As previously reported, John Tortorella was happy with the way his team played last night depsite their loss. "I thought we did some really good things," he said. "Our pressure was outstanding. Other than for a few minutes, we controlled the game. Other than that we played a hell of a game. We just can't score a goddamn goal, that's all. We just can't finish. We can't cut the line so fine here and be 1-0 again. We have to get that second goal so that type of situation doesn't hurt you. We're going to keep at it, keep banging at the team concept. I am looking forward to keep growing with the team because they've picked up on how we want to play."
Perhaps the pivotal point in the game was when the team took a 1-0 lead into the third period and started with two consecutive power plays, including a five-on-three. "You don't take advantage of the chances you get, they do bite you," Wade Redden said. "Five-on-three, we talked about a little bit but we didn't get a chance to work on it. We got a few quick plays to the net. We tried to get to the side of the net, get it jammed to the net, hopefully get a bounce. It didn't happen that way -- the puck bounced out of the zone and we didn't get anything after that. Obviously that's a big part of the game right there. Guys just have to relax and let the skills take over. Zherdev [who played the point during the two-man advantage] is so good with the puck -- once he works on it a bit, just get comforatble and plays will come."
"The weakest moment was our five-on-three," Tortorella said. "You can't hate your guys because they're struggling. It's easy to love them when it's going good and hate them when it's going bad. Our best players are going to have to be our best players, and they will -- they will. They're gonna get every opportunity to get us out of this scoring funk. I think Zherdev has a tremendous amount of talent. I'll do it again -- next five-on-three, they'll be back on the ice. I'm not upset with them. I thought they worked their ass off tonight. We're just struggling to score a goal. That's the way it's going. As a coach I have to realize how our team is playing and act accordingly."
Tortorella also wants his best players killing penalties. "I'm a big believer that your best players need to be on your penalty killing," the coach said. "I don't like sitting your top players down for two minutes. We're going to try to teach some of those guys -- when you have your top guys killing penalties, it teaches them to play away from the puck -- it helps them five-on-five." He noted that Fredrik Sjostrom will be in that mix, but he wasn't dressed last night. "Not so much because of his face," he said, Sjostrom taking numerous stitches after his face was cut in three places in Toronto. "I want to look at Voros -- I need to make an assessment. He's going to get a whack tonight. Sjo is banged up but he's ready to play. It's just where the positioning of the lines are this evening, that's the guy I'm going to take out." Sjostrom was not happy -- he stormed out of the building at 4:30 after learning that he would not play.
Voros was surprised to learn that the coach had told the media some of what was said to him about why he was scratched in Toronto. "He told you what he said to me?" he said incredulously. But he said was happy to have had the talk. "It's a lot better to have a guy shoot straight with you, tell you what's up, instead of sitting in the hotel all afternoon on the road wondering what's going on, what the new skipper thinks of you. They brought me here for one reason, to play the style of game that I play. Hopefully I can be more effective at it -- obviously it hasn't gone the way I liked. But if I play my game that got me the reputation that I have, I'll be fine." I asked Voros if Tortorella told him specifically what is expected of him. "If you're at this level and you don't know what your strengths are, it's a fluke that you're here," he replied. Add you own punch line.
Tortorella insisted that the scoring woes were not a result of lack of talent. "There's some talent there," he said. "I watched two games prior to me coaching one game and I can just see them squeezing their sticks. I look at Chris -- he played his ass off, did a lot of good things, ended up with three scoring chances, had two helpers on other scoring chances. He has a wide open net and just fans. That's going to change, and when it does and they feel a little bit of pressure off of them, it will come with more consistency. So it has nothing to do with lack of talent -- we're just in a jam. I guess it's been going on for quite a while here." Seventeen games and counting for Drury.
Tortorella explained what happened on the apparent Brandon Dubinsky goal that was waved off in the opening minute. "Billy came over and said Toronto had said it's no goal," he said, referring to referee Bill McCreary and the NHL's War Room in Toronto, which apparently made the quick call without actually looking at replays that clearly showed no high stick. "So there's no sense arguing with the referee -- the refs have no call after that. It's up to the league in Toronto. I said, 'OK, let's play.' I don't care about that play -- the league said it's no goal, it's no goal. We said let's play, and we played well." "It was one of those close things," Dubinsky said. "I felt it was good. They obviously felt otherwise. I'm not sure of the process there -- it was a tough call either way."
Henrik Lundqvist was not happy giving up the tying goal. "I tried to stay high and I think he missed it because he tried to go up," he explained. "I reacted for a high shot and had my shoulders up and it went five-hole. It was a weak goal, no question. Backhand shots are really hard to read -- it looked like he was going high and fanned on it." But he also felt, as did Tortorella, that he should never have been in a position for that weak goal to make so much of a difference. "We should have killed the game before they scored the first one," he said. "We definitely created enough chances to put the puck in the net, but there's posts or pads or sticks in the way all the time. We had a couple of open nets, but the puck doesn't want to go in. It's a really tough way to lose a game when you need points. It comes down to scoring. We get a little nervous at the end, they tie the game, then they get another one."
Tortorella did not reprise his criticism of some players' conditioning after a second third period letdown in two nights, even though Scott Gomez was clearly gassed by that time (now that we were looking for the three or four players the coach said were having trouble). "It wasn't the team, it was four or five individuals who need some work," Tortorella had said before the game. "And some of it is the pressure of what has been going on around here. We're going to try to do something about it during those three or four days next week." Erik Reitz was already known to be out of shape, so he was yanked in favor of Paul Mara, who was chomping at the bit to return to action even though he is not yet 100%, his shoulder heavily wrapped for the game.
Asked who the four or five players were who tired in the third period, Tortorella snapped back (sort of), "None of your business. That's between me and the players. I'm not trying to be smart -- I don't think that needs to be broadcast. That stuff belongs in the locker room. I'm not trying to run down anybody. We're trying to play a different style that does require more skating and some guys aren't used to it. It comes down to a mindset, and that's what I tell the boys -- you just can't be tired, you simply have to tell yourself you're not tired because you need to find a way to win." A few more games like these and Tortorella will realize what I tried to suggest to him before the game, that it's not physical fatigue that drags the team down, it's mental -- and it manifested itself again when the winner was allowed just sixty seconds after the equalizer, the kind of letdown that should just not happen that late in a close game. That will be his biggest challenge, something he already recognizes.
Game reports: Newsday, Record, Daily News, Journal News, Times, Post, NY Sports Day here and here, NYR.com, NHL.com, AP, and the Florida press here, here, here, and here. More from Newsday and the Post on Glen Sather's mess, the Post on what has gone wrong, Prospect Park how wrong can lead to right, NY Sports Day on how Torts can right the wrongs, SI on why Sean Avery is not going be the one to right the wrongs, ESPN on what Tom Renney thought was wrong, game notes from the Record and Inside Shots, and as always the reporters' blogs -- Blue Notes here, here, and here, Ranger Rants, Rangers Report, and Game On!. News updates from today -- Sportsnet is reported that the Dallas Stars will recall Sean Avery early next week and that the Rangers have committed -- committed, is the word they use -- to claiming him (if no one else does). More from Blue Notes. Ineresting day at practice today -- see Blue Notes, Ranger Rants, and Rangers Report.