VANCOUVER, Canada — Coach Mike Keenan of the New York Rangers, claiming reports he will leave for a general manager/coaching position in Detroit had undermined his team's chances of clinching the Stanley Cup, said Friday he has no intention of relinquishing his job.
Keenan, speaking after the team's late-afternoon practice at the Pacific Coliseum, blamed an overly heightened sense of anticipation for the Rangers' failure to win the Cup in New York on Thursday night. He also said rumors about his future had created an atmosphere of uncertainty that contributed to the 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
The series will continue tonight at the Pacific Coliseum, where the Rangers won Games 3 and 4. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Tuesday at New York.
"There was so much hype, like that whole nonsense about me leaving New York," Keenan said. "There's no foundation to it. No truth to it at all. There's absolutely nothing to it.
"That's why people (with the Rangers) haven't been able to win the thing for 54 years. The hype is much greater in New York than any place else in the NHL.
"As soon as I saw the headlines (heralding a Ranger Cup victory), I knew we were in deep trouble. If I were (Canuck Coach) Pat Quinn, I wouldn't have had any trouble motivating my team. The New York media hype helped Pat motivate his club."
However, Keenan's players said the media were not the reasons for their defensive collapse late in Thursday's game.
"You can find excuses if you look for them. I don't think it played any factor," left wing Adam Graves said. "We just didn't play the way we wanted to in order to be successful.
"Sometimes things happen, and I don't think you can blame it on one thing or another. We as a team didn't play how we feel we have to in order to win, and we have to get back to that style. It happened for whatever reasons, and we're not looking (at the media) as an excuse."
Said defenseman Brian Leetch: "It didn't have any effect. This team and the players have a lot of expectations of ourselves. . . . Vancouver came out and played desperate hockey, and we got away from the things we needed to do."
Ranger captain Mark Messier called a team meeting after Friday's practice. Keenan and his assistants were not invited.
If their confidence is crumbling, Messier wouldn't say so.
"It doesn't really matter what we talked about," he said.
But he did say he and the Rangers felt no undue pressure from the media.
"That kind of attention is to be expected," he said. "It's a tough thing. There's a lot of pressure you play under, and that's why it's tough to win the Stanley Cup, because there are a lot of things you have to handle at this stage of the game. Hopefully, we can handle it better (tonight)."
Said forward Esa Tikkanen of the collapse: "We were too excited and we tried to do too much. They kept coming back and they broke our backs. The bottom line is we have to have 20 guys play 60 minutes."
The Canucks, who succeeded in bothering the Rangers with physical play--and capitalized on the Rangers' loss of defenseman Jeff Beukeboom to a first-period ejection--intend to target Leetch again because he is the Ranger catalyst. They hope to get the same kind of balanced scoring they got Thursday, when five line combinations produced goals.
Said Canuck center Trevor Linden: "In the first game we had a great goaltending performance from Kirk (McLean), but we really hadn't played well against them until (Thursday). We scored some goals and took it to them. I think it really reinforces and gives the guys a lot of confidence coming into (tonight)."