Rangers make all the right moves to win game 3

Vigneault looks on (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alain Vigneault is as stubborn a coach as they come. That same stubbornness was key when he first got the job in 2013-14 and the Rangers floundered for the first few months trying to learn his system. In doing so, the Rangers learned to play a high tempo game and made their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

Stubborn AV

Skjei is a rising star (NYR)

That very same stubbornness works the other way as well. This post season being a prime example as he continued to play the struggling pair of Nick Holden and Marc Staal top 4 minutes. Regardless, that they’ve struggled mightily late in the season, they were still being used late to protect 1 goal leads and failed.

Meanwhile, the pairing of Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith have performed like a top pair unit the entire playoffs. AV was reluctant to bump up the rookie and his newly acquired defenseman over his veterans. Thus far in the post season, that pair has been on the ice for only 1 goal against…1!

Finally last night, AV and his defensemen coach, Jeff Beukeboom gave Skjei and Smith a well deserved promotion. The reward? The coaching staff got a stellar performance from them and the entire team enroute to a 4-1 victory.

Final D Ice Time:
  • McDonagh 26:52
  • Skjei 20:13
  • Girardi 20:00
  • Smith 19:39
  • Staal 16:17
  • Holden 14:29
Break “Glass” In Case of Emergency

I said before the playoffs started that Alain Vigneault needed to fully and properly utilize his roster in order for the Rangers to go far. The key to the Rangers having playoff success this post season would be his and his team’s ability to make adjustments before and during games.

It happened in game 1 against Montreal when he played Tanner Glass to match the Canadiens rough 4th line, and it paid off with him scoring the game winner. In Game 4, with the Rangers needing a little more speed, he made the move to insert Pavel Buchnevich in his place, and it worked with the Rangers winning the next 3 and the series.

Well last night with the Rangers desperately needing to avoid going down 3-0 in this series, he reinserted Glass and it paid instant dividends. Not just for the team but for one player in particular, J.T. Miller.

There’s no secret here that Glass isn’t a skill forward. What is he? Reliable, tough, straight up and down, hard-nosed to the net, and all extra effort player. And because Glass’ game is simple, it forced Miller to simplify his game and the result was his best performance in this post season by far.

It was all highlighted when Glass made a diving play to chip the puck out and Miller seized it in the neutral zone. From there on the puck was his, as he powered across the slot and delivered a hard pass to Oscar Lindberg for the one time.

When the game was over, all 4 lines had contributed a goal to the winning effort. Tanner Glass wasn’t THE difference maker but he did help restore a more defensive conscience to the 4th line and gave Miller a lift. No one should downplay his contributions as he now has a goal and an assist in 4 playoff games averaging just over 9 minutes a night.

Stick To It!

As disappointing as the two losses in Ottawa were, last night’s dominant game 3 performance should have even the most skeptical of Rangers fans believing again. The key is for AV to stick with this lineup and deploy his forwards and especially his defense in similar fashion until this series is won.

The question is, will his stubbornness to rely on struggling veterans Staal and Holden bubble up again? Let’s hope not, because last night’s game should have solidified Skjei and Smith’s place as the Rangers 2nd unit.

2 comments

  • Boy, did you nail it!!
    And of all 5 reasons for winning, the ABSOLUTELY most important one was #5 – 100% EFFORT!!!!!
    Although it’s sad to see a perennial Ranger, Marc Staal, start to deteriorate due to age, it happens to ALL players. This is NOT to denigrate his record, just a statement of fact– he’s getting old!
    Girardi and HL are not far behind. Again, just fact, not any comment on them personally or professionally.
    A s far as Holden is concerned, put him FIRMLY in Staal’s class, except farther along in the deterioration process.
    P.S to all you Tanner Glass haters— there’s a reason he’s been around for so many years! And he has shown it while with the Rangers. His presence alone, on a team that, to put it charitably, is not very physical, changes the opponents game plan. They just aren’t able to abuse the Ranger players without paying the price when he’s around! And, more important, he comes to play at 100% EVERY game, unlike a LOT of other Ranger players.
    After 60 years of following the Rangers, there’s nothing they do that surprises me. They CAN beat any team, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a 100% effort in ANY game they play. As well as they can play, that’s how bad they can be on any given night! All I know is that when they are to play either a last place team, or a team with a rookie or third string goalie, I shiver!!! They just seem to lose to teams they should beat easily!
    This series should have been an relatively easy series for them, but as usual, they are making a HUGE deal out of beating them!
    Oh, the fun of being a Ranger fan!

  • Girardi is 3 years older then Staal and Lundqvist is 5 years older then Staal. He’s only 30 years old but he’s been through some real bad injuries and he’s never been the fastest skater to begin with. Staal and Holden both have this habit of holding the puck too long and not moving with it or passing it off. Instead they stand there and get knocked off the puck or try a last second desperation pass that ends up on the other teams stick. I’m glad to see Girardi having a good playoff season so far. He made a bad blind pass that led to a goal in this series but they all make mistakes once in a while. Besides, that shot shoulda been stopped by Hank, but that’s another story.

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