Opening night is in the books, and the New York Rangers are currently 0-1 as they lost to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1. Now, All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist rarely gives up as many four goals in a game, so one would figure that it was just an off night for Lundqvist. Or was it?
Going back to this offseason, right after the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs, Lundqvist said some comments to the media which left fans and the organization in serious doubt on whether he would re-sign with the team as his current contract ends with the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
Almost immediately afterwards, Rangers GM Glen Sather fired John Tortorella and hired Alain Vigneault, figuring that Vigneault is a more offensive-minded coach and will provide Lundqvist with enough goal support to keep him happy and stay with the Rangers for the rest of his career.
Unlike Tortorella, Vigneault does not stress for players to block shots as that is the goaltender’s job. He thinks skilled players should have a long leash and not have their talents limited, and wants his defensemen to constantly join the rush and create offense. There are other strategies involved in his system obviously, but those three seem like the main focuses.
Now if you are Lundqvist, you would know that blocking shots can result in redirections and goals, so encouraging players to stay on their feet will be good for Lundqvist in that regard; but at the same time, when you are facing a flurry of shots, it is good to have your teammates block some and clear the puck out of the zone.
Allowing skilled players to showcase their skill without having any sort of tight leash or limitation is good for creating offense, which Lundqvist should like since the Rangers’ constant lack of offense puts so much pressure on Lundqvist to post a shutout every single game. The drawback, however, is that skilled players tend to get too fancy with the puck, and that can lead to turnovers and more goals.
I am a huge fan of defensemen joining the rush, and if you watched last night’s game, you would know that the Rangers’ only goal was scored by defenseman Marc Staal as he joined in the rush and wristed one top shelf. Defensemen joining the rush and generating more offense is something that would greatly benefit Lundqvist, but at the same time, I do not know if the Rangers have the defenseman who can live up to their new duties.
Other than Staal, because we just saw him do it, the Rangers have a lot of defenseman with weak shots, and I do not know if they can finish off plays with any consistency. A breakdown in these plays will lead to a good number of odd-man rushes the other way, and will result in Lundqvist giving up more goals.
So the question is: will Vigneault’s system help or actually hurt Lundqvist when it’s all said and done?
Only time will tell.
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