When Alain Vigneault was head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, the team had a reputation for diving to sell calls. At no point were the Canucks’ antics more embarrassing than the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins when the players flopped and dove in a manner that would do Michael Phelps proud in the seven-game series loss. His reputation for coaching divers has come back to life in the Stanley Cup Final as his New York Rangers squad skates against the Los Angeles Kings.
While the Rangers went the whole season without earning such a reputation, overtime in Game 2 saw them looking like Vigneault’s last Stanley Cup Final team. Two instances by well-respected, veteran players personified just how much better of a team the Kings are.
In the first overtime period in a footrace for the puck in the Kings’ defensive zone, Justin Williams nudged Rangers star Rick Nash. All 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds of Nash then flopped on like a pee-wee hockey player who hadn’t quite mastered learning the art of skating through contact. Williams was whistled for the penalty and spent two tense minutes in the box before the Kings’ penalty kill — surely with help from hockey karma — killed off the penalty.
About a minute after the penalty expired, Jeff Carter was forechecking while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was playing the puck behind the net. Carter made contact with Lundqvist and was rightfully called for a penalty. However, Lundqvist then sold the call by spinning around on the ice like a 10-cent top at a toy store.
The officials should have called an offsetting minor on the Rangers to keep the teams at even strength for Lundqvist’s antics. But once again, the Kings were shorthanded in sudden death and once again killed the penalty.
A franchise goalie and international superstar behaving like that was one of the most embarrassing things I have ever seen in all my years of watching hockey, the epitome of pathetic. Likewise, a power winger who can run over opposing defensemen taking the puck to the net with authority and then going down that easily goes to show how desperate the Rangers are.
While Vigneault has done a great job coaching the Rangers into the Final, his track record with allowing his players to display such poor sportsmanship on hockey’s biggest stage is inexcusable. The Rangers face a monumental task at getting back in the series and flopping around on the ice like a freshly-caught trout is doing them no favors.
It may not matter anyway, with the way the Kings are playing, the Rangers’ season will be over quickly and they can think all summer about the way they showed up the game when it mattered most.