alain vigneault

After a Game 3 that was embarrassing at every level, the Rangers pulled a complete 180 and played the best game we’ve seen them play in quite some time in Game 4. The score showed a close 2-1 game, but the Rangers controlled play in the final two periods. From an execution standpoint, they did everything right.

Aside from everything mentioned in the goal breakdown, the Rangers had a strong showing on the stat sheet too. Only three players sat below a 50% CF% last night: Jimmy Vesey, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh. That’s not to say that trio had bad games, it’s more that the whole team was able to keep the puck in the Montreal zone.

What’s more impressive is the breakdown of 5v5 shot attempts taken/allowed by period:

  • 1st period: 19 shot attempts for, 12 shot attempts against
  • 2nd period: 21 shot attempts for, 15 shot attempts against
  • 3rd period (while defending a lead!): 14 shot attempts for, 12 shot attempts against

The Rangers were consistently in the Habs’ zone at even strength. The most impressive part is that they didn’t turtle in the third period either. They didn’t necessarily push, but they played solid defense and prevented the Habs from generating anything sustained.

But which version of the Rangers is the true team? Is it the one from Game 3, or the one from Game 4?

In reality, the answer is neither. Those are the two extremes of the spectrum. Neither team is what we should expect from the Rangers going forward. For the Rangers to be successful in this series and to be able to advance, they need to be closer to the Game 4 version than the Game 3 version.

What I didn’t mention above is scoring chances and high quality chances. From the goal breakdown, we saw that the Rangers really did a phenomenal job of limiting the high quality chances in Game 4. If I were to pick one defensive aspect to continue, it is that. The CF% numbers can be skewed from game to game.

From an offensive standpoint, I want to see the number of shot attempts continue at this rate. It’s a sign of two things: Sustained offensive zone pressure/cycle, and limiting the time spent in the defensive zone. Successful and pressuring offense is the best defense in hockey.

The key is going to be consistency. Can the Rangers realize that this is the way they need to play? Will they be able to deal with the adjustments that Claude Julien will make? Or will they get overwhelmed in Montreal –or worse, think they have it figured out– and regress back to Game 3’s performance?

All of this is now on Alain Vigneault. Can he push the right buttons to ensure the club doesn’t regress back to Game 3’s performance? Or will he keep them moving forward and playing consistently? Game 5 will show us a lot.


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