Monday, 7 May 2012

Stare Down Of The Year

Not many people on the planet get John Tortorella's displeased stare down. Larry Brooks has received his fair share of them for his questioning of Tortorella's methods. James Duthie of TSN would get "the stare" for questions Tortorella thought were dumb on The Quiz segment of TSN's hockey broadcasts. Opposing coaches and referees occasionally get it when John Tortorella is genuinely displeased with something that has happened on the ice. But rarely does the New York Rangers head coach stare down one of his players for a mistake. It's like calling the player out, and, when done in the playoffs, it's a calling out of that player on national TV for the boneheaded play he just made.

Let's review the sequence that caused John Tortorella to focus his death-stare directly upon Artem Anisimov. Anisimov had been moved to the Rangers' second line for the game, so you had to know that Tortorella was putting more faith in his big Russian forward. Let's review:
  • Rangers lose the face-off in their own zone. Nothing to worry about yet.
  • Capitals pass the puck around until it finds Alex Ovechkin along the half-boards with an overload of Rangers facing Ovechkin. Possible defensive zone breakdown?
  • Artem Anisimov seemingly is covering no one although Brooks Laich is standing in front of him. Nothing to worry about right this second.
  • The next couple of seconds sees Laich circle to the high slot area, but Anisimov hasn't moved with Laich. Defensive breakdown is now underway.
  • Desperation time as Laich receives the pass from Ovechkin in the slot, and Anisimov dives from his occupied space on the ice to try and salvage the coverage. Breakdown is complete as Laich gets the shot on net from a high-percentage scoring area.
  • With Anisimov's dive coming nowhere close to knocking the puck away from Laich, Laich finds some room past Henrik Lundqvist, and the Capitals even the score at 1-1.
Clearly, a defensive miscue from Artem Anisimov, and that will happen in a high-pressure situation like the playoffs, especially in a crucial Game Five when Alex Ovechkin has the puck on his stick. I'm sure Anisimov knew he screwed up, but John Tortorella is an intense man. And when he wants answers, you better have them ready.

Or he'll make you uncomfortable.

REALLY uncomfortable.

And don't make excuses.

He sees right through any rationale you give.

Especially when he saw you screw up on your defensive assignment.

However, Tortorella certainly didn't hold it against Anisimov as he was out there being a big-body presence in front of Braden Holtby on the powerplay in overtime. Guess who was standing in front when Marc Staal's slapshot found its way through a maze of bodies?

That's right: big #42.

Tortorella is a great coach because he holds players accountable for their mistakes, but doesn't pin them to the bench for a mistake. Anisimov is a key player on this Rangers team in these playoffs, and the fact that he was out there on the powerplay in overtime is a good indication that Anisimov accepted responsibility for his mistake, and Tortorella had faith that Anisimov would be better in his own end after he took responsibility and the stare of death from Tortorella.

If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup this year, John Tortorella has a big hand in the success the Broadway Blueshirts are having as a team. They feed off his intensity and passion when he speaks. They react to his coaching tactics, and they play his system well. In fact, the only guy who may have been more intense than Tortorella last night at Madison Square Garden was Liam Neeson.

If you're casting a movie about the Rangers, it appears Neeson's intensity would make for an excellent John Tortorella! Just don't get into a stare down with him!

Until next time, keep yout sticks on the ice!

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