AV’s lineup for game one gives Rangers a great chance to win

Extras at morning skate in MTL (NYR)

This morning, several Rangers took the ice for the morning skate. All but Jesper Fast will be a scratch for game one at the Bell Center in Montreal tonight. That means the exact lineup I projected yesterday will take the ice for the Blueshirts.

Not The Same Canadiens

First off, if you are looking for a chart or other form of statistical evidence as to why Tanner Glass is playing over rookie, Pavel Buchnevich you’re at the wrong site. There are plenty of stats blogs to go read covering the Rangers…head there.

The dynamic of the Montreal Canadiens changed with the hiring of Claude Julien, and the trade deadline acquisitions of Steve Ott, Andreas Martinsen, and Dwight King. All three forwards are big and play a mean game. Basically, they are Julien type players and give the Habs a different look on their bottom six.

Julien’s system has also improved the grit and sandpaper game of both Andrew Shaw and Brendan Gallagher. These basically aren’t the passive, speedy, smurf-like Canadiens anymore. Which is why I applaud Alain Vigneault for putting forth a lineup that can take advantage of these bigger, slower players but also supply an answer to their physicality.

I spoke today with Paul Campbell who writes for InGoal Magazine. He loves what Ott has brought to the team, specifically citing how engaged he’s been since the trade. The Canadiens forecheck has always been successful at creating turnovers, but now they can do so with heavy hitting as well as speed. It just depends which line you face. However, he expressed concern with how slow King is and the Rangers will need to exploit that.

Achieving Lineup Balance

The Rangers top three lines will play with speed and skill. Of the nine forwards, only Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller will consistently engage in the physical areas of the game like going in the corners or to the front of the net. For the Rangers to be successful, Rick Nash has to engage in the same way on the second line.

Still, none of the players mentioned will be focused on laying a hurting on anyone in a red jersey. They will be physical with regards to going into corners and winning puck battles, but they aren’t looking to hit for purpose.

That job falls to the fourth line where Tanner Glass will fill that specific role. Hitting for purpose means in the short term, aiming for a turnover. In the long run, the objective is to wear down the Montreal defense over the course of a playoff series.

Unlike Montreal’s fourth line, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast can also provide some offense. Matter of fact, Julien has shifted Alex Galchenyuk to the 4th line to give them a little help scoring. The Rangers ability to match Montreal’s 3rd and 4th lines physical play, without giving much up in the way of offense is a great counter by Alain Vigneault.

Not to be lost in this is AV’s defense that has at least one physical defenseman on each pairing. Dan Girardi’s main focus in the Rangers d-zone will be to fight for loose pucks, keep the crease clear, and allow Ryan McDonagh the confidence to join the rush. Same can be said for Brendan Smith to allow Brady Skjei the same freedom.

Making Adjustments and Buchnevich

The Rangers ultimate success will be their ability to make adjustments in these playoffs. That means AV putting forth the right lineup to counter/negate the opposition. It also means making in-game adjustments as well, and that goes double to the Rangers offensive players. Stepan, Nash, Zuccarello, etc… need to recognize if a defense is standing up at the line, you may have to dump and chase or risk continually turning it over in the neutral zone.

As far as Pavel Buchnevich, he can’t sit this entire series. If Jimmy Vesey struggles, it may behoove AV to drop him to the 4th line, scratch Glass and insert the rookie. Regardless, Buchnevich needs to get in the first round because as these playoffs continue, having a potential game breaker will be more beneficial than a grinder. The key will be can Buchnevich be effective in limited action or does AV needs to move a player like Grabner down should he continue to struggle scoring.

So for tonight, this is the best lineup possible for a game one in Montreal. Using Glass on the road over Buchnevich makes the most sense. As a savvy coach like Julien could take advantage of the rookie’s defensive issues with the last change. Having Glass on the 4th line gives AV a little more reliability and a different look than his other 3 skilled lines can provide.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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