
Classic John Tortorella quotes have been lacking lately. The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to a good start this year, so there hasn’t been much for Tortorella to complain about…until now.
The Jackets had 2-0 and 3-2 leads against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden last night, but they ended up dropping a 5-3 decision.
Tortorella’s frustration came from his team’s inability to stay out of the penalty box in the third period. Columbus allowed New York to score the first game-tying goal (2-2), the second game-tying goal (3-3) and the go-ahead goal/game-winner (4-3) on the man-advantage.
“When you take stupid penalties, you don’t kill them off. We were a dumb hockey team tonight.”
Some people will roll their eyes at the above quotes because it’s just “Torts being Torts,” but the fact that he’s frustrated is justified. He could probably go about it in a different way, but that’s just the way he is.
Tortorella is trying to take the Jackets from being a nice story last season to being one of the legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference and in the entire NHL. He needs to set the bar high for his hockey club that’s now 9-5-1 on the season.
The truth is that a great team finds a way to close out that game on the road. Of course, it’s a long season and weird things happen over 82 games, but the Rangers are a divisional rival. Letting those two points slip through their fingers is less than ideal.
Columbus is sitting pretty in second place in the Metropolitan Division right now, but the Devils haven’t slowed down, the Penguins will continue to stick around, the Capitals will string some victories together at some point, and the Flyers and both New York teams won’t go away quietly.
Let’s see how the team responds to their coach’s strong criticism.
When sports teams milk nostalgia, like the Tampa Bay Lightning did on Saturday by remembering their 2003-04 Stanley Cup run, it often comes with that tinge of sadness that is part of the word’s meaning.
With John Tortorella watching on from the opposing bench of a very good Columbus Blue Jackets squad, the Lightning’s 5-4 shootout win brought about some different feelings tonight. Granted, coughing up a lead made it tenser than the Bolts probably hoped for, yet it also opened the door for Steven Stamkos to collect the shootout-winner.
The Stanley Cup memories and Tortorella’s presence inspire a bold question: is this the best team the Lightning have boasted since that championship run?
The game itself was a thriller, as the Blue Jackets stormed back from a 4-2 deficit to tie things up 4-4, forcing an eventual shootout. Former Tortorella acolyte Dan Girardi delivered a thunderous check on Matt Calvert during the contest:
Remarkably, the Lightning have reached some pretty high marks even though they haven’t sipped from the silver chalice since the season before the NHL went dark. They’ve enjoyed three deep runs since Torts left town:
2010-11: Finished second in their division (103 points), fell to Boston Bruins in Game 7 of a memorable Eastern Conference Final. The Bruins eventually won it all.
2014-15: Finished second in their division (108 points), lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
2015-16: Finished second in their division (97 points), lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Final. Penguins won it all.
Those three deep runs are a helpful reminder that there have been some very good Lightning teams, from Guy Boucher’s brief run to a transition away from Martin St. Louis under Jon Cooper’s reign. It’s interesting to note that the eventual champions knocked out the Bolts in all three of those runs, likely inspiring some fun/wistful “What if?” discussions for hardcore fans in Tampa.
Let’s consider a few facets of this Lightning team, which may just be their best since 2003-04:
They’re running away with the Atlantic Division so far. As strong as those previous seasons were, the Bolts peaked in the playoffs. Maybe the Lightning can combine strong regular season work and postseason play, much like in those championship days?
They have an identity in net. Do not underestimate how well Andrei Vasilevskiy has been so far in 2017-18. The Ben Bishop – Vasi combo was very strong, but there are advantages to having a clear-cut top guy.
A deadly duo: Some of the best Lightning teams have deployed some dynamic duos. St. Louis and Stamkos constituted a prolific partnership, yet Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov might be even better. In a fun twist, Stamkos has taken the Marty role early on, as he’s been more of a facilitator to Kucherov.
Interesting supporting cast members: In retrospect, the magic of “The Triplets” line may have largely come from Kucherov. Still, there are some nice players who may be able to help generate some points for the Lightning, with Brayden Point seemingly being GM Steve Yzerman’s latest deft discovery.
A brilliant, dangerous defenseman: As great as Dan Boyle was, Victor Hedman is truly special. The addition of Mikhail Sergachev may also help the rest of the blueline maintain a solid level of play.
It’s too early to say that the 2017-18 Lightning will rank among the best in team history. Stamkos and Kucherov need to stay healthy and productive. Cold streaks are bound to come.
Even so, nights like these make it tough not to at least think about such comparisons.
The accolades came rolling in for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season.
— Sergei Bobrovskywon the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie, after his sensational 2016-17 campaign that included a .931 save percentage in 63 starts, which was a big reason for his team’s overall success.
— John Tortorella went from being the coach favored to be fired first to the coach of the year.
Individual awards were the result of a franchise record-setting season with 50 wins and 108 points, as the Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs in a hyper competitive Metropolitan Division. But a great regular season gave way to a quick postseason appearance as Columbus was dispatched by the Penguins in the opening round, which doesn’t sit well with veteran defenseman Jack Johnson.
“I want to win. I just finished my 10th year, and my 11th year I want to win. I hope every guy is taking the summer seriously, training and getting ready because whether you finished first in the regular season or snuck into the playoffs, if you lose in game five of the first round that’s just not enough. So I’m definitely chomping at the bit, excited for next season because I’m excited every year.”
His comments echo a message from Tortorella earlier this summer. In the coach’s words, the Blue Jackets were able to set a foundation. Now, it’s about taking that next step in contending for the Eastern Conference.
Gone from the Blue Jackets lineup is Sam Gagner, who had a nice bounce-back season with 18 goals and 50 points — 18 of which were on the power play — while playing on a one-year deal at a very affordable $650,000. He then turned last season’s production into a three-year contract, worth a total of $9.45 million, with the Canucks.