Much has been written about Henrik’s struggles this year, including after the horrible goal he surrendered to cost the team a win last night against Detroit. I don’t want to dwell on it. We all are on the same page: something’s wrong but no one is ready to get off the Lundqvist train yet.
What I want to focus on is the way the Rangers played back-to-back terrific games (up until the softie goal). For the first time in a long time, the team played 120 minutes of hard-nosed, tough checking, spirited hockey. The defense was tight (no odd man rushes for the most part), the forecheck created turnovers, and we took the body. It should have resulted in at least 3 points. This is a great style of hockey for the personnel. Once they sprinkle in some counter-attacking and strategic pinching we’ll have a winning club (assuming the goaltending is there of course).
What amazes me though is that this is EXACTLY the brand of hockey Renney advocated and eventually was fired for. And it’s the brand of hockey many other successful coaches employ. Maybe Tortorella should get credit for adapting to his player’s strengths and weaknesses. But then Renney also should get credit for recognizing them initially. The attack-at-all-costs style Torts preached at the outset is fun to watch, but seems to be destined to fail in today’s NHL (unless you have an elite group of highly skilled players, which almost no team has). The NHL playoffs are tooth-and-nail, scratch for every advantage contests, no matter how much the league advertises it is about pure offensive skill. And this is why we love hockey. The tenacity of every second.
I was against the Tortorella hiring, and stand by it. But I may have to change my opinion if he keeps this defense/counter-attack system and coaches his young players to excel in it. Defense still wins championships. Maybe Torts still can win with these Rangers afterall.