If there’s one thing the New York Rangers were known for during their playoff run, it was their willingness to sacrifice their bodies in order to block shots. The benefit of blocking shots is obvious: a shot that’s stopped by a player’s body isn’t going to find the back of the net. There are potential drawbacks of course – no strategy is without them – but Rangers coach John Tortorella is pretty confident that his way is the right way.
“I think the people that are writing about us with our shot blocking … I think they’re idiots,” Tortorella said. He later added, “Blocking shots is part of playing proper defense and we’ve got a couple of guys covering our team that don’t get it. And that really upsets me. Not for myself, but for the players that do it. It’s part of us. It’s part of what these guys want to do.”
Even still, the tactic isn’t infallible. One potential problem is that if the player doesn’t succeed in getting in front of the puck, then it’s possible that they will have instead just made the goaltender’s job harder by hindering his vision. That’s to say nothing of the fact that it increases the odds that one of your players might get injured.
The other question is if putting an emphasis on blocking shots is leading to lower scoring contests and, if so, if that’s hurting the game. Although Tortorella would argue that it’s not an either/or proposition.
“We don’t sit in our meetings and say forget about carrying the puck and trying to score a goal and make a play, let’s just block shots all night long,” Tortorella said.
It’s also worth adding that while blocking shots was a key part of the Rangers lengthy playoff run, it’s not the only way to succeed. The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings ranked 30th and 29th respectively in the NHL when it came to blocking shots in the regular season. Going into the Stanley Cup finals, the Kings and Devils have combined to block 400 shots while the Rangers alone have blocked 365.
Still, the fact that those two teams are in the finals and the Rangers are not isn’t enough to convince Tortorella to change his ways.
“It’s the right way to play,” Tortorella said of shot blocking. “… It’s beyond me after what these guys have done this year to start picking at this. It really pisses me off. … Half the guys covering our teams haven’t played a sport in their life and they don’t get it.”