MontréalDetailed Forecast Subscribe Subscriber Services ePaper canada. Photograph by: Alex Brandon , THE ASSOCIATED PRESSMONT­REAL — If Jon Coop­er didn’t exist, John Grish­am would have to in­vent him. Maybe he did. The for­mer law­yer has an easy man­ner, a fresh face, the abil­ity to talk with ease and pur­pose and a lit­tle good hu­mour. His Tampa Bay Light­ning are down 2-0 to the Mont­real Cana­diens in their first-round play­off ser­ies, with Game 3 Sun­day night in Mont­real. And the first-year NHL head coach is treat­ing it like a pleas­ant day in court, with a jury that can yet be swayed. “Every­one thinks we’re sup­pos­ed to lose,” said Coop­er after Tampa’s mor­ning skate. “Now I’m hear­ing done, be on the golf course by Wed­nes­day, I’ve heard it all. “But at some point they’re go­ing to have to do that in front of their fans, try and knock us out. I’m sure they’ve never had a 2-0 lead on the road and come back and blown it. Mont­real did just that in 2011 against Bos­ton, of course, and against Carolina in 2006. It was a love­ly dig, breez­i­ly de­liv­ered, with a bit of a wink. This wasn’t Raptors gen­er­al man­ager Masai Ujiri tell­ing an ador­ing crowd in To­ron­to, “F--- Brook­lyn,” be­fore Game 1 of their play­off ser­ies. But it was a coach who wasn’t afraid to be a lit­tle play­ful, which hock­ey could use more of. “If you real­ly look at the whole sea­son of what’s gone on here, I don’t think there’s one per­son in this room if they were picking who would make the play­offs this year in our div­ision was picking the Tampa Bay Light­ning to go any­where,” said Coop­er, a 46-year-old, who was born in Prince George, B.C., and played some high school hock­ey in Sas­katch­ewan. “We were like a hot pick for num­ber six, maybe a lit­tle bit num­ber sev­en in our div­ision. Those guys in there ended up com­ing se­cond. Then we get to the play­offs and every­body picked — I think we had 40 poll­sters we went through, and I think 35 of the 40 picked the Mont­real Cana­diens to beat us. So it doesn’t mat­ter how well we play, we were still not picked to do any­thing. “I’m sure in­jur­ies prob­ably helped struc­ture why people chose us to not win the ser­ies. We get home ice and don’t de­liv­er the way clear­ly we want­ed to. Coop­er is a great ex­plain­er, and it’s one of his strengths as a coach. He got here by coach­ing kids while he was practicing law in Lan­sing, Mich. He even­tu­al­ly quit law to coach in Tex­ar­kana, Texas, and worked his way to the NHL. Tampa sur­vived Ste­ven Stamkos’s bro­ken leg and Martin St. Louis’s thun­der­ous mood to post a 101-point sea­son, and Coop­er has been their steady man at the helm, with rook­ies every­where and con­stant tur­bu­lence. The in­jur­ies have con­tinued, with starting goal­tend­er Ben Bish­op and super-rook­ie Ondrej Palat hurt. Palat, in­jured in Game 1, was a game-time de­ci­sion for Game 3. When Mont­real counter­part Mi­chel Therrien speaks, you can al­most see him forming the sen­ten­ces in his head, and eras­ing any­thing that could be too in­ter­est­ing, in either lan­guage. He is under pres­sure be­cause he is Mont­real’s head coach. Some­times he lets some­thing slip — like Sun­day, when he told re­por­ters, “We know where Palat is hurt. We have to play phys­ic­al against him, and take away his time and space.” It wasn’t quite mena­cing, but Therrien’s been a bully for a long time. Coop­er, mean­while, is still at ease, and pretty hon­est for both a law­yer and a hock­ey coach. He was pressed, a lit­tle later, on wheth­er the pres­sure was real­ly on Mont­real. He smiled.“Well, there’s only pres­sure be­cause two games doesn’t win you a ser­ies,” Coop­er said. “But let’s be a real­ist here. They’re up two games to zero. I would like to be up two games to zero. I think in that situ­a­tion, they’re in a bet­ter spot than we are. I’d rath­er be up 2-0 than down 2-0.”He may be booed Sun­day night, but it’s not like Coop­er doesn’t like Mont­real, for the re­cord. It’s all an op­por­tun­ity.“I’ll tell you one thing about be­ing in Mont­real, and I think I said this in Tampa, as a fan and as a coach in the league, there’s some­thing about com­ing to Mont­real and be­ing in this arena — from the pres­en­ta­tion be­fore the game to when you’re on the ice to the atmos­phere, they hit a home run,” Coop­er said.“I’m sure it’s a treas­ure to play here be­cause the fans are ex­treme­ly pas­sion­ate: they cheer, they have chants, they under­stand the game, and as a vis­itor it’s real­ly cool to be a part of that.“I’ve real­ly enjoyed it. We played an Amer­ican League game here dur­ing the lock­out and there was 18,000 fans here and it was just a ton of fun. I’ve been for­tun­ate to play a few regu­lar-sea­son games here and we’ve just real­ly have enjoyed it. I per­son­al­ly have real­ly enjoyed the atmos­phere. You try to sit here and say, `Is this a hos­tile en­viron­ment?’ I’m sure it is, but I don’t like to look at it that way.“I like to look at it like it’s a great hock­ey en­viron­ment and em­brace this be­cause there’s a lot of sto­ried hist­ory that’s been in this build­ing and we can ac­tual­ly be a part of this hist­ory. We are a part of this hist­ory. Now we can be a part of hist­ory that’s real­ly not talked about so much, or we can be a part of hist­ory that’s real­ly talked about. And let’s have fun with that. « Previous 1 2 View as one page Next »© Copyright (c) Postmedia Network Inc. 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