Head Coach John Tortorella claims the media has made too much of his intense offensive "system." And admittedly, he may be right. However, the offensive flow the Rangers have shown early on is new to Broadway and hasn't been seen in quite some time.
From the breakout to the forecheck, the Rangers have a five-man attack that is based on speed and pressure.
Rather than a more trapping style of play that looks for the turnover in the neutral zone, the Rangers are the aggressors and are looking for the turnover in the offensive zone.
I asked Tortorella about the positioning of his forwards on the
forecheck, and he simply said that there was no real rhyme or reason,
"the closest person to the puck is going. We are trying to pressure the
So at least two players are deep in the offensive zone,
while the third forward is higher looking for the turnover or loose puck. If it works,
the Rangers gain immediate possession and an oddman opportunity down
Couple this with the fact that the defense are typically
inside the blueline to receive the puck on the boards, and the Rangers
have all five skaters involved with the forecheck. Recently, good
skating teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks have
This method has yielded success on the power play as well.
The smooth skating Marian Gaborik and Mike Del Zotto have transformed the Rangers
power play, which has contributed to many of the Rangers early goals.
The puck movement is fluid and the cycling of the puck with the active
defensemen have drawn the penalty killers away from their position or
created the screen.
However, the pinching defensemen have occasoinally fumbled if a
puck bounces or they lose focus. In this system, they are more susceptible to giving
up an oddman rush the other way and with the remaining forwards deep, the ability to backcheck is that much harder.
This risk translates into even strength play as well.
If the opposing team can break out behind or around the Rangers forecheck, then Henrik Lundqvist is going to deal with an oddman rush or breakaway.
Similarly, if the opposition is able to dump-and-chase without icing the puck, the Rangers defense has to scramble to get back. Once they get the puck, the forwards (who were deep on the forecheck) may not get into a prime position for the breakout when the defense needs to pass the puck out.
To simplify: The defense has no options because of the time it takes for the forwards to get back. It also gives the opposition time to set up.
So, if the Rangers forechecking isn't working, as was the case against San Jose, they will struggle in the defensive end, hence the result.
When New York loses this season, it is going to be by the 7 - 3 offensive margin you saw Monday night, that's just the system. The Rangers must capitalize offensively to win games, they can no longer rest of the laurels of their goaltending to come through with a shutout of one-goal effort.
It may create a few gray hairs because of the oddman rushes, but it will be a fast and exciting season on the offense.