He's totally focused on Lightning-Isles playoff; forget everything else.
By TOM JONES
Published April 9, 2004
TAMPA - Just one look at Lightning coach John Tortorella on game day - or anywhere near an ice rink, for that matter - and it's easy to see the guy eats, sleeps and breathes hockey.
Well, that's not entirely accurate. He eats, sleeps and breathes Lightning hockey. As far as other hockey, well, he isn't paying much attention these days.
Tortorella didn't watch one shift of any of the four playoff games Wednesday night.
Thursday morning, the day after the NHL postseason began, the rest of the playoffs still weren't on Tortorella's radar or television screen.
"I don't even know what the scores of the games were," he said.
Right now, Tortorella's attention is on two teams: the Lightning and Islanders. Anything outside that little circle is nothing more than a distraction.
To that end, the best part about playing the Islanders is they aren't the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators or even the Bruins. Not because one team is any easier or more difficult to play against than another, but the Islanders, by NHL standards, are small-market even though they play in New York.
Only one major newspaper covers the Islanders heavily. That's Newsday. Meantime, Canadian teams have an army of reporters from television, radio and print outlets.
For example, the traveling party with the Maple Leafs in the postseason can reach 100 if you count reporters from the major Toronto newspapers and suburban papers and all the national and local radio and television stations.
Instead of dealing with perhaps 100 reporters Thursday morning, Tortorella spoke to about 20.
He might like that idea if he gave it any thought. Of course, he hasn't.
"You get so focused on what we're doing and what we're trying to accomplish as a club, none of our attention is elsewhere," Tortorella said. "You're so focused on this and your guys. Whatever attention comes to it, good or bad, no offense, but we really don't care. It's just a matter of what's going on in that locker room. That's what we're doing and paying attention to. Whatever focus comes to it, that's for the (media) to worry about, not us."
That's why Tortorella has no use for which team is the favorite in this series, which team is the underdog, who should win, who should lose.
Predictions? Tortorella could not care less. Seedings? That matters even less even though the Lightning is seeded first and the Islanders eighth.
"You can throw these damn seedings right out the door, especially in the East," Tortorella said. "It doesn't matter. The Islanders, they have played well against us all year long. I'm pretty sure they're not too worried about us being the No. 1 seed. This is going to be two teams coming down to simple things, paying attention to the details. It will be a battle. A playoff series is a game of attrition. Who can get through it? Who can make the big play at big times?"
And Tortorella won't care which newspapers are writing about it.