‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
John Tortorella will light a fire under the Rangers after they gave away Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. That fire also extended to the media on Monday night after the Rangers’ 3-2 loss.
Tortorella doesn’t hide his emotions. What you see is what you get with Torts. If he’s in a sour mood following a loss, he’ll be curt with the media as was the case Monday. Tortorella was very brief and answered most post-game questions with three or four words. The entire press conference was a swift 1:48.
“Can’t give things for free. We gave too many things for free tonight,” Tortorella said post-game.
That pretty much summed-up what went wrong in Game 2. The Rangers shot themselves in the foot by allowing two first period goals that were a result of their own mistakes. They tried to battle back, but giving away early goals and taking two undisciplined penalties late in the third period doomed the Rangers.
“We battled back as hard as we did to tie the game. We can’t take four minutes in penalties (in the third period.) You’re not going to win a hockey game that way,” Tortorella stated.
As much as the media would prefer Tortorella to be colorful and deliver wide-ranging quotes in his press conferences, they must respect his reasons for being succinct.
He protects his players by deflecting questions that can be harmful to his team and rarely assigns blame to individual players. When a question is asked about the poor performance of an individual, Tortorella will immediately put up a wall and not be dragged into lowering a player’s morale by publicly embarrassing him.
Another coach might have thrown Stu Bickel under the bus for his horrendous, misplaced pass that allowed the Capitals to break down ice on a 3-on-2 and score the game’s opening goal. Instead, Tortorella sent a clear message to Bickel by benching him for the majority of Game 2 and limiting his total ice time to a meager 3:07.
One positive shown by the Rangers during Game 2 was an improved powerplay. Their overall puck movement was improved and Michael Del Zotto proved to be a threat to the Capitals both on the powerplay and in even strength situations.
The Rangers showed terrific patience and creativity when they tied the game at 2-2. Derek Stepan made a neat cross-ice pass to Del Zotto whose shot deflected off Ryan Callahan and into the net.
I asked Tortorella post-game about the improvement seen on the powerplay.
Tortorella responded, “It’s a big goal for us. I’m hoping we can gain some confidence from it.”
Del Zotto was unlucky not to get his first goal of the playoffs in Game 2. He struck the iron twice in the third period and nearly tied the game in the final minute as his shot rang off the crossbar.
I spoke with Marc Staal about Del Zotto’s Game 2 contributions.
“He was flying out there tonight. He’s making things happen and I think it was him who just hit the post there at the end. It was close. He had a great game,” Staal said about Del Zotto post-game.
Giving away goals isn’t usually a characteristic of the Rangers. They had a firm territorial advantage Tuesday night and more threatening chances than the Capitals. Should the Rangers continue that trend and iron out their mistakes, there isn’t any reason why they won’t advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Throughout the regular season and during their first round series against the Senators, they proved they aren’t a mistake-prone hockey club. Bickel’s error and Henrik Lundqvist’s misplay behind the net aren’t common occurrences for the usually sound Rangers.
It’s about self-correction now and that’s what Tortorella does best. Addressing mistakes is a big reason why Tortorella is a Jack Adams finalist. A big part of his preparation is studying video and driving into his players the correct places to be in game situations.
He’ll have his troops prepared for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Can the Rangers regain momentum in Game 3? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.