You’re 3 goals up in the third. You’re dominating play with 19 shots to 13. You’ve been down and you know what defeat feels like – you’ve won just 2 games in your last 10. But you’re up now. Victory is so close you can almost taste it. Just hold on for 20 minutes and you’ve got a win. But the momentum shifts, and before you know it, you’ve conceded the game to a team 4th from bottom in the league standings.
I am of course referring to the 7-4 defeat of the Canucks to the Islanders last night in Vancouver. Credit to the Islanders for turning around the game and claiming critical points as they battle for points late in the regular season. But for the Canucks, it’s adding insult to injury during an incredibly tough run. After the game, the locker room was a somber affair. The players completed media interviews and their faces said it all – they are defeated. Not just literally defeated – but mentally, too. Ryan Kesler, a team staple almost traded last week, surmised it simply – “It’s embarrassing.” Captain and Canucks veteran Henrik Sedin added, “We should have had this game. We should have been back in the race.”
Enter John Tortorella. While hockey fans were used to seeing an aggressive John Tortorella behind the New York Rangers bench as recently as last season, it seems the West Coast has arguably mellowed the coach. Save from the famous scuffle involving the Flames back in January, resulting in a 15-day suspension without pay, but I digress. In a post-game news conference last night, Tortorella was poised and calm. And although he answered questions from the media fully and patiently, he made no excuses for his team.
Torts did, however, attempt to put an end to the ongoing saga Canucks fans are surely keen to put a lid on. There is no ‘goaltending situation’ according to the head coach. “Don’t put this all on Eddie. I’ve never been in a game like that,” he said with certainty. This time, recently traded Roberto Luongo remained quiet. His Twitter pseudonym @strombone1 drew scorn from Don Cherry after unkind remarks directed at his former teammate Eddie Lack during a 6-1 slide with the Dallas Stars. Cherry quipped, “These guys were pretty good to you, Roberto. They give you $60-million dollars, they send you to Florida to where you wanted and what do you do? You send a to them making fun of them that you’d mop up.”
“What kind of guy are you?” Cherry continued. “You know how much I think of you. Let’s knock it off. They’re down, they’re having a tough time right now. You’re in paradise, keep your mouth shut.”
Twitter theatrics aside, perhaps the former hot-headed New York Rangers coach said it best himself. Torts vowed at practice in Vancouver this morning, “As a coach, this is my responsibility. This falls to me. I’m going to try to turn this around.”