Following last night’s 3-2 home loss to the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault did not hesitate to place blame on one man: Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, Lundqvist allowed a soft goal to the Devils’ Ryan Carter late in the second period. But he is hardly the only culprit for this loss. Therefore, Vigneault is walking a very dangerous line by throwing the Rangers’ franchise goaltender under the bus.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. After the Rangers’ no-show effort against the Devils in a 4-0 loss in October, Vigneault pointed the finger at Lundqvist and Lundqvist alone. Sure, he played one of the worst games of his career. But where was Vigneault’s criticism of the rest of the team for such a putrid performance?
Granted, after last night’s game, Vigneault also threw the Ranger power play units under the bus following an 0-for-5 effort. However, on the Carter goal, where was his criticism of Dan Girardi, who failed to defend him properly, and for Carl Hagelin, who stopped skating and allowed Carter to waltz toward the net?
I am not suggesting that Vigneault dislikes Lundqvist. However, it does seem strange that Lundqvist is such a convenient scapegoat for him. If he tends to single out one man and not call out the entire team, the potential of dividing the locker room increases. Vigneault needs to realize this, especially in the media capital of the world, where one errant quote about his players could create a major distraction.
Ranger players eventually grew tired of former coach John Tortorella constantly criticizing his players in the locker room and in the media. Vigneault needs to be careful not to do the same. Perhaps the criticism of Lundqvist is not a big deal right now. If it continues, however, it may eventually have a damaging effect on the players, especially when their most important player is singled out.