Touch of the stomach bug yesterday (Buffalo revenge?) but won't miss today's matinee at the NCMC---the first of six between the cross-river rivals---so swing by here and at twitter.com/stevezipay for scads of coverage and commentary.
Our FWC (Fabulous Weekly Chat) is Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Here's my story in today's Newsday:
By no means has the “Safe is Death” motto from John Tortorella’s days in Tampa returned, but the Rangers coach is encouraging his defensemen to join the rush and contribute more offensively.
“We want our D up, we want to take a chance,” Tortorella said yesterday after Saturday’s 6-3 season-opening win in Buffalo. “I felt last year, with some of our inconsistency, it knocks you back a little and you start trying to play a little bit too safe. We want to create that type of flow in our game that we know our Ds are going to be joining.”
Using three of the goals as examples, Tortorella explained how active blueliners created the opportunities. “You look at Erik Christensen’s (third-period) goal,” he said. “There’s (Michael) Del Zotto coming in the back door, it makes the D look for another option.” On Derek Stepan’s first goal, Dan Girardi took “a nothing shot” that glanced off Stepan, then the skate of Tyler Myers and past goaltender Ryan Miller.
“I think I took six shots; only two got through,” said Girardi, who had two assists. “I was trying to get it on the net hard. We’re thinking, ‘If we have the shot, shoot it.’
Stepan’s third goal, late in the second period, on a beautiful feed from Sean Avery behind the net, “started with two pinches along the walls to keep the offense alive,” Tortorella said.
Although veteran Steve Eminger, in his Rangers debut, “tried to do too much sometimes and that got him into trouble…he joined the rush on a couple plays. On Avery’s chance, Stepan makes a great pass to Sean. But that all develops because Eminger’s up the ice and they have to figure out another option, which opens up Sean. Are we going to make mistakes? Sure. There were a number of chances we didn’t score on, but our D were up the ice, so I liked our aggressiveness.”
Both Marc Staal, who assisted on Stepan’s second goal, and Michal Rozsival, said forwards hustling back made it easier to clear loose pucks and provide room for defensemen to skate or pass. “It’s a huge help for us to break up plays,” said Rozsival, “and even better if they can get the puck in the neutral zone to start the other way.” And when you know you have backup, said Staal, a defenseman is more willing to jump into the attack.
Staal hoped that mindset carries over into today’s matinee against the Islanders in Uniondale. “It’s been tough against them ever since I’ve got here (2007),” he said. “There’s a lot of history, they play really physical and don’t want to lose to us.”