When the New York Rangers host the Vancouver Canucks this afternoon (2 p.m. ET on NHL Network), it’ll mark Canucks coach John Tortorella’s first trip to Madison Square Garden since being fired by the Rangers over the summer.
Since the two teams virtually traded head coaches, things haven’t totally gone as planned for either team. The Rangers are third in the Metropolitan Division with 26 points, but sit just two points ahead of sixth place Philadelphia. The Canucks, meanwhile, are fifth place in the Pacific Division and eight points back of first place Anaheim.
Rangers fans might be able to get a look at the Tortorella they knew as the Canucks have won just two of their last nine games. We know Jannik Hansen got a taste of that already against Ottawa on Thursday.
How will Rangers fans receive Tortorella? Will he be remembered as being the tough coach who took the team to the playoffs in four of his five seasons behind the bench or as the guy who couldn’t get them over the hump in the postseason to win a Stanley Cup? If nothing else, we know New Yorkers will make their thoughts known loudly.
Update: Before the game, Tortorella faced the media and kept things lively.
It might’ve been the angriest moment of John Tortorella’s tenure as Vancouver’s head coach.
Midway through the first period of the Canucks-Senators game in Ottawa, Tortorella exploded on Vancouver forward Jannik Hansen for what looked to be a pretty pedestrian back-checking effort on Clarke MacArthur’s opening tally.
Here’s the goal (Hansen is No. 36 in white):
And here’s the wrath:
That ended up being Hansen’s last shift of the period, as he was benched for the remainder of the first and finished with just 3:11 of ice time.
The Canucks, who have lost seven of eight, went into the first intermission down 1-0.
(H/T to Wyatt Arndt of The Province for the GIF)
The Vancouver Canucks have earned just a single victory in their last eight games and that’s caused them to fall five points shy of a playoff spot.
If you had to point to one general thing that’s gone wrong with them lately, it would be their anemic offense as they’ve been held to only one goal on five separate occasions during their recent slump. Still, Canucks coach John Tortorella thinks that goaltender Roberto Luongo isn’t blameless in all of this.
“I’m not letting Lui off the hook, he needs to help us,” Tortorella told the Vancouver Province. “I love our goalie. I love our goalies. I think they’ve played really well.
“We also need a save when there is a breakdown. You look at (Los Angeles Kings goaltender Ben) Scrivens (Monday). We had a chance to go up 3-1. We had four glorious scoring chances, he makes four saves.
“We need something like that to happen for us. I’m not putting all the onus on Lui, but he’s part of the problem here as far as closing out games. It goes right through our team and it goes to the coaching staff, too.”
Luongo has had rough starts to be sure, but he’s been far from bad lately. He’s enjoyed a 2.17 GAA and .916 save percentage this month, but it’s only led to a 3-3-4 record.
He feels he’s been playing well too, although he certainly agrees with Tortorella that there’s room for improvement.
The Canucks will play against Ottawa tonight. If Luongo gets the nod, maybe he’ll be able to find another level and carry the Canucks. Of course, it certainly would help matters if Vancouver’s forwards showed signs of thawing out.
New York Rangers owner James Dolan believes that it’s important to be patient, as he has been with Rangers GM Glen Sather. He thinks that to do otherwise would run the risk of destabilizing things, but obviously teams can’t remain completely static. There has been turnover for various reasons, as was the case when the Rangers fired coach John Tortorella and replace him with Alain Vigneault over the summer.
The jury is still out as to whether the move will ultimately help the Rangers in their goal of winning the Stanley Cup – right now making the playoffs is a challenge – but regardless of what happens, he misses Tortorella.
“I’d visit Torts before a game and we would trade barbs for 10 minutes,” Dolan told the New York Post, “he’d tell me about his [lousy] cable TV service and I’d be sitting there saying, ‘You can’t clear the puck out of your zone, what the hell’s wrong with you?’ and he’d strike back and then play the game and I miss that.
“I’m developing a relationship with Alain [Vigneault] and he’s also a good guy, but Torts and I had a special relationship. It was fun for me. He banned me from the locker room for a while, all in fun. I miss that.”
Dolan noted that the Rangers are starting to adapt to the coaches new strategy and he remains upbeat about the team’s future.
As for Sather, he wants to keep him around until the 70-year-old general manager decides to retire.
The Dallas Stars won their third straight game last night, beating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1. Kari Lehtonen was fantastic, stopping 43 of 44 shots, but as far as the Canucks are concerned, he got a little help.
Henrik Sedin appeared to score what would have been a critical goal at 6:48 of the second period, but it was called off based on the belief that Daniel Sedin interfered with the play by making contact with Lehtonen.
You can watch Henrik’s overruled goal below:
As you just saw, Canucks coach John Tortorella was livid.
“It was a big play in the game,” Tortorella said after the game, according to the Calgary Sun. “I think we need to get the call right. … It was the wrong call.”
Henrik Sedin matched his bench boss’ conviction.
“It was a goal,” he said. “It was a goal. That’s the bottom line.”
Even Lehtonen admitted that he was surprised by the call. Of course, while it’s natural to wonder what might have been if a different decision had been made, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that Lehtonen had a good game and certainly did his part last night.
On top of that, Vancouver’s offense has been a recurring problem lately. They have recorded just one goal in each of their last four games and have consequently lost all of those matches.