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.

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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