“We kind of wet our pants a little there and had that look,” New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella poetically said after the team's game on Sunday against the Boston Bruins. Henrik Lundqvist has been suffering from the stomach flu, and threw up between periods last Sunday.
So the Rangers are peeing in their pants and throwing up, but isn’t that what playoff-style hockey is all about? The standings change every day, and the Blueshirts are still hanging in there for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Or is it the sixth spot? Or fifth?
Anything but ninth.
Apparently Tortorella ripped the team a new one between the first and second periods of last night’s game in Nashville. And it paid immediate dividends, as they scored twice and then went on to win, 4-2. It’s now Tortorella’s way or the highway. Just ask Nikolai Zherdev. He was benched for the last two periods in Nashville.
Or Markus Naslund, whose playing time has diminished. Or consult Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery, who are playing the way the coach wants, and their ice time reflects that. He scared the team straight and laid down the law, and finally the players are held accountable for their poor play.
For parts of the games against Boston, Carolina, and the first period in Nashville, the team reverted back to their old habit of playing passively, and scrambling around in their own end chasing the puck.
Chasing after your own tail isn’t exactly what Tortorella had in mind with his plan for an aggressive offense. If they play his way, they can win. The Rangers don’t have enough top-level talent to throw their skates on the ice and score five goals a game.
Most of the season has proven that. But when they go with Tortorella’s system, they can score. The Rangers are dead last in goals per game (2.34, 162 total), but in their last five games, they’ve netted six, four, four, zero and four.
Sure, some of those came against Manny Fernandez, but they still count.
Scott Gomez is playing much better, Callahan has been terrrific, Derek Morris is starting to fit in and Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have taken over the top-two defensemen spot, and have earned their increased playing time.
Avery has shaken the rust off of his game, and is playing effectively while keeping his mouth shut off the ice. He scored his first Ranger goal of the season last night. So far, so good.
And we’re finding out what the real Avery Rule is: Every player in the league can do what he wants with Avery while he gets whistled for just breathing on another player. Maybe it’s time to start the Avery-O-Meter.
(Rangers record with Avery in lineup)
(52 fights, seventh in the league)
Colton Orr: 15
Aaron Voros: 10
Brandon Dubinsky: 6
Paul Mara: 6
Ryan Callahan: 3
Dan Girardi: 2
Petr Prucha: 2
Erik Reitz: 2
Marc Staal: 2
Nigel Dawes: 1
Markus Naslund: 1
Wade Redden: 1
Nikolai Zherdev: 1