Ranger coach John Tortorella should send a thank you note to his former employer, because without the 6-2 Tampa Bay Lightning win over Carolina Hurricanes tonight, his Ranger tenure would have been considered a failure over his two-plus seasons.
Now, though his team has a chance. They have an opportunity to excel and help prove why general manager Glen Sather relieved a highly successful Tom Renney to bring in the hard edged Tortorella, who was supposed to correct the mistakes the easy going Renney made.
Outside of a six week stretch after Tortorella was hired, this team seems pretty much the same as the ones Renney coached – it relied upon the strong goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist, along with shot blocking and hopefully enough scoring to come out on top. Or, simply put, what Renney preached while he was here.
Last season, Tortorella tried it differently and the Rangers struggled badly. Only when they started trapping and blocking shots did the team catch up to pack, which ultimately came down to a shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on the last day of the season.
And this season, after struggling through many major injuries, the club qualified on the last day. Yet, it could have been a lot easier, if it didn’t give away so many games over the past few weeks – especially a week and a half ago when the team was embarrassed on the Island and after rebounding “laid an egg” on Thursday against the out of the race Thrashers.
Yet that has all changed now, as the Rangers truly have a chance to do something. With Lundqvist in goal, the Blueshirts have a chance to win against anyone in the playoffs. They will have to make sure they come to play every game and mistakes are not an option, because not have home ice and will be playing the highest seed each round.
But it can be done. Last year both the Canadiens and Flyers moved very far as low seeds – with Philly even going to theFfinals – because they had some momentum, great goaltending, and just simply wanted it more.
Two years ago, the Rangers almost pulled their own first round upset over the Washington Capitals with Lundqvist staking the team to a 3-1 lead. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Tortorella managed to get himself suspended after throwing a water bottle at some fans in Game 5.
It could actually be argued a Renney led team back in 2009 would also have made the playoffs, played Washington and lost, but at least it would be very safe to assume, the former coach would not have made a fool of himself taking a very hurtful suspension.
So now, it’s back to Washington, as the club looks to avenge its 2009 loss and possibly surprise a few people. This is why Sather hired Tortorella in the first place. He believed Renney would only take the team so far in the big dance, but Torts, though, won the Stanley Cup with a young team in Tampa.
For two-plus years though, Ranger fans have waited to see what was so special about Tortorella. Now, thanks to his former team, he certainly now has a chance to show everyone.