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Thursday, December 17, 2009
Isles Take Round 1, Torts on the Hot Seat?
In a less-than-pretty evening of hockey, the Islanders did exactly what they needed to do to shut down the struggling Rangers and leave Madison Square Garden with two huge points. The importance of this victory cannot be stressed enough. Sure, it's always great to beat the Rangers, but this kind of showing was absolutely crucial after such a brutal loss against Florida on Monday. The Islanders were committed to their game plan in terms of shutting down Marian Gaborik and it paid off big time. The amount of Gaborik shots that the Isles blocked was pretty incredible. Special props to Jack Hillen, who was an absolute beast in containing Gaborik and just about every Blueshirt for that matter.
Less than a year ago, John Tortorella took the reins of the Blueshirts from Tom Renney with the hope that he was the savior who could put an end to the Rangers' offensive woes. Now, almost midway through his first full season as the head coach in New York, the Rangers are in an absolute freefall and haven't scored a true even strength goal in 4+ games (6-on-5 tonight doesn't really count. Needless to say, the Tortorella era is not exactly going according to plan.
It appeared that Torts' frustration peaked tonight during his postgame press conference. In a rage that caused MSG to break out the bleep button, Tortorella responded in quite a hostile manner when asked by the media why his team was playing so poorly and what he planned to do to remedy the situation. After declaring that he has no "f***ing explanation" for his team "playing like s***", he shoved his chair and stormed off.
(It was really must-see TV.)
So, just how long does John Tortorella have to save his sinking ship? Does Torts have some job security since it's his first full year behind the Rangers' bench or is that overshadowed by just how underachieving his Rangers squad has been?
Alex's Prediction: Tortorella has until the Olympic break to right the ship....otherwise, he joins John Stevens in pink slip land.
Update: Also of note was the fact that Tortorella shortened his bench bigtime in Wednesday night's contest, leaving some of his younger players on the bench most of the game while giving his big guns ridiculous minutes. I'm starting to think he is coaching the Rangers as if they're his 2004 Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning squad. Newsflash to Torts: You don't have Lecavalier, St. Louis, and the Bulin Wall to carry this Rangers squad every night.
The home-and-home resumes tomorrow at the Coliseum. Questions to be answered:
1. What will the goaltending matchup look like? (NYI: Martin Biron or Dwayne Roloson/NYR: Henrik Lundqvist or Chad Johnson)
2. Who the hell is Chad Johnson? (I thought he changed his name to Ocho Cinco!)
3. Will Tortorella make the kind of dramatic change that his postgame speech seemed to insinuate?
4. Can the Rangers bounce back from what is seemingly an emotional low point of their season?