Why Peter Laviolette is perfect fit for New York Rangers

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in from the cold at MetLife Stadium has only kept the New York Rangers hot. The Rangers have won 10 of their past 11 games and sit comfortably at the top of the Metropolitan Division, despite a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

There are many reasons for their great season to date, including Artemi Panarin’s Hart trophy caliber play, the resurgence of Jonathan Quick, Igor Shesterkin’s regaining top form and the All-Star two-way play from Vincent Trocheck.

But coach Peter Laviolette also deserves much credit.

In his first season on Broadway, Laviolette has surpassed expectations and is the perfect fit for the Rangers. His steady hand and veteran presence behind the bench are key, as is his ability to teach and have players buy into his system.

Let’s also examine some of the less obvious reason why Laviolette is the right coach for the Rangers.

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Why Peter Laviolette is perfect fit as Rangers coach

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Laviolette shows confidence in Rangers lineup

Gerard Gallant had two successful seasons as coach in New York, but never had consistency with his line combinations. Gallant constantly mixed lines, often changing them game to game. He never seemed to fully trust specific line combinations, outside of his first power-play unit.

Players had trouble building chemistry because of the changes. Last season, Trocheck and Panarin did not gel well after the former was signed to play with the Russian sniper.

Alexis LafreniĆ©re and Gallant never clicked. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick was scratched twice during Gallant’s tenure and rarely found himself in the top six.

On the other hand, Laviolette has rarely changed his lines and even has kept the second line intact dating back to the Filip Chytil’s injury Nov. 2. Once he finds combinations that work, they remain intact. The one exception is finding the right fit at right wing on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Kaapo Kakko will get a look there with the Rangers on Wednesday against the Blue Jackets.

Laviolett’e’s consistency has instilled confidence in players such as LafreniĆ©re. The 22-year-old is on pace to achieve NHL career highs in goals and points this season in large part to being a consistent member of the second line. Trocheck and Panarin have formed chemistry and are one of the best duos in the entire League, playing on that line with Lafreniere.

Laviolette connects with Rangers players

During his two seasons in New York, Gallant was a hands-off head coach. He rarely made pregame speeches and didn’t interact consistently with his star players.

Laviolette is the opposite of Gallant. Early on during training camp, Laviolette met with star players one on one for lengthy check-ins. The Rangers seem to appreciate Laviolette, who has forged strong relationships with the entire roster.

The Blueshirts coach sought out K’Andre Miller to praise him for his play in a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 20. After the game, Laviolette was asked about Miller’s lack of scoring but redirected the question to pinpoint all the other areas where the defenseman is excelling.

“I went up to him on the ice today and just made it a point to bump into him, let him know how well he played last night, Laviolette said the next day. “I thought his skating was so evident. He’s got that ability to drive the game.”

Laviolette embraces Rangers culture

Laviolette has deep ties with the Rangers and began his NHL career with a brief 12-game stint as a defenseman on Broadway. As coach, Laviolette has embraced the Rangers history and culture.

Before the Stadium Series game, he invited Mark Messier, Mike Keenan, Conor McDonald, and Patti Anne McDonald into the locker room. He allowed each to deliver powerful pregame speeches, a testament to Laviolette’s respect for Rangers history.

Laviolette has also embraced the Rangers fan base. After a 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, he credited the fans for their presence.

“The fans have been awesome.,” he said. “Going back to the outdoor game where it seemed like we had the majority of the fans in the building. They were outstanding. We go to road games, you look up and there’s a sea of blue out there. These are loyal fans. I’ve learned they’re not new fans either. This has been handed down from generation to generation and they love the New York Rangers. To show up on the road like this and fill an opposing building, that’s just awesome. “

Laviolette’s sentiments show his admiration for the Rangers faithful and how crucial they are for the team’s overall success.

What’s not to love about Laviolette in his first season as Rangers coach?

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