You know, the Rangers were good when they were playing a lot (14 games from Jan. 1-25). But I have this theory about stretches like that. Things kind of get lost a little bit because a team isn’t able to practice due to the games, the travel and the need for rest. So sometimes, at the end of a busy stretch like that, a team might go into a bit of a tailspin … like the Rangers did.
I’m not blaming the workload, or the lack of practice, totally, for a couple of reasons. 1) The Rangers were also very banged up at the end of that stretch. And 2) I thought the Rangers played better at the beginning of their bad streak than they’re playing at the moment.
Whatever, today will be the end of a nine-day stretch in which the Rangers have played only twice—so-so games in Atlanta (a loss) and against Pittsburgh (a win). It has given them a chance to catch their breath, to take a breather, and to practice as they head into the final 24 games of the season (with three in the next four days).
“The past two weeks it’s kind of the same situation—we have the three (consecutive off) days,” John Tortorella said. “It’s good that we can give them a day off and then we come back in and it’s kind of like a double-session thing (yesterday), 5-on-5 and the power play. (Today) we’ll do some 5-on-3, 4-on-3 and then some defensive-zone coverage stuff. So, at this time of year, the past two weeks have been good for us because we get them rest, but we also have two good work days. To get practice time, that’s a key thing when it’s there, to use it, but also to give them some rest when you have an opportunity.”
I asked him about the correlation between the heavy schedule and the slump that followed.
“Yeah, could be,” he said. “I thought we got sloppy, and all teams do. We got sloppy in certain areas and it gives us a chance—we zero in on things here the past couple of weeks to really focus on. We’ve got a great tape here for a half hour after practice (yesterday). So, yeah, from a coach’s point of view, you can see things slipping away, but it’s hard to get them on the ice because the most important thing is finding them rest at this time of year. So we’re always looking for those type of points we can work on when we have practice time.”
Jeff Klein from The Times was asking Tortorella about smaller players in today’s game, using two he’s had—Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello—as examples. Tortorella praised the courage of both players.
When Klein said that St. Louis is listed at 5-foot-9, Tortorella quickly said, “He’s full of (carcillo). This is an argument we’ve had for many years, him and I. We used to go back-to-back, as far as seeing who’s taller. I’m taller than Martin St. Louis and I’m not (byfuglien) 5-9. And you can tell him that if you talk to him.”