We talked in the off-season about the how grueling a training camp the Rangers were going to face under John Tortorella. Tortorella complained very early in his Ranger tenure that he felt the Rangers weren't in very good game shape, and that was something he would set out to improve.
We heard the classic line from John over at Raw Charge that "Vomit is a mainstay" at a Tortorella training camp , and some of us liked that phrase so much we're using it as our signature. Players were told in May by the coaching staff what to prepare for, and many of them have said they are in the best shape of their careers. Now it appears that the benefits of "Camp Torturella" are paying off in the early going of this season.
In all but one of the six victories of this current win streak, the Rangers have clearly been the better third period team, skating stronger and wearing down their opponents. In Monday night's 7-2 victory over Toronto at the Garden, the Leafs were clearly gassed and the Rangers toasted them for four goals in the third period to put the game away.
That has been the early trend for the Rangers. In six games played, they've outscored their opponents 13-3 (last year they were outscored 81-68 in the 3rd period), and outshooting them 59-56 (Note: the shot on goal numbers were much more skewed in the Rangers favor until the Kings had to go and outshoot them 10-1 in the third period last night). Although the numbers seemed to point to the Rangers being the better conditioned team, in this article from the Daily News, John Tortorella wasn't quite ready to admit that:
"I don't know if it's conditioning-related, but we had another good third period, so that's good news," Tortorella said after Monday night's win.
However, if Tortorella wasn't ready to admit it, the players were:
"I think it comes down to conditioning," said Dan Girardi.
"It goes back to camp," added Chris Drury. "You just can't go through what we went through and not be a tighter team, but also in good shape. ... It's pretty nice mentally just to have that in the back of your head."
One thing that has been a growing concern is that while the Rangers have been terrific in the third period, they've taken some 2nd periods off. That may work against teams like the hapless Leafs, but teams like the Penguins, Capitals, and Flyers are likely to make them pay for it.
The Rangers conditioning could go a long way at the end of the season in determining just how long their summer vacation is.
When Mike Keenan was coach of the Rangers, he insisted the Rangers be the best conditioned team in the league, even putting them on the exercise bikes after games to help keep them in better shape. They needed that conditioning right down to the very end of Game 7 of the Finals. Maybe someday this current team will need it too.