Here’s the overriding message from coach John Tortorella today:
“The only thing we should focus on is our mindset…we’re not hard enough mentally, and that translates into hard enough physically.”
With Boston coming into the Garden on Wednesday, Tortorella shuffled some lines in practice, in part because Arron Asham did not skate with a mild groin strain, according to the team, so D Stu Bickel took his spot as a fourth line right wing.
And the left wing situation went through a makeover, with Marian Gaborik installed on the first unit with Brad Richards and Rick Nash; Chris Kreider (whose jaw is fine after the Brooks Orpik hit on Sunday) was on the second line with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin was dropped to the third trio with Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt.
But Tortorella, who sent the message with video before hitting the ice, said the lines weren’t as important “as the individuals”
“We have not played the game hard enough in all areas, taking a check to protect the puck, not being one and done offensively, our team knows what it is, hasn’t brought it here this year yet. It’ll mount on you pretty quickly if you don’t get it changed around…Our team knows how to play the game the right way, the team knows what circumstance is, as do 29 others. The two teams we played against (Boston and Pittsburgh), they seemed to find it, we haven’t.”
Brian Boyle, for one, was disappointed in his effort. “I watched some replays,” he said, “and I was wasting time out there. It didn’t look like me, the way I can play. I have to hit, play hard, play strong. It took a few games last season, but that can’t happen now, I have to get there right away.”
“There’s a sense of urgency to get to the high level we were at,” said Marc Staal. “Being a hard team to play against.”
Captain Ryan Callahan said the team must “start by closing out guys in the defensive zone, taking away time and space, and being good on those one-on-one battles, two-on- two, not running around. When we are a little tired, we have to collapse, it’s nothing new, stuff we been talking about 3 or 4 years now…we’re a confident group, we wish we were off to a better start.”
Kreider said there was “a lot more that I can give’ and the discussion was about being “a stubborn group, being really, really hard to play again. It’s got a lot to do with individual battles, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable.”
The rookie, who played 18 games in last year’s playoffs, said he had broken his jaw at Boston College and the hit caused spasms and he couldn’t move it. He said there was no concern about a concussion. “I thought he was gapping up, but he kept coming, I was able to get it (my head) up at the last second, I got it on the jaw.” Kreider termed it a clean hit, and joked: “Think he learned it at BC, he’s well-coached.”
In other news, Tortorella said he was “not sure” if Asham would be available Wednesday night. I did see Asham briefly when he was headed into the training area, and he said he felt “good.” Who knows?
If, however, he can’t go, its possible that Bickel moves to the fourth line and Steve Eminger jumps in on 3rd pair defense.
Torts also acknowledged Pyatt as giving one of the better efforts: “Strength on the puck, protecting the puck, the little things, he’s been involved.”