Rangers coaching adjustments needed for Game 4
The Rangers first round series with the Penguins has not been short on excitement. It’s been surprisingly evenly matched, save for that 2nd period in Game 1, with both teams getting involved in track meets. Unnecessary storylines aside, the biggest difference has been behind the bench. It is not hyperbole to say Gerard Gallant is being worked by Mike Sullivan, who is one of the better coaches in the game. Rangers coaching adjustments are needed if the Blueshirts want to truly take advantage of a shorthanded Penguins team.
Rangers coaching adjustments – Lineups and matchups
1. First and foremost, with Ryan Lindgren back, Patrik Nemeth has to sit. It didn’t even matter if Lindgren was back, to be honest. The first of the Rangers coaching adjustments needed is to get Nemeth out of the lineup. He has been actively contributing to them losing, specifically in Game 3. And this is said with full knowledge that Libor Hajek would be a real possibility to replace him in the lineup. That’s how bad Nemeth has been.
2. Even if Lindgren, who is a game time decision, isn’t back, Nemeth still needs to sit. As mentioned above, it would likely be Hajek back in the lineup. Hajek has his own issues, but Nemeth has been so bad that Hajek may actually provide a one game boost. If you’ve been reading this space for a while, then you know how difficult it was for me to type out those words.
3. Another of the Rangers coaching adjustments needed, and equally as important as the defense lineup, is how the Rangers match their lines. Game 3 aside, since Gallant doesn’t have last change, the Sidney Crosby line has seen entirely too much ice time against the kid line and the 4th line. The best way to contain Crosby is to force him to play in his own end. If the second line isn’t trusted, then put a more defensively balanced line out there, which is the Zibanejad-Kreider-Vatrano line. They can survive in their own end and possibly keep Crosby pinned for a bit.
4. Short and sweet here: Get K’Andre Miller out there against Crosby. He has been, by far, their best defenseman. That leaves Fox/Lindgren, if he’s back, against Malkin.
5. When it comes to the actual play, the problem the Rangers have had is consistency. Saw what you will about goals reviewed, but the Rangers have not been consistent. Pittsburgh is a well structured team, and they will find lapses on the forecheck, as we saw in the first two games at MSG. The Rangers run a 1-2-2 forecheck, which isn’t exactly unique, but the key is F2 and F3 moving and reading the play. If they aren’t, then the Penguins will continue to steamroll them.
6. The other big thing is the backcheck. This may be less of a Rangers coaching adjustment and more of a reinforcement though. If the forwards don’t backcheck, then the defense can’t step up at the blue line. That leads to more speed through the neutral zone, and an ability to get behind the defense. Puck support works on both offense and defense, and it hasn’t been there at all.