When you're leading the National Hockey League with a 26-9-4 record on the season and have won your past four games, it is easy to lose focus and forget what's gotten you there. Head coach John Tortorella is making sure that won't be the case with his New York Rangers as he is making every attempt he can to make sure this team remains on task and maintains its focus despite its frequent success.
A prime example was yesterday's practice, which followed a full day off for the team on Sunday. Prior to hitting the ice, Tortorella went over tape with the players and pointed out how poorly they actually played in the first period in last Friday's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Following that, Tortorella sent the team back to the locker room after being on the ice for just a over a minute, and told them to return when they were ready to battle harder and put forth a better effort. He was not happy with what he saw from his team as far as work ethic.
The team then returned to the ice and practiced at a pace that satisfied the coach and the day went on as it usually does the day before a game.
Here's a video in which Tortorella discusses his tactics and what went on yesterday:
Whether that was something Tortorella had planned or it was spur of the moment, it worked and kept his players on task despite having won their last four games and being on a roll.
I am a big fan of this whole concept, because far too often over the years we have seen the Rangers get too high on themselves and then get smacked to bring it all to an end. Tortorella is strongly making an effort to prevent that from happening, and he's doing a pretty damn good job seeing that the Rangers have stayed in first place for a few weeks now.
This is championship coaching, ladies and gentlemen, and I know we've harped on Tortorella a lot lately, but the praise is deserved. He is pushing all of the right buttons with his team right now.