Well, a lot has changed since yesterday afternoon, eh? The New York Rangers will be without their head coach, John Tortorella, today and he will be replaced by an ex-Caps bench boss Jim Schoenfeld, who is the only other coach to be suspended for an NHL playoff game.
“The magnitude of the game should be enough for the guys to focus. It’s up to the athletes to act with mental discipline and block it out,” Schoenfeld said. “John and I are very like-minded in our approach tactically and our approach mentally. The game plan was set at the onset of the series.”
Schoenfeld will have some help on the Rangers bench, because Hartford was bounced from the AHL playoffs last night. Hartford head man Ken Gernander and assistant J.J. Daigneault will help out with Schoenfeld, who was the Caps coach from 1994-97.
“I’ve got to believe it is always a disadvantage when you don’t have your head coach there,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “On the other side of the coin, they are going to be more inspired to win one for the coach who went to bat for them, probably. I don’t know what happened in the incident, but it probably had something to do with [the fans] getting on players or the team and the coach stood up for them. They’ll want to stand up for him, and they will want to win for him.”
Schoenfeld did say that Sean Avery will be back in the lineup. It was Tortorella’s decision. Tortorella did not address the team and had to leave the locker room two hours prior to game time. He will be allowed to be in the building.
“I know the heart of the guy and I know the thing that triggered him,” Schoenfeld said of the incident. “It wasn’t any sling they threw at him and there were many. It’s what they said about one of his players. The media say you have to keep control, keep it in check, look the other way. But there’s a certain part of your being when you’re a coach and it’s like being a parent. There are certain things you’ll put up with when people slander your kids. There’s a certain line you can cross. That’s what happened with John. You can say what you want to Torts. Call him whatever you want. But do get down on the people he cares about. He will fight for them and that’s what he did.”
Boudreau and Schoenfeld have crossed paths before (as Boudreau has with pretty much everyone in the sport).
“I know him well,” Boudreau said. “Yeah, I coached against him in Hartford, and when he was in the Buffalo area we went to an awful lot of golf tournaments together. I know he’s a really smart guy and hard-nosed and will have the full respect of the team.”
As for the Caps, Boudreau said “none that I know of” when asked about lineup changes. The Caps will try to force a Game 7 after being down 3-1 for the second time in as many seasons.
“I think you have too,” Boudreau said when asked if the team draws on last year’s experience. “In the room, it makes you believe more that it is not as daunting a task as if you’d never done it.”
So, is there any chance Boudreau might be worried about some retaliation from the crowd today at MSG?
“New York fans? They’re the nicest, calmest people of all,” Boudreau said. “I would hope not, but we will deal with it.”
Finally, I wonder if sales of this album are going to spike in this area after today?