It has been really hard for New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault to find some consistency with his line combinations. He even admitted it to the media during a press conference one day, but it seems that Vigneault has finally found one line that has some chemistry.
The line is the Rangers’ third line which consists of Benoit Pouliot, J.T. Miller, and Carl Hagelin. Pouliot and Hagelin have been the Rangers’ best forwards over the last five games or so, and Miller is starting to find his niche after being shuffled up and down between the NHL and AHL three times this season.
Pouliot has a six-game point streak which is the longest of his journeyman career. Hagelin has nine goals on the season, four of those coming in the last six games. He is also tied for the team lead with his nine goals. Miller hasn’t been getting too much ice time because he doesn’t play on any special teams, but he is finding a way to play well on the forecheck when he does get his minutes.
The line brings great speed and forechecking ability to the table. Hagelin is easily the fastest player on the team and one of the fastest in the league. His speed creates such problems with opposing defensemen. Pouliot has a ridiculous skill set but has struggled to put it all together. Ever since he was paired with this line, however, his game has taken off. For once in his career he is playing good, consistent hockey, and that has to continue for the Rangers to win games. Miller is still trying to find his way but is a good two way center. He has the talent and ability to be a player like Brandon Dubinsky once he finds consistency.
Vigneault admitted that only two players were really showing chemistry this season. Those two were Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, but after stating that he split the two up. That move showed how bad the Rangers’ chemistry and depth has been this season. The lines will be shuffled again in about two weeks when captain Ryan Callahan returns to the lineup as he skated for the first time since suffering a sprained MCL on December 10.
When Callahan returns it is clear that Vigneault will once again have to do some line shuffling. If he is smart, which I think he is, he will find a way to keep Miller, Pouliot, and Hagelin together on the ice.