AV Obviously Needs a Hand, So We Offered One

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Dave Rogers

Editor-in-Chief at Cleared for Contact
Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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Look, Alain Vigneault, I know coaching a professional hockey team is hard. On your best night, you’re still playing against another top professional team with a world class head coach in opposition. And this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs! So everything is amped up, or so we’re constantly reminded. The game goes by in a whirlwind. One moment you’re up by a goal with just over a minute left to play, on the cusp of taking the first two games on the road in a best of seven series, then the next you’ve put your worst defenseman on the ice, the puck is behind an angry Henrik Lundqvist and you are 17 seconds away from heading to an overtime loss to tie the series. So in the future, maybe…you know, don’t do that.

That doesn’t help you much heading into an [insert dire catch phrase] game four on home ice, though. You know that already because you sat Nick Holden in shame for game three after setting him up for a spectacular fail, and then your team pretty much up and quit on you on home ice in the next tilt to go down two games to one. One of your assistant captains lied straight into a TV camera after that one, offering, “maybe we tried too hard”.

No, you didn’t, Derek Stepan. Last night’s 3-1 loss was trying for a lot of fans in a myriad of ways, but only Lundqvist tried too hard.

There are many Xs and Os that might help. There are lineup tweaks you can make in both available personnel and who plays with whom. The team could certainly use some motivation. So I’ve reached out to my fellow writers here to get their takes on what you can do to improve the team’s chance of winning tomorrow night and keeping the season from reaching the brink. My only instruction to them was to work independently, so if you find some repetition, then that’s probably an important area to consider.

Ray Sarlo

I’m not going to talk about stats. I’m not going to talk about tactics. I’m going to talk about intangibles. Let’s talk about emotions.

During Game 3’s NBCSN broadcast, Ray Ferraro pointed out a number of times that the Rangers bench was showing little to no emotion during the game, even in the later stages. John Giannone, on the MSG broadcast, said one of the only time he heard the Rangers talking to each other was when Oscar Lindberg rang a shot off the post at 13:22 of the 1st period. The message was, “Keep getting pucks to the net, boys!” So much for that.

To me, it is Vigneault’s job to coordinate with the leadership to get these players up for the game. That was the first home playoff game at Madison Square Garden of the season. Rangers fans are thirsty for a Stanley Cup. The crowd was pumped for the first few minutes of the game. The Rangers should have been chomping at the bit too. The pace of the game should have reflected what we saw at the beginning of Game 1 which was pure energy. Instead, the game started out as a slog and, quickly, the crowd’s energy reflected the play they saw on the ice.

It is well known that Vigneault’s message to players is to not ride the highs too high and the lows too low, and that is great in certain situations – like when a team is faced with the adversity of being down 3-1 in a series. But perhaps part of the reason why they get put behind the 8-ball time and time again is because of this message – that they can’t get up for the situations that require a little bit more raw energy. It seems like something (or someone) is restraining them once things start going too far one way.

There comes a time when you need to let emotions out and allow a team get fired up. From my spot on the couch, from Ray Ferraro’s spot between the benches, and from John Giannone’s spot near the Rangers dressing room, it seems like the Rangers don’t care. They are simply going about their business like it’s a Sunday afternoon regular season game. So let the players express themselves and start channeling that emotion to promote a more up-tempo style of hockey. The Rangers are a fast and feisty team when playing properly, but that’s a tough style to execute when it seems like the whole team is on Xanax.

Frankly, I find the Rangers’ attitude to be quite worrying. Under most circumstances, having neutral emotions can be beneficial. Coming into tomorrow night’s Game 4, the Rangers have to find more emotion in their game and feed on those emotions. Keeping in mind there’s still plenty of hockey to be played, if the Rangers continue down this path of uninspired play, they will find themselves first round exits for a second straight year. Another year of abject failure cannot be afforded given the rapidly closing Stanley Cup winning “window” the Rangers are in. Vigneault must find a way to get an emotional response from his players in the right moments if they want to win this series and, more importantly, ever have another shot at winning the Stanley Cup together.

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