What’d Ya Do with Torts?

“Who are you and where did you bury the body of John Tortorella?” It would not have been an unfair question to ask the man who came out of the Vancouver locker room Saturday night to explain the Canucks’ 5-1 loss at the hands of the LA Kings. As he stepped into the spotlight, he (OK, it was Tortorella) said “Woah, woah, woah, woah, whoa,” in reaction to the crush of media members leaning in. Meanwhile, most reporters members were waiting for the explosion.

How else would the “Torts” most have observed over the years typically respond to a drubbing?

And it wasn’t just the score, but the way the Kings won. They dominated from mid-way through the opening period, putting in at least two goals by simply beating Vancouver to pucks behind their net. They scored in the dreaded last minute of play (that was in period one). And they won despite not being able to capitalize on their power play. What about that performance would please a (losing) coach?

He opened his comments by saying, “I thought in the first two periods we had surges early, and we couldn’t score. It’s a 5-1 game and you think you got spanked, but you know, I thought Quick made some really important saves at key times. We had some breakdowns, and it’s in the back of our net.”

Of perhaps further concern: though LA scored zero times on the power play, it wasn’t for not having been given lots of chances by Vancouver. In fact, the team was penalized four times (minors) along with one major. Two of the minors, both in the third, were to Tom Sestito, and both of those were for charging. Odd was that that player, claimed off waivers last March from Philly, had played just two minutes in period one, but by the end of the game had ten minutes, despite sitting for nine minutes due to the fight and two minors. His career record coming into the night, by the way, showed 75 games played and 246 penalty minutes. Guess what most of those are for? The third period saw the Sedin line play just a couple of shifts, which explains the prominence of a thug like Sestito. His 34 PIMs coming into the game led the team. He increased that lead leaving town.

Roberto Luongo was pulled about halfway through the game, and Tortorella said after that it was a little bit how he played and a little bit something else. “I don’t think he was sharp, but he’s played very well for us. But more in my mind, Eddie [Lack] hasn’t played, he’s going to play tomorrow, and uh, it gave him some time. I thought he played very well.” He let in one goal on 14 shots, where Luongo had let in four on 18.

In fact, the Canucks kind of gave up in period three, if certain signs can be taken as meaningful. Witness that the first line was sitting most of the frame. Daniel Sedin commented on the lack of icetime he and his brother had enjoyed in the third. “It was one of those games where we made mistakes, and they made us pay for them.” He said that the fact that they have the chance in one day to make things right was good. “That’s hockey. You get a chance every few days, and for us that’s tomorrow. It’s against a very good team, and we’ve got to be ready.” He said further that he thought the team started out very well, but that not burying their chances took away the momentum. Sitting most of the period, he said, “Was totally fine with us. We didn’t play our best game, either. We’ve got a big game tomorrow, so we’ll be ready.”

So if even the stars are willing to admit that they did poorly, how to explain their formerly explosive coach’s calm demeanor? He’s grown up. Nope. Too old for that. He’s happy with how they’re playing and he’s been rewarded with a decent record to date? True, but if you look at the Pacific, you’ll notice that the Canucks, while sitting fourth, have also played two more games than LA and as many as anyone in the division. If you discount that advantage, they’re dead even with the Kings in terms of points.

When asked how long he’ll dwell on the loss, Tortorella said, “As soon as I’m done talking about it here, we’re done with it, so I hope I don’t have to take any more questions on it.” It was a teeny, tiny bit like the explosive guy most of us have seen on TV. But if the statement was rude, it was so mildly so that it didn’t signify, and the crowd of reporters went away disappointed that the show hadn’t happened. Has the West coast hippy vibe somehow infected the formerly acerbic New Englander? Well, something’s happened, and if that explains the new mellow version of “Torts,” then so be it.

Vancouver has its chance to pull away a couple of points from LA in less than a day, as they’re playing at 5pm local time in Anaheim Sunday. LA, meanwhile, goes on a four-game road trip starting with a game in Buffalo on Tuesday. Then it’s down to the NYC area to play the three teams based there.

The Kings are without several key players, including Matt Greene, Jeff Carter, and Jarrett Stoll, all injured. Stoll looks to be the closest to coming back. The other two are not skating. Their roster is thin, which is why there’s a spot for Tyler Toffoli and one for Linden Vey. Their coach said after the game that the two had “both showed their offensive composure and ability to handle the puck under pressure.” Vey got his first point as an NHLer when he deked around a Vancouver played and fed the puck to the center of the ice where Jordan Nolan stuffed it past Luongo at about midway through period one.

His presence in the lineup, and Toffoli’s, was explained after the game by their coach: “We’re kind of right at the limit, aren’t we, in terms of players? We need everybody we can get right now because of injuries,” Sutter said. He commented that they would skate tomorrow and that Monday, when the team leaves for their trip, it will become clear what is going on with the injured players. “We’ll get through tomorrow and we’ll make the decision tomorrow.”

On the night, Vey played mostly with Carcillo and Nolan, while Toffoli has found some chemistry with Mike Richards and is playing with him and Dwight King on what is arguably the second line. Up and down the lineup, in fact, there are names that take the Kings from their familiar Cup-year roster. These include Matt Frattin as well as the aforementioned Vey, Toffoli, and Carcillo.


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