A case for shot-blocking

____ is killing hockey. That seems to be the only headline that moves the dial in Canada these days.

Every couple of weeks it’s something else that is supposedly destroying the game. First it was keeping a hockey team in Nashville, a market that was never supposed to succeed. Whoops.

Then it was the Lightning’s 1-3-1 trap, which was supposed to lift them from mediocrity while simultaneously sink the NHL and its ratings. Shhh…don’t tell anyone they missed the playoffs and the ratings are breaking all kinds of records.

Finally, in the most recent piece of garbage written by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, the Rangers strategy of blocking shots will kill the league because as Kenny said, everyone “found it frustrating to watch and devoid of excitement.” Further, he says, “The Rangers are bad for the NHL, that’s why. If you found the Rangers seven-game second round series against the Washington Capitals to be compelling hockey, then good on you.” Interesting stuff.

I swear a zombie apocalypse could be destroying mankind and Ken Campbell would still be finding some irrelevant hockey nugget and acting like it’ll cause hockey and humanity’s impending doom. But hey, what else do you expect from a writer who is anti-salary cap because of rookie initiation dinners?

I digress.

The real issue is the media has picked up this idea that the Rangers are in fact ruining the game and predictably all fingers are pointing to the man behind the bench. John Tortorella. Some have even gone as far to say that the NHL should develop rules to prohibit teams from blocking shots.

Well, as Samuel L. Jackson once famously said in Pulp Fiction, and I continue to say on this site…“well allow me to retort.

The Rangers don’t play a “boring style of hockey.” Evidence by the Garden crowd this postseason. They don’t even play a defensive system by traditional logic. They actually play an aggressive 2-1-2 offensive zone forecheck. They allow their offensive defensemen free reign to pinch, jump into the play, or join the rush. You could even argue they are the antithesis of “dead puck” era hockey, whatever that means. But Ken simply writes the Rangers off as a neutral zone trapping team, even though that is completely false.

So because they are collapsing in front of their net and blocking shots, which most of the league is doing now anyway, everyone seems to want to take shots (pun intended) at their style of play and associate it with the trap? It’s ridiculous. These labels have become vague and meaningless. The fact of the matter is the Rangers team concept is the perfect fit for this roster and it should be praised by experts, journalists, and fans alike.

Instead of bashing the coach and the system, Tortorella should really be receiving praise. They should be praising him for the intricate decisions he makes on a nightly basis that helps the Rangers win hockey games. But is anyone talking about it?

For example, there was a point during Game 1 against the Devils where the Rangers had spent a ridiculous amount of time in our own zone and took an unfortunate icing. Following this icing, the faceoff back in our end zone happened to be a false start.

Tortorella, in a brilliant move, sent out a line change after the false start. When the ref came over to disallow the line change, Torts played dumb. He acted like he thought the false start was an offside, since the puck did end up at the point on the mis-draw. These 10-15 seconds of discussion with the referee were CRITICAL for the players who were stuck out on the ice.

But where’s the coverage? Is anyone talking about it? Or was my last paragraph the first time you have actually read about this?

This is the hockey media unfortunately, and as the Rangers continue to climb the mountain towards Lord Stanley, we will continue to have misinformed and biased writers try to undermine the team’s success. But don’t be fooled. You know what the real story is and you know where to get it.