"I think the key thing is that we have to start becoming a team. I think that's the most important thing. We've had a lot of changeover as we've gone through here. It's a new coaching staff, a lot of new faces coming in here. But it is December, late December, and the important thing is for us to become a team, and play as a team, and play for one another." -- John Tortorella
Coach John Tortorella says it's time for the New York Rangers
to be a team, rather than a collection of individuals trying to win hockey games.
He feels they took a step in that direction Thursday night, when the Rangers rebounded from a lethargic performance in a 2-1 home loss to the New York Islanders
with a 5-2 victory over the Isles at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Rangers won seven in a row after an opening-night loss. But since then, they've struggled to score and struggled to win. The low point of their season might have come in Wednesday night's loss to the Isles; after seeing his team outplayed by the last-place finisher in 2008-09, Tortorella went off in his postgame media conference, then followed up by scratching veterans Wade Redden
and Ales Kotalik
, neither of whom was thrilled about being a spectator.
After his team survived an early blitz by the Islanders to break a five-game winning streak with its best offensive performance in nearly a month, Tortorella said it's time for the Rangers to be more than 20 guys wearing the same uniforms.
"I think the key thing is that we have to start becoming a team," he said. "I think that's the most important thing. We've had a lot of changeover as we've gone through here. It's a new coaching staff, a lot of new faces coming in here. But it is December, late December, and the important thing is for us to become a team, and play as a team, and play for one another.
"I don't think we've gotten there yet."
Of course, it's much easier to preach the gospel of teamwork when your goalie stands on his head – as Henrik Lundqvist
did against the Islanders. The home side had the game's first nine shots, 12 of the first 14, and 14 of the 18 taken in the first period – but trailed 2-0 at intermission.
"The key thing is you don't have to play a perfect game when you score a few goals, and tonight we did," he said. "But obviously, Hank was the most important guy for us, and that's what has to be."
Lundqvist said the rare offensive outburst made a palpable change in his teammates.
"There's no secret that the game is a little easier when you score goals," he said after stopping 35 shots in his eighth-consecutive start. "You can relax a little more. You can see the guys who score goals – they feel confident. It's good for everyone.
"I don't know if it is a relief, but I know it's been too long since we had a win. But here we are, we got it. And hopefully we can build from this."
With the benchings of Redden and Kotalik creating some upheaval, Tortorella said converting Lundqvist's heroics into an early lead was vital – the kind of thing his team hasn't been doing.
"Some of the crap that's going on around this team these days – you're down 1-0 in this back-to-back thing with the Islanders and you're not sure how the guys react. Hank kept us there, gave us a chance, and then we found our way," he said.
Now his task is to find a way to get his team to build on the good things it did against the Isles -- beginning with Saturday afternoon's game at Philadelphia.
"It's just trying to simplify our game and do it again," he said. "I think we have to do it more consistently.
"But we can't be easily satisfied. We need to raise what we're going to be – to raise that standard, how you play. That falls on the coaches, the responsibility of the coaches, to keep that standard. And it falls within the group of players. We need to do it together, and it needs to raise and be there consistently."