As evidenced by their three to four minutes of ice time per game, it's no secret that John Tortorella has little to no confidence in Stu Bickel and Matt Gilroy as defensemen, while his feelings towards Steve Eminger can be described as lukewarm at best.
We all witnessed Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh begin to fade at the end of last season and literally collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals due to Torts' flat out refusal to spread around the ice time on defense.
And now with Marc Staal out indefinitely, I fully expect Torts to lean on them more than ever.
Which is why Roman Hamrlik's solid performance in his Rangers debut was so important. He played like a poised veteran throughout as he never panicked with the puck, showed good positioning and was assertive with his decision making.
But to me the most vital part of Hamrlik's stat line was the 15:48 of ice time he received. Torts proved right out of the gate he feels comfortable using the veteran defenseman in all situations (I think I even saw him on the power play), which allowed McDonagh and Girardi to remain focused on John Tavares all night as well as keep their minutes down to just over 20 minutes each instead of close to 30.
If Hamrlik can continue to be a steady presence on the blueline, it'll take a ton of pressure off the top two guys benefiting the Rangers greatly in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Here's Torts on Hamrlik's importance…
"You can always lean on some experience. You can see (Hamrlik) has some puck skills. He made a couple of nice little plays coming out of the end zone. Used the middle of the ice. He's not in shape. No question. But again, a guy like that, who's played so long, can get things done because of the savvy. Good for him. He joins us and he was a part of it tonight."
…love that Torts mentioned how out of shape he was. Hamrlik looked like he was skating in quicksand. Surprised the Islanders didn't try to expose that.