NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — To John Tortorella, there’s the wrong way — and then there’s his way.
The irritable coach of the Rangers clearly disdains the ongoing pregame, postgame, and off-day media gatherings he is required to hold as his top-seeded club faces the Washington Capitals in an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
That was evident more than ever Tuesday. At one point, Tortorella asked a persistent reporter, “Are you being a wise a–?”
Part of it is Tortorella’s desire to keep things close to the vest and out of the public view as he tries to guide the Rangers deep into the postseason. The other seems to be his desire to maintain the hard edge that has made him successful as a coach.
He has already won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year for leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup title in 2004. Tortorella is also a finalist for the award this year for his work with the Rangers, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second best overall in the NHL.
Tortorella’s answers were brief, pointed, and presented with a bite on Monday night after New York’s 3-2 loss in Game 2 to Washington evened the best-of-seven series. That tone continued the next day.
After New York held an optional practice before hopping a train to Washington for Games 3 and 4 of the series, Tortorella was asked why he takes an adversarial approach with reporters who continue to prod him for information.
He engaged in a bit of volleying as he tried to ascertain if the question was legitimate or of the reporter was trying to be funny. When he was told it was a sincere query, the fiery coach fired back.
“I’m not going to give you much information,” he said. “Some of you guys sit here and tell me I’m curt or whatever. I’m not going to have a staring contest. If you don’t ask me questions, I’ll just leave. So that’s the way it is. I’m sorry I’m not a guy that wants to converse about everything during the playoffs. I’m not.”
Tortorella wouldn’t answer with any depth about the Capitals’ limited use of their star Alex Ovechkin, who played only 13 minutes, 36 seconds in Washington’s win on Monday. Despite playing his fewest minutes in a game in which he wasn’t injured, Ovechkin scored the tiebreaking goal on a third-period power play.
“I don’t worry or comment about the other team,” he said.
Nor would he comment on the status of injured Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky, who has missed two straight games.
“I’m not going to give you updates on lineups or injuries, so let’s just move right by that,” Tortorella said.
How about his decision to switch up his lines, moving struggling top scorer Marian Gaborik down and elevating rookie Chris Kreider, who has played only seven NHL games — all in these playoffs — but has managed to net two game-winning goals?
“There was a number of different things I was trying to do,” he said.
But when asked if he would share those, the answer was a terse, “No.”
He even cut off a question about being a finalist for coach of the year. Tortorella said the time to ask about that was on Monday when it was announced he was among the top three in votes.
So as long as the Rangers stay alive in the playoffs, the interaction between Tortorella and the growing number of media members will likely become more and more strained.
But if his club keeps winning, Tortorella won’t mind a bit.
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