After the New York Rangers’ horrid west coast trip to start the season, where they gave up five or more goals in three consecutive games, I honestly did not know what to think when they got back to the east coast to face the Washington Capitals in Washington D.C.
Now I knew the Capitals were having their fair share of problems as well, with only having two wins compared to the Rangers’ one win going into last night’s game, but being a Rangers’ fan myself, we all know that no game, regardless of the opponent, is ever going to be easy.
Not saying this game was easy at all, but it certainly looked like that at times as the Rangers shut out the Capitals for the third straight time, dating back to last years’ playoffs, this time by a 2-0 score. While the score seemed relatively close, the Rangers dominated the end of the first period and the entire second period while focusing primarily on defense in the third and completely shut down Alexander Ovechkin and company.
What I found very interesting about that game, besides the continued great play of Brad Richards who picked up two more assists on the year, was the strategy that new head coach Alain Vigneault implemented for this game. It reminded me of … dare I say it … the strategy of former Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers seemed to play defense first and then took advantage of the Capitals’ mistakes to create offense. Unlike Tortorella’s system though, it did look as if the Rangers took more shots than usual and created more offense while still having defense as the top priority.
While many might think this style of play is boring, I think any game you win is never boring. If the Rangers have to play this way, which I think they do in order to succeed, then I hope Vigneault uses this game plan for the rest of the season.
I remember when Vigneault was first hired as the Rangers’ new head coach, he mentioned how he was very flexible with his game plan and that he will always adapt to his players. He talked about how he did this when he first took over as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks and then when they started to develop goal scorers later on, he changed his strategy up and increased the tempo.
So while Tortorella was very stubborn with his conservative strategy, Vigneault is a players’ coach who will cater his game plan to the skill of his players, and this strategy is defense first and then use that strength on defense to create offense. The way this current Rangers’ team is constructed, anything else will result in losses.