BOSTON — In the playoffs, coaches look for any little thing to provide a their team psychological edge or something to rally around.
Even a media misconception can be used as a motivational tool.
By the time the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Eastern Conference Final with the Bruins by winning Game 4 yesterday, something Tim Thomas said in the postgame media availability two days earlier after Boston’s Game 3 win got twisted into an insult.
After his team’s Game 4 win, and again today at the TD Garden, Lightning head coach Guy Boucher was asked what he thought about Thomas implying Tampa Bay is “easy” to play against.
“Well, I heard about that. Well, we heard that we were easy to play before last game. And, well, I guess we should have stayed home,” said Boucher. “You know, their people are allowed to think what they think and we’re not going to pay attention to that. Hopefully our players are staying focused and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Boucher has to be loving the fact that somebody’s providing him with bulletin-board material. There’s only one problem: that person isn’t Thomas.
Here’s what Thomas actually said after his Game 3 shutout when asked what he meant by the game being more “normal” for him:
“Well, kind of a product of the way the game goes in front of me. So I was able to play more under control tonight, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that we played the way that I’m used to. So I felt comfortable in a game like that.
“I think getting the first quick goal definitely helped the whole team. And then not just sitting back in the third but going out and getting that second goal made us able to stay relaxed and calm throughout the whole game.”
Tim Thomas was complimenting his teammates for keeping their composure and playing a sound defensive game. This came on the heels of the wild-and-wooly 6-5 victory two nights earlier in Game 2. When the Bruins are on top of their defensive game, as they were in Game 3, they’re letting Thomas see the shots and keeping the opponent to the perimeter.
At no point did he say anything even mildly insulting about the Lightning or the way they play.
The word “easy” is nowhere on the transcript from Thomas’ press conference. That postgame presser was the only time he was available to the media between the end of Game 3 and the start of Game 4.
How does something like this happen? Well someone could take the part about “feeling comfortable” out of context — maybe by accident or maybe to create a sensation story — and decide Thomas was making a reference to the Lightning not going to the net. Then other people, with access to the same transcripts and stories as TheBruinsBlog.net, don’t bother doing their due diligence and instead begin to paraphrase the misconstrued quote and suddenly Tim Thomas has called the Lightning “easy” to play against.
Boucher and people on Tampa Bay’s side have no reason to debunk the media fallacy because it works out in their favor, especially if Boucher is reaching for something extra to motivate his team.
In the grand scheme of things, what was said or not said isn’t going to have much of an impact on this series. It would just be nice to have more accountability among my colleagues in the media. It’s difficult enough to get athletes to say anything of substance. Taking that substance and twisting it to create an eye-catching storyline — on purpose or not — hurts that cause.