‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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John Tortorella refuses to allow the Rangers to lose sight of the day in, day out focus needed to accomplish their ambitions. His players are always held accountable and are constantly striving toward reaching a higher standard.
“I don’t think we’re playing our best,” Tortorella explained after Friday’s 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction. A couple weeks ago, we were a little bit up and down. We’ve handled ourselves well the last four at working at our game and getting a number of people contributing.”
One reporter asked Tortorella about the Rangers reaching 50 win plateau for the third time in franchise history. Tortorella pounded the glass below his microphone to drive in his point about the landmark being immaterial to what the Rangers are trying to accomplish.
“It doesn’t mean squat. I’ll tell you right now, it means absolutely nothing. It’s about how we’re playing as we go through these next four games (against) four tough opponents. It’s about our game and going into playoffs. You get measured as a player and you get measured as team by what you do in the playoffs,” Tortorella detailed.
The Rangers aren’t focused on franchise marks or personal accolades. They’re about fine-tuning their game and executing. Tortorella keeps beating this drum and his players keep marching to his tune.
“Our approach doesn’t change,” Henrik Lundqvist stated. “I think we have to look at each game as an opportunity to build on our own game and build our own confidence and just make sure we feel really good when the season’s over. It’s important that we have the same mindset and to feel comfortable when the playoffs starts,” he concluded.
Captain Ryan Callahan and many inside the Rangers’ locker room weren’t placing too much emphasis on reaching the 50-win mark.
“It’s good for the team,” Callahan said. “To be honest, we’re not too worried about it. It’s something at the end of the year maybe you look back on and say it’s a good regular season but we just got to keep going, keep playing. We don’t think about it too much, getting that 50 wins,” Callahan explained.
Everyone knows their place, everyone understands their role and what is expected of them. More than that, there’s an unbreakable trust that stretches from Tortorella, to his leadership group, to the role players — and young talents such as Carl Hagelin, Michael Del Zotto and Derek Stephan.
“This is good group of guys. I think we have created a great identity in how you have to go about your business. For the most part, we haven’t had too many bumps here. They have stayed with it and it’s a hard way to play but I think they have embraced it,” Tortorella said of his team’s mentality.
Take note of the way Brian Boyle speaks about Callahan’s ability to lead and push other to follow his example.
“He leads the way. He’s our leader. That’s the way we all want to play behind him. It makes us better players,” Boyle explained.
Callahan was honored before the game with the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award which recognizes the Ranger who performs “above and beyond the call of duty.” The Rangers have presented this award since 1988 in honor of McDonald, an NYPD detective who was shot three times in the line of duty and remarkably survived.
Boyle continued, “How blessed are we to be able to do it here in this city? For a man like that, with all he’s gone through, to be proud of us — it’s humbling. It’s hard to describe that feeling. You get goose bumps. I’m sure Cally’s really honored. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of it for a number of reasons. It’s kind of surreal sometimes. I have to pinch myself. We’re fortunate to be here.”
If there is one honor that Tortorella and his Rangers are willing to accept, it’s praise from someone like McDonald who remains an inspiration to many New Yorkers.
McDonald spoke during pre-game ceremonies: “Coach Tortorella, captain Callahan, you have to know how much we’ve appreciated your team’s hard work, tenacity and fire. You inspire us all. All we ask is you play like champions… and we’ll see you in June.”
Tortorella was taken aback by McDonald’s kind praise. “Coming from a man like that? Yes, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he has done and how he handles himself,” Tortorella reflected.
“It’s always interesting what he’s going to say in that type of situation. Coming from a New Yorker, again, how he handles himself and what he’s about… I agree with him. I like the way our team plays.”
How proud are you by the way the Rangers represent the city of New York? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.