John Tortorella channelled his inner Jim Mora today when somebody asked him “If the Rangers make the playoffs do you feel good about your team going in?”
“Don’t ask me that,” Tortorella said. “We’re not in. You’re asking the wrong guy the wrong question, because we’re not in. We have to play a game. Don’t talk to me about playoffs. No sense asking me about playoffs.”
The Rangers’ practice barely lasted more than 20 minutes. Sean Avery (“got banged around a little bit last night,” the coach said) and Nik Antropov were given the day off to rest.
That is as important as anything, Tortorella said.
“I think you can hurt your team at this time of year if you practice too much,” he said. “So it’s not about overloading them. I’ve said before, I think all coaches over-coach. I wanted to get them out of the building and I just try to keep them fresh mentally. That’s the most important thing right now for our athletes. It’s been a grind and they’ve been up and down, they’ve had a new coaching staff come in. All the things that have gone on around this team, they need to get away from the game a little bit, too.”
“You need to feel good when you accomplish something,” Tortorella said. “I think athletes are better players and respond better when they feel good about themselves, but you better not exhale too hard here because we have a team that’s fighting for home ice against us tomorrow and they’ll be ready to play. So it is a fine line and it’s a matter of concentration. I don’t want them thinking about the game all day long here. We had our meeting, we had our skate. Get away from it. When we come back in we better be even more prepared because I think we’re going to face a better team tomorrow night.
“You know what? Last night’s game means nothing if we don’t come out and compete and try to do the same things against Philly.”
I asked a couple of players if they actually do all the mathematics that we do as far as the playoff races, and who needs to do what, and all the what-ifs.
“I don’t think what-ifs really mean a whole lot right now because we’re not in a position where we need somebody else’s help for us to find our way in,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “It’s not one of those situations where it’s like, you know, ‘we really need Buffalo to win tonight’ or whatever. It’s just oen of those things where it’s like, we’ve got to find a way to get the job done ourselves and worry about tomorrow’s game and not worry about anything else, not worry about Florida or Sunday’s game or anything else. We have a big game tomorrow and we know that.
“It’s not about the playoffs at this point. It’s about continuing to grow and continuing to get better as a team and building that confidence. In essense that’s going to translate into making the playoffs and going into the playoffs and being a good team going in.”
Henrik Lundqvist said, “You might do it right now, but tomorrow you have to focus on what to do and not focus too much on clinching the playoff spot. It’s more focussing on the game, the first period and the actual game. And whatever happens after the game, you deal with it. But it’s very important we’re locked in on the ice.
“It’s probably a little harder than a normal game but I think when it comes down to game time hopefully we’re in a good spot mentally and we can focus on the right things. But it’s always a little bit tougher when you go down the stretch and you feel the importance of the games. It’s like when you play in the playoffs and for every round you feel like you’re closer and closer, and when you remind yourself, of course you can get a little bit more tense.”
That said, Lundqvist added, “It feels a lot better today than two days ago, no question. But we know we still have a lot of work to do before we’re in the playoffs. It’s a tough game to win. But we said at the start of this week, we have a great opportunity to play really well this week and we’re going to be in the playfofs and going into the playoffs feeling good.”