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Top Shelf: Tort's Canucks still a work in progress

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - When John Tortorella makes his return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon, don't expect the notoriously hard-nosed coach to get nostalgic about the homecoming.

In fact, if it was up to Tortorella everybody would treat Saturday's contest as just another game.

After all, the current Vancouver Canucks and former New York Rangers head coach has always taken an all-business approach to his job. There simply isn't time to get wistful or sentimental about a game that still only represents one of 82 challenges facing his team this season.

Although it may be just another game to Tortorella, Saturday's game against the Rangers is a highly anticipated affair. Ever since the Canucks and Rangers effectively swapped head coaches over the summer, with Alain Vigneault going from the Canucks to the Rangers, these two franchise's have been inextricably linked.

It's an intriguing storyline to be sure. There is something compelling about the fiery Tortorella leaving the hustle and bustle of NYC behind for the laid- back beauty of Vancouver, while a cool customer like Vigneault attempts to be the calm at the center of the storm in Manhattan.

Tortorella and Vigneault wound up trading places after running out of time with their former clubs. Both guys had no small amount of success in their previous jobs, but disappointing outcomes to last year's lockout-shortened campaign marked the end of the road for Tortorella in the Big Apple, and the same for Vigneault in British Columbia.

Vigneault was fired by the Canucks on May 22 after his team lost in the opening round of the playoffs for the second straight spring. A week later, Tortorella was axed by the Rangers after he failed to get New York out of its second-round series against the Boston Bruins.

In both places, the expectations became too high for either guy to live up to. Tortorella led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup title in 2004, and was expected to do the same in New York. When he couldn't achieve that feat in his four-plus seasons with the Rangers, it was time for him to go.

In Vancouver, Torts is tasked with getting the Canucks franchise its elusive first Stanley Cup title. Vigneault spent the last several seasons knocking on that door, and came so very close to leading the Canucks to the promised land in the spring of 2011, when Vancouver lost a home Game 7 against Boston to remain Cup-less.

So, both coaches entered this season with the expectations considerably raised, and the only thing that could satisfy either team's fan bases would be ownership of a certain silver chalice.

Presently, neither team is looking like a world-beater, but Stanley Cup titles aren't won in November, something that Tortorella knows all too well. If the season ended today, the Canucks wouldn't make the playoffs, but there is time to get the club where it needs to be.

That doesn't mean Torts is happy with his team's mediocre 4-4-4 record this month or the club's 13-9-5 mark this season, but he's a firm believer in not letting his troops get too high or too low. If things were different and Vancouver was at the top of the NHL standings right now, Tortorella still likely wouldn't be satisfied.

To Tortorella, there is always room for improvement and being satisfied with your latest effort is a sure-fire way to wind up being left behind the pack.

In his first two months behind the bench in Vancouver, Tortorella has seen his new club go through peaks and valleys, although in recent weeks the Canucks have seen more valleys than mountain tops. Less experienced head coaches would be frustrated at this point, but Tortorella has the bigger picture in mind. The same wide perspective will keep him from getting caught up in the emotional aspects of his own personal return to New York City.

After all, the fact that he used to coach the Rangers doesn't make Saturday's game more important. To Tortorella, it's still worth two points just like the rest of them. Just like every other game it offers a chance to get better and, like always, that's what Tortorella will be focused on Saturday afternoon.

After a recent loss, Tortorella's summed up his coaching philosophy in a near perfect way when he said, "I'll keep building the team. There's lots of hockey left."

Saturday's showdown will be interesting to hockey fans for many reasons, but to the Canucks head coach it'll just be another opportunity for improvement.

11/29 13:12:46 ET

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Schedule

Friday, April 18Full Scoreboard
Montreal 4/18 7:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay @theRink | TV: CNBC, CBC, RDS, FSN-FL
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Montreal leads series, 1-0.
Detroit 4/18 7:30 PM ET
Boston CNBC, CBC, RDS, FSN-FL
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Dallas 4/18 10:00 PM ET
Anaheim NBCSN, TSN, FSN-SW
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Anaheim leads series, 1-0.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
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DAL
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NOR
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