‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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To the shock of myself and reporters gathered inside the Rangers’ media room, out came James Dolan after the Rangers defeated the Predators 3-0. A veteran reporter who has covered the Rangers’ beat for some time mentioned that Dolan hadn’t made an impromptu appearance like this since 2003.
Usually after games, John Tortorella is lead out by a contingent of Rangers’ media staff and he’ll go on to share some of his frank honesty about the progress of his team and players. If we’re lucky, ‘Torts’ will occasionally slip a funny remark or off-the-cuff jab about an injustice against the Rangers.
To see Dolan come out was a bit bizarre and completely unexpected. What was even more unexpected was the bold prediction he made before myself and the rest of the gathered press.
“I’m very proud of the organization,” Dolan told the stunned media contingent. “I’m particularly proud of Mr. Sather because all the way back to 2004 when things weren’t going so well and we had a lot of free agents here and we decided to basically re-do the strategy, Glen and I made a pact.”
“I gave him something, which I won’t reveal today, but I gave him something to seal the pact. I said ‘You can’t give it back to me until we win the Stanley Cup.’ And I think we’re pretty close to getting that thing back.”
Although Dolan wouldn’t reveal exactly what he gave to the Rangers’ general manager, you could tell that he’s in a very optimistic mood if he shared this closely-guarded secret with the press.
If you’re an owner of a professional sports franchise, you’re well within your rights if you’d like to offer a daring prediction. George Steinbrenner did it all the time.
The Rangers have been playing some very consistent hockey and once their top two lines catch fire, it will be very difficult to steal points from the Blueshirts with Lundqvist performing exceptionally in net. I can’t blame Dolan for his optimism, it definitely isn’t without evidence.
“Thanks a lot, Mr. Dolan,” Tortorella said. “We just have to go about our business. I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of (B.S.). We need to take one day at a time.”
You could tell Tortorella was half-joking, half-serious when he replied to Dolan. We all know that Tortorella doesn’t look at the big picture, particularly as we’ve just passed the halfway point of the season.
Tortorella responded to my question on about crucial upcoming games ahead against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.
Still, Dolan heaped praise on Tortorella and rightfully so after the he and Sather have helped turn around the Rangers’ organization.
“For me it’s all about the system he built. Of course it’s great coaching, but it’s about the farm system, the scouting system and the development — going with kids — and sticking with that philosophy even at times when it didn’t look so good,” Dolan stated. “So, I’m very proud of him and the organization.”
For now, forget about the Stanley Cup. It’s a long way away. I can’t imagine one player in the Rangers’ locker room thinking about the Stanley Cup at this stage of the season.
At present, the Rangers are have the best record in the NHL. Tuesday night’s victory over the Predators was encouraging as Nashville have the 3rd-best powerplay in the league and are strong on the forecheck.
It was going to take a lot beat the Predators even though back-up Anders Lindback played in place of the Vezina Trophy-caliber Pekka Rinne. Lindback was unlucky to give up Dan Girardi’s opening goal that took multiple deflections off his own defenders.
What I found most impressive about the Rangers’ victory was that they shut down an extended Predators’ powerplay after a double-minor penalty was called against Marian Gaborik.
One player making large strides forward is John Mitchell who scored a wonderful individual effort. It was his second goal in two games but it’s his overall value that’s making a big impact in his first season as a Ranger. He’s been receiving greater time on ice from Tortorella as a reward for his performances.
Mitchell spoke about his goal that came at 10:42 in the second period.
After being called up from Connecticut in November, Mitchell’s earned the trust of his teammates such as Brian Boyle.
Mitchell spoke about Lundqvist’s performance after giving up an unexpected 4 goals in Sunday’s loss against the Montreal Canadiens.
Like Lundqvist, the Rangers as a whole had something to prove Tuesday night against the Predators. They’ve maintained the best record in the NHL at 62 points. Whether you want to proclaim them as Stanley Cup favorites is up to you but either way, they’re on the right track.
Rangers fans, do agree with Dolan’s prediction? Are the Blueshirts Stanley Cup favorites or will they face an inevitable second half slump? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.