Thursday, February 28, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: The Smurfs Are Back


NEW YORK RANGERS - Three Boarding Incidents Within The Last Seven Games Draw No Response From Blueshirts.

Fire John Tortorella?  Stop Yourselves!

Fire John Tortorella?  Is that where we're taking this?  If you're one of those saying that, do you really mean it?  Or, are you just upset with the way things are going so far?

When Boston's Milan Lucic boarded Rick Nash, and when Ottawa's Chris Neil took a run and boarded Brad Richards, and when Montreal's Max Pacioretty took another run against the Rangers and boarded Ryan McDonagh, at no time did a Rangers player stick up for their team mate.  Not one.  No response.  When the Canadiens crashed Marty Biron - nothing.  At least Mike Rupp would have answered.  And you know what I already think about losing Brandon Prust.  The Pruster would have fought anyone and everyone.  By now it is well known the Rangers led the league last season in fighting majors.  But did you know the Rangers led the league in getting into fights within five minutes of the start of a game?  It's true.  That's what you call setting a tone.  That's what you call sending an early message to your opponent that the Rangers aren't getting pushed around.  But that was last year's message.  This season the Blueshirts are getting pushed off the puck like a house dog gets pushed off the sofa.  Yeah, I'm still hung up on Brandon Prust because he's what this team needs.  His work on the forecheck, and being physical enough to not get knocked off the puck, and maintaining possession have very real value to me.  Just not to Glen Sather.  Additionally, J.T. Miller, Darroll Powe, and Chris Kreider find themselves in an unfortunate condition.  At the moment they are not the ideal players that can camp in front of the net.  That's on Glen Sather.

John Tortorella has made a big adjustment this season.  Problem is, it did not come on the ice or behind the bench.  It came in front of a microphone.  Torts is being much more tolerant of the media, and has even offered them coherent post-game analysis, minus his disgust for fielding questions, and impatience for what he perceives as hockey ignorance.  But in truth, I would rather have the grumpy Torts back, if he would please make adjustments to his style.  An equal reason the New Jersey Devils are in first place this season is because they can play two, and three different styles of hockey, and still beat you.  You can talk system all you want, but on this side of the Hudson, the Rangers have  only one style of hockey.  John Tortorella wants his team to play one way - like grunts.

Style and implementation - it is time for John Tortorella to play with set forward lines.  He takes his six top forwards of the game, and rides them through the night.  I said his six top forwards, not his two top lines.  He did this in Tampa as well.  He rode Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Brad Richards into the ground in order to win a Cup; not relying on too many other skaters along the way.  So this is old hat for Coach Torts.  But it is indeed time for Coach to set lines, and let them grow accustomed to one another.  He must be a little more tolerant of mistakes, and slow the traffic of players coming in and out of his dog house.  Sometimes, you just have to win games by a 5-4 score, or a 4-3 score.  Sometimes you just have to let your guys play, and outperform their mistakes.

John Tortorella gave two waves of young Rangers prospects a system to work with.  But the coach has skilled players now who need to be released like hounds.  I don't believe Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and Marian Gaborik were meant to be grunts.  It is a very limited system to play in which one costly mistake can ruin a whole game's effort.

A change is clearly needed.  But firing John Tortorella is not the answer.  Coach is part of the solution.  But yes, he needs to evolve his thinking, and make philosophical adjustments.  Make them quick, for the Rangers forecheck has all but faded away.  They also consistently over-commit behind the red line in their own zone and get burned time and time again for it at the other end.  And the power play is 7 for 63 this season.  That kind of stuff is on Torts.


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