Do a search on Twitter for a hashtag called #TrollGaze2K11. I'm pretty sure it started in the college football Twittersphere when someone found a hack columnist trolling their readers, trying to stir the pot with a bad column, and they tacked on that tag when they retweeted it. Since then it's expanded to apply to anything said to troll some other person, team, fan base, whatever.
I thought about that after I saw this blog post about how Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher had "Hypnotoad'd" his team into following his lead in the media sessions so far in the playoffs. That's a valid point, because the players have been steadfast in saying the same things to the press that Boucher does, and it helps set the even-keel mood that you need to maintain on a postseason run.
But I think there's another possibility we should consider: Boucher has been straight trolling the Washington Capitals, on and off the ice.
Even before the series began, Boucher started laying it on thick. He talked about how the series was David vs. Goliath, how the Capitals were "in Year 5 of their plan" while his team was in Year 1.
"If they don't win, it's a failure." And, "There's a lot of pressure (on the Capitals), but we know with pressure comes a lot of energy."
What can Bruce Boudreau, no stranger to media mind games himself, say to that? "Well, if we lose the series, it's only three years in a row of bombing out of the playoffs early as a high seed and it probably costs me my job, but that's not a failure!" All he can do is blubber about how even the matchup is and that his team does in fact have faults. Which is exactly what you want to have your coach saying about your team right before a playoff series.
So then the games start, and it's clear that the Lightning's game plan is trolling the Capitals, too. Let Washington take a bunch of shots because you're confident Dwayne Roloson can stop them. Take your 1-3-1 system and make it more passive than usual, to save your energy, protect some of your weaker defenders, and irritate the Capitals offense. Let Alex Ovechkin try and weave his way through three or four defenders, because you know he'll go into superhero mode when his team is trailing instead of trusting his teammates. Annoy their whole team and everyone in the stands, and then counter-attack. Strike back on the power play. Get a couple lucky bounces (that really ratchets up the frustration level on the other side). Fight off waves of attacks, and then suddenly they're caught in a bad line change in overtime and in the blink of an eye you get a 2-on-1 and win the game. Now the Lightning are up 2-0 in the series coming back to Tampa, clearly in the driver's seat.
After Game 2, Boucher keeps mentioning how his team got lucky during the game, then comes right out and says they got away with one (the quote is about two-thirds of the way into his press conference). He says the Capitals will come out with everything they have in Game 3 and he hopes they can survive again, like they did on Sunday.
And he also throws out this little tweak: "Rest is a weapon... It's been very, very tough for us. I'll be honest, guys gave everything they had (Sunday), and it was about time we scored that goal, because I don't think we could have gone another period like that."
Because it's not like the Capitals had nearly a week off after taking out the New York Rangers, and then lost the first two games on home ice to a team that came right out of a seven-game series and didn't even fly back to Tampa before this series began. Oh wait, that's exactly what happened.
The series is far from over, of course, but up to this point Guy Boucher has gotten exactly what he wanted. The Lightning have the upper hand, and everyone in red, white, and blue is feeling the pressure. That's how you troll.