The Rangers were able to keep their season going/salvage some dignity last night with a dramatic OT win over the Bruins at MSG. My sister-in-law, who is an ER nurse, was working last night and catching bits and pieces of the game on a hospital TV. Between the third period and OT, she posted on Facebook, “Ok Rangers, I kept my patient alive, you can keep this game alive!”. It was a nice microcosm of the attitude of Ranger fandom, and her defiant faith was rewarded. The Blueshirts still have quite the task ahead, but as they say, “one game at a time”. Since we are heading back to Boston tomorrow, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the game and series in general…
- Henrik Lundqvist was stellar again last night. The funny thing about The King in this series is that he gets blasted for Game 2 (simply due to the number of goals allowed), but I thought he was hung out to dry big time in that game. For me, if the Rangers fall say, one game short, the missed opportunity will have been Game 1. Both of the regulation goals in that game were stoppable, and the complexion of this series could have been very different going to New York.
- As Ranger fans, we tend to focus on our team’s shortcomings in the event of failure. Let’s not forget in this instance, the Boston Bruins are a very good team. They can roll four lines for 60 minutes and have plenty of system depth. We didn’t have a Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski to slot into the lineup when Marc Staal got hurt. Many fans are going to lament the teams goal scoring woes, and seek to bolster the offense in the offseason, but I think quality depth is the number one priority at this stage.
- With that said, as angry and frustrating as this round has been for me, I still try to remain cognizant of the fact that the Rangers are missing three important pieces. There is no need to delve into how important Marc Staal is to this hockey club. The front office spent 2, maybe 3 draft picks to acquire Ryane Clowe, who immediately turned the offense into a physical, forechecking machine. And, although I’m not the world’s biggest Darrell Powe fan, we could sure use him on the penalty kill at the moment.
- Ok, I’m going to talk about John Tortorella now. I’m also going to preface this with the understanding that some people just aren’t going to click with his personality. That’s completely fine, but let’s talk strictly about how he affects the team. Derek Jeter is one of the most respected and idolized figures in this history of New York sports. The New York media adore him, and he is one of the best quiet leaders in sports. The problem I have with Derek and players of that ilk *coughCallycough*, is that they never actually tell you anything in their interviews. They are wrought with cliché and team speak, saying all the right things while actually saying nothing at all. Torts is the opposite of this. I happen to find it refreshing and honest, even if his delivery and tone leave something to be desired.
- It must have been an incredibly difficult decision to scratch Brad Richards last night. Around here, we have the luxury of being able to make cold, objective decisions about a player’s performance or role on the team. Torts has to manage the egos and relationships amongst 23 grown men. Brad Richards is a close personal friend of Torts; they won a Cup together, and Richie came to New York to play for Torts. Easy to make that call from here, but most coaches wouldn’t have the moxie to pull the trigger.
- Torts also knows what the media does in these situations. As I’m sure his postgame presser has gone viral by now, I can respect him being able to diffuse (well, deflect) that situation and take the spotlight off Richie himself. Torts clearly is a magnet for media strife/controversy due to his gruff style, but he clearly has a deep respect for the player and the person, and he wasn’t going to let that be trivialized by some beat writer looking for page views.
- Now, with regard to his tactics, I think some tweaks need to be made, specifically in the defensive zone. I think the wings need to start being positioned higher, which will allow for more pressure on opposing point men and less time pinned in the defensive zone. Additionally, this will aid in the breakout, as they will force those same point men to back off into the neutral zone as the ice is stretched out north/south when the Rangers’ d-men control the puck. Right now, the opposition knows that the Ranger forwards aren’t breaking into the neutral zone for the long outlet because they are so low in the zone. This emboldens them to put more pressure on the puck carrier and limits the options on the breakout.
- There has been a lot of talk in the comments section about what kind of effect Tort’s personality has on the room as a motivating tool, so I thought I would address it directly. In a vacuum, a positive, accessible coach is generally going to be a better motivator than an abrupt, brutally honest type. However, there is an intangible that goes on inside a room that gets left someone unaccounted for. There are some coaches who you just want to play hard for. You crave their approval and all that comes with being the guy who contributed. It’s a very difficult effect to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but no matter how frustrated the fans get, the boys in the room seem to have a deep respect and desire to play for their coach.
- Nash-Stepan-Kreider, who knew?
Ok, so this kind of turned into a Torts post, with some actual player analysis mixed in. If you think about it though, the Rangers just played a real live hockey game, avoided the sweep, and got something of an overtime monkey off their backs. Yet, about 75% of this post has been about Torts. What better way to take pressure off of your players and keep them loose for the next one, than that?