McDonald: Rangers Winning Formula Starts With The Letters AV

When general manager Glen Sather hired Alain Vigneault almost two years ago, he wanted a coach who could adapt to the various teams that the Rangers were playing in the playoffs.

He wanted not the antithesis of John Tortorella, but a tough but fair player’s coach who could be the face of the organization, as Sather really doesn’t want to deal with the media these days.

In short, he wanted a coach who can take the Rangers to the elite level in the league.

Well, the team has seven more wins to go for the Stanley Cup, but in the elite category, the Blueshirts have arrived. A Prince of Whales Trophy last year and President’s Trophy this season puts the Rangers there, and maybe there will be a shiny chalice hoisted up in about 30 days.

Based on how Vigneault made his adjustments in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s a pretty good chance.

The coach moved Kevin Hayes up to play with Derrick Brassard and Rick Nash, while Dom Moore centered the third line with Marty St. Louis and Carl Hagelin. Late in the third period, Hayes fed Moore – on the ice together after a penalty kill – for the winning tally and a 1-0 Ranger series lead.

“A different opponent, so after looking at games from both of their series, we just felt that a subtle little change in right  wingers on two lines would maybe help us out,” Vigneault said. “ I thought considering the  fact  that  we had just finished a really emotional seven-game series, our  guys came out really strong tonight, focused, and executed really well against a really quick team.”

AV is no dummy and the 18,006 fans in the stands saw very quickly the Bolts are not the Caps. There was a lot more space on the ice and the Rangers were able to set up much easier in the offensive zone. That doesn’t mean the series will be easier. No sir re Bob. However, it may be more entertaining.

“You know, I think at the end of the day this year they were first in offense and we were third, so we’re not that far behind,” Vigneault said. “But  I  do  think  a  lot  of  our offense comes from defending well.  Good defense  will  lead  to  offense.   Against  such  a skilled and powerhouse offensive team, I think we need to defend, and that’s what we did tonight.”

Last season, it didn’t take long for the Rangers to buy into Vigneault’s system. There was a period of adjustment, as they struggled until December. Ironically the same thing happened this season.

But when the team got the game plan down, it became a very entertaining style of hockey.

However, in the playoffs, Vigneault learned from his years in Vancouver. The game changes and with that, so does his style. Instead of offense first, it’s score goals off defensive opportunities and use the skill of Henrik Lundqvist to cover up mistakes.

Even though that leaves a very slim margin of error – based on all the one-goal games, it has worked so far.

And now AV is a month away for the Cup. The Rangers have the opportunity to seize control of the series on Monday before they go down to Tampa Bay – never an easy place to play. And then who knows what will happen.

One thing is for certain, though, Coach Vigneault will have his Rangers ready.

“There  will  obviously be adjustments on both sides as the series  moves  on here,” the coach said. “I mean, obviously, both teams had some looks, and we had  the  better  first  period after that.  It was harder fought.  We took some  penalties  in  the third and they had some big saves there.  It was a
really entertaining game.”

Nine down, seven to go.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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