NEW YORK | By the numbers, the Capitals are up 2-1 on the Rangers in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. But judging by words and body language of at least the teams’ coaches, it is tough to tell which one is leading.
New York’s John Tortorella opened with laughs, making light of the extra time off between games. “This has to be a staring contest today after two days,” he said with a smile.
Tortorella has a reputation for barbs with local media members but was in a good mood Wednesday morning. When a reporter brought up the 2-1 deficit, he responded: “Could be the other way, too.”
Yes, it could. Caps right wing Mike Knuble referenced a “coin flip” Sunday to describe that game – and each one this series has been close. Tortorella thinks the Rangers have gotten better each game and are trending positively because of their young players. Winning Game 3 obviously helped.
“As the series goes on, I think we’ve got the momentum,” Tortorella said. “And for us to keep momentum on our side, we’re going to have to be much better in all areas. It’s my gut. I just think we have to be much better in all areas.”
Bruce Boudreau had to deal with an injury question about Knuble and the continuation of the Madison Square Garden storyline that he started with a radio interview earlier in the week. So he wasn’t in the best of moods. When asked if Knuble made the trip with the team, the Caps’ coach said: “You know, I’m not gonna talk about any players today. So whether he did, his equipment’s up there, you’ll see tonight whether he’s here or whether he’s not.”
When there was a silence of a few seconds, Boudreau asked, “Anything else?” tapped on the table and appeared ready to go. He was then asked about his MSG comments and if he thought they’d have any effect.
“You guys are asking this question and it is a non-hockey question,” Boudreau said. “There are two teams that are battling their rear end off every night, hitting and everything, with these non-important, non-hockey questions. I’m not going to talk about it anymore because you blow it way out of proportion.”
How the Caps actually play Wednesday night will be the story moving forward – whether they’re able to take control of this series or see it turn into a three-game set beginning Saturday with Game 5. If Washington hammers New York (or wins at all), much of this will be forgotten and Tortorella might not be as chipper and Boudreau as chippy.
But until then, the coaches – as well as their teams – are under the microscope.