Tortorella on lockout slowing Rangers’ momentum: “To be quite honest, it worries me”

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John Tortorella enjoyed great success last season, his fourth at the Rangers’ helm. The team won 50-plus games for the first time and made it to the conference finals for the first second time since capturing the Stanley Cup in 1994.

But today, he’s worried that success might all go for naught.

That’s what Torts explained to the New York Post on Wednesday, saying he fears the lockout could curb his club’s momentum.

“To be quite honest, it worries me,” Tortorella said. “When our guys report to camp in September under normal circumstances, they have a physical and mental edge from preparing for our testing that’s extremely important to the way we go about our business as a hockey club.

“There’s a mindset from this group, a mindset from the New York Rangers that defines us and factors into everything we do,” he continued. “And I know the guys are trying their best to stay at it, but it worries me that they’ve lost that mindset.”

Several factors play into this line of thinking.

— Only three Rangers have found work during the lockout: Rick Nash (Switzerland), Carl Hagelin (Swedish Div. 2) and Ryan McDonagh (KHL).

— Down in AHL Connecticut, Chris Kreider is the only legit roster candidate worth watching. (To that end, Tortorella told The Post that “none of the kids is really playing well,” with the Whale.)

— The 30-and-over set (Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Lundqvist, Mike Rupp) aren’t playing at all.

The end result? An aging roster that’s been largely inactive since being eliminated by the Devils on May 25.

Yet even with those concerns, Tortorella still has high expectations of his club…for whenever hockey starts back up.

“The one thing we have to make sure of as a franchise is that we do not allow this interruption to hurt our momentum,” Tortorella said. “We cannot use this as an excuse.”

Nash on Tortorella call: “He seemed really intense”

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Rick Nash spent the last few days getting familiar with his new surroundings. He was a guest instructor at a Rangers’ youth hockey camp, went out for dinner with Brad Richards and made plans to go house-hunting in the Big Apple.

Oh yeah, he also spoke with his new coach.

Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record caught up with Nash on Thursday and learned No. 61’s first call with John Tortorella was…passionate.

“[Tortorella] called me right after the deal went down,” Nash said. “He seemed really intense but he seemed really helpful.

“From what I understand, he’s a very demanding and tough guy to play for and he really preaches hard work. That’s what you expect from a coach, that’s what you want.”

While  no specifics were revealed, the call probably involved some talk of line combos, specifically the one most New York fans dream about — a first line with Nash, Richards and last year’s leading goalscorer, Marian Gaborik.

The Slovakian sniper is out until December after shoulder surgery, but Gross noted Tortorella “could put the three All-Stars together” when Gaborik returns to full health.

That’s fine with Nash, who added he can play either left or right wing.

“I like both for different reasons,” he said. “Left, I like coming out of my own end with my stick protecting me. And right, I like having my stick in the middle to shoot and protecting the puck.”

Colorado signs John Mitchell…Carkner to follow?

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The Colorado Avalanche kicked off free agency by adding some grit — we’re just not sure how much.

Within the opening hour of the frenzy, the club announced it had reached agreements with former Rangers center John Mitchell and ex-Ottawa tough guy Matt Carkner.

(More on Carkner in a sec.)

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports Mitchell received a two-year, $2.2 million dollar deal from the Avs, representing a nice pay bump from the $650,000 he made last year.

The 27-year-old — who fell out of favor in Toronto — found his groove under John Tortorella, scoring 5G-11A-16PTS in 63 games in a largely checking/defensive role with the Rangers. That said, Mitchell does have some offensive upside and saw time on the New York power play a season ago.

The situation with Carkner has gotten confusing. While the Avalanche tweeted they’d agreed to terms with the 31-year-old tough guy, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports there’s no deal in place (this according to agent Larry Kelly.)

It appears Carkner is mulling the decision over with his family, which makes sense. He’s been with Ottawa since the 2008-09 season and has many ties to the area.

Crosby, Tortorella feature prominently in NHL’s best soundbites of the season

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Over at The Score’s Backhand Shelf, there’s an outstanding compilation video of the best soundbites from the 2011-12 NHL regular season.

Featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Scott Hartnell, Steve Ott, Dave Bolland, Ryan Miller, Joe Thornton, Tim Thomas and, of course, John Tortorella, the video is a must-see.

(Warning: There’s an occasional bit of NSFW language.)

FYI: Considering the staying power and social media angle of #SuckItPhaneuf, I thought Hartnell should’ve been higher on the list. Just saying.

Tortorella calls shot-blocking critics “idiots”

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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.”