Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Defense is Offense

What an incredible breath of fresh air is wafting through the old Garden.

"Our defense is offense," said Rangers coach John Tortorella after last night's win by the Blueshirts over the Buffalo Sabres, 5-3.

Amazing. That simple statement, "our defense is offense," sums up the tectonic shift in hockey philosophy that the NY Rangers have experienced. It explains the fast turn-around from a team that was locked in a confidence draining death spiral to a team now showing some swagger as they methodically march toward the playoffs.

Under the old Tom Renney regime the bankrupt doctrine was always the double negative: "Not playing defense is not an option." A bitter pill for all of us in Rangerland to swallow.

Last night, Marc Staal, after the win, enthusiastically expounded on the new Tort's discipline:

We're all skating all the time; no one is standing around waiting for the play to come to him.

Torts doesn't like us to spend any time in the defensive zone at all . . . . at all . . . so we're always aware of making the quick pass and moving it up and then getting involved supporting the play at the other end.
It's the difference between playing up on your toes under Torts, versus sitting back on your heels under Renney.

Playing on the toes, is playing to win. Playing on your heels, is playing not to lose. Playing "on the heels" is the same as watching a notorious NFL prevent defense give up gobs of yardage and the winning score in the final two minutes as the fans scream no.

What a glorious change of hockey philosophy. If you're going to lose, and that applies to all but one of the thirty teams in the NHL, then why not go down with your boots on and your guns blazing?

So let the young guns blaze away.

My stars from last night: Callahan (happy birthday[24] and more sparkling), Avery, and Staal.

Despite the breakdowns, lapses and cracks in the defense, Rangerland is unanimously upbeat.

Scotty Hockey:
38-26-8: Hockey Night In New York --
Walking out to the sweet sound of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier" after the Rangers 5-3 win over the Sabres was a treat on Saturday night. The game itself? Almost as nice.

A packed Garden witnessed the Rangers skating hard, creating chances and putting the puck in the back of the net. It is a remarkable change from a month ago ...
Hockey Rodent:
Carpe Diem --
Now for the sweets...

There is definitely a rejuvenated attitude between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. With a trio of conference rivals struggling (see Column 2), there's opportunity. Where there's opportunity, there's the opportunity for opportunistic opportunism. That's the best kind of opportunism I know. Thus, today's title.

Sean Avery has demonstrated he's a lot more than snarl. He's not just strong on his skates. He's got speed. And he's got the more difficult kind of speed: speed with the puck. Why... you could almost say he's got opportunistic speed. That's the best kind of speed I know this side of warp drive....
Rangers Review:
It’s Contagious - Sabres@Rangers Post Game Thoughts… --
When you’re hot, you’re hot. That’s all there is to say about this team. Right now they are playing as confidently as any team in the league, and its showing. Even tonight, in a game where the really weren’t as sharp as they should have been, they still were the better team. Now don’t get me wrong, they didn’t just half ass a win here, like they’ve done oh-so-many times under Renney. No, we definitely deserved the 2 points, but we weren’t at the top of our game either...
Natural Hat Trick:
It is still, weeks into Tortorella's regime, surprising me to see what a completely different team we have been blessed with.

It's amazing what a system - the right system - can do.

Hank has not been perfect, at times far from it, but in the new system he hasn't had to be. I see the visible relief on his face...
Mark Herrmann / Newsday:
Tortorella instills Rangers with fighting spirit --
We don't know how good the Rangers would have been had they not changed regimes a month ago tomorrow. We don't even know how good they are now. It sure is clear, though, that they have an edge.

They have taken on the personality of their coach, John Tortorella, who has made such an imprint that he doesn't even seem like the "new" coach anymore. He made the point yesterday that his reputation as a screaming lunatic is vastly overrated. Then again, he is the type of guy who could start a fight in an empty room...
Larry Brooks / NY Post:
The puck is moving. So are the Rangers...

Brooklyn Hockey Guy:
Don't forget to check out -- It's a new site featuring the Original Playoff Race Chart that numerous NHL GM's and league officials get emailed to them nightly...
Walt PoddubnyRest in peace Walt Poddubny.

NY Rangers:
Former Rangers star Poddubny dies at 49 --
Walt Poddubny, the only player other than Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr to lead the New York Rangers in scoring in each of his years with the Blueshirts, has died at age 49...

Poddubny, a center who wore No. 8 for all of his 152 games with the Rangers, followed up his amazing year with another tremendous season in 1987-88, leading the team with 38 goals and 88 points to stand alone atop the Blueshirts in both categories. No other Rangers player came within 10 points of Poddubny in that second season...

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  • Jim said...

    good stuff, Mike. Sam and Joe Saturday night talked about when Hasek was still with Buffalo, Lindy Ruff basically said, "We're going to play up tempo on defense, and let our goaltender handle things", and Tortorella seems to be doing the same thing with the Rangers. There have been more odd-man rushes by the opposing team, but Henrik is making the saves. There was little up tempo about last nights game however. Rangers looked gassed after the first period.


  • jb said...

    Yes, they looked tired.

    The Rangers never got their forecheck going. Ottawa was very tough and it seemed like the Blueshirts were always pinned to the boards. Henrik held up pretty well and if the could have got one more goal (for 2) I like their chances in a shootout.

    Hope they find their legs and get stronger in back-to-back games if they want to go deep in the playoffs.

    Playing up tempo all the time is not easy.