Leave it to New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella to stir the pot and create some off-ice buzz for an original six rivalry which had the intensity of a shuffleboard competition Tuesday night. The Rangers 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden was a perfect example of how NHL hockey should not be played.
During the post-game presser, Tortorella barked, “Just two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were.” Yep…leave it to Torts to hold back and not tell us how he is really feeling. Maybe next time around, Tortorella will give the Habs an affectionate pat on the head…if he is in good spirits and feeling generous that is.
Tortorella’s justified criticism of the Canadiens should provide for an interesting backdrop story when the Rangers travel to Montreal on Saturday for a rematch which hopefully will be more interesting than needlepoint. At least there is some pregame chatter to fill the drama and excitement void, which the on-ice play has failed to fill. The irony here is that Montrealers have been much more critical about their team and will continue to be.
Some would dismiss Tortorella’s comments as sour grapes. However, when both teams account for a pittance of low-percentage shots, numerous icings and confused zombie like play, Torts may be on to something. In fact, if it were not for some shoddy defensive play, yesterday’s game may still be scoreless.
Just for clarification, Tortorella did not state the Canadiens are a bad team. He basically was stating what everyone else saw in a game which lived down to pretty much all disappointments. On this night, both teams were clearly not playing their best game – not even close to it!
The NHL’s post lockout brand has taken a hit, with many games resembling the type of play one would find in an elite pick-up league. As the players are still struggling to round into shape, the games continue to lack the high level of performance one usually associates with professional hockey. The quality of play on the ice has yet to significantly improve since opening day, with many players appearing disinterested and just going through the motions.
Of course, there is the viewpoint from tribal fandom that an ugly win in a poorly played game counts just the same as a sexy win in a well played game. On the flip side, there are admirers of hockey who prefer to view a game where both teams are playing close to their best, not close to their worst. And this holds true regardless of who wins or loses.
When one pays a premium amount of money for a product, one expects a premium product in return. Fans can clearly see this is not entertaining hockey, regardless of the agenda being pursued by the sunshiners who need to sugarcoat and sell a product which is unable to live up to top billing.
Kudos to Tortorella for telling it like it is and not resorting to the canned politically correct snippets and cliches which have inundated today’s society. The NHL obviously has a quality control problem on its hands, a problem which can only be solved with imminent contraction creating a higher concentration of talent on fewer teams.