Nothing mystical here

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET


 TAMPA, Florida -- So, Great Tortellini, what happened to that spell-binding series that was going to hold us for a year or so while there was no hockey?

 What happened to the spectacular Stanley Cup Final you all but guaranteed before it began?

 Tell us, Great Tortellini, why the hockey itself has regressed from game to game until by Game 4 it became, as you yourself put it, "Ugly as hell."

 John Tortorella, a.k.a The Great Tortellini, as Philadelphia Flyers GM Bobby Clarke dubbed him during hissing contests with Ken Hitchcock during the Eastern Conference Final, told us at the git-go there was going to be a lot of "git" and a lot of "go." But the git-go seems to have got up and left.

 TIME TO REVISIT

 So, oh Great Tortellini, it's time to revisit that proclamation.

 "It's going to be a hell of a series with both teams going straight ahead and pushing it," you promised, oh Great One, in the beginning.

 Tell us, oh Great Tortellini, where the go has gone?

 "Well, I don't know. As we've gone along here, Calgary has gone into more of a defensive mode," the Lightning explained less than an hour after both the media and the Tampa Bay charters landed here yesterday.

 "We just go about our business and try to get our job done."

 Maybe I should point out at the outset here that the Great Tortellini hasn't quite been the quote machine in the championship final that he was in the Eastern Final. But with four games in the books, a two-day break between games and Tampa Bay back home with home-ice advantage in what is now a best-of-three series, it was time to consult the Great Tortellini on the biggest subject of all yesterday.

 It started with the play, which has play-by-play guys like Hockey Night In Canada's Bob Cole moaning that there are four guys on the puck all the time, that they're flipping it out and there's not much play-by-play to call.

 Oh, nobody is saying it hasn't been interesting. It's 2-2 headed to Game 5 here tomorrow and Tampa is 2-0 in Game 5s and Calgary 5-0. And nobody has a clue what to expect other than that the team which scores first will win it.

 Maybe it's that first-goal thing.

 It's become totally ridiculous. Calgary is 12-1 when scoring first. San Jose is 12-2 when the Lightning get the opening goal.

 So, Great Tortellini, tell us why.

 "I think the league is in a defensive mode. It's very tough to score goals," he said.

 "Each team has their own team concept in terms of how they can be successful. I don't begrudge anybody anything. As I said to the other day, we're going to just try create offence no matter what's going on around us. That's the only way we know how to approach it."

 Nobody seemed to make much of it during the regular season, but the team which scored first ended up with at least a point in the standings in 81% of the games.

 One other thing, oh Great Tortellini: can you explain that eight-game undefeated run followed by win-loss, win-loss ever since?

 The Lightning won Game 1-3-5-7 in the previous series and 2-4 in this series.

 "As you go through the long road in the playoffs, it's trying to keep momentum and another team trying to get momentum back," he said.

 IT'S HOW YOU RESPOND

 "The most important thing if you lose a game is how you respond."

 There was no response yesterday from the league in terms of possible punitive action against Ville Nieminen, who received a major for pasting Vinnie Lecavalier's face into the glass with less than five minutes to play in the third period.

 If Lecavalier is out of the lineup for Game 5, it would make three Tampa Bay players out of the lineup as a result of hits to the head.

 But the Great Tortellini, who was so attracted to controversy in the third round, wasn't going to go there, either.

 "There's supposed to be an emphasis on the head," he said. "But you're talking to the wrong guy about that."

 One last thing, oh Great Tortellini. What does it say about two teams which are a combined 5-0 in Game 5s?

 "I don't even look at what number the game is. I don't have all those stats. It's Game 5. It's exactly what it is. It's our fifth game of a seven-game series. Both teams are tied 2-2 and it's first to four. However many games it takes us to win four, that's what we're looking to do. So this is just the next game coming up."

 Oh, thank you, Great Tortellini, for clearing up all that has mystified in this series.


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