New York Rangers: Why J.T. Miller And Marty St. Louis Need To Switch Lines


Oftentimes the lineups are overlooked in the game of hockey. For the New York Rangers, however, the juggling of the lines becomes very important.

The New York Rangers were stellar during the 2014-15 NHL season. Actually, they were more than stellar, they were phenomenal.

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Regardless of the tag, this team finished as the best in the land with 113 points and 53 victories (both marks are franchise bests).

Admittedly, it’s tough to argue with success. Head coach Alain Vigneault has pushed all the right buttons during his two seasons in New York. Although, there is one glaring five on five move Vigneault needs to make as soon as possible.

When hockey pundits (and even their competition) think about the Rangers, how do they describe them?

Speed is always the first thing that comes to mind. Speed and their free-flowing neutral zone game that allows a full-on attack.

What also comes with this speed territory, however, is the reality that a few of their players are small. Especially since the trading deadline of 2014 came and went, this personnel grouping extended their “little” ways.

Guys like Marty St. Louis, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Dan Boyle are all undersized players. In fact, the forwards aren’t just undersized, they are extremely modest in stature compared to the prototype.

Due to the size given up in exchange for speed, juggling lines become critical.

Unlike the now infamous John Tortorella, Vigneault is a guy who loves to keep his forward lines and defensive pairings intact for a good portion of the season. He enjoys witnessing the build up in unit chemistry.

Here’s how the current lineup looks and how it should look in parenthesis:

Nov 19, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein (8) celebrates scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports


  1. Zuccarello-Brassard-Nash
  2. Kreider-Stepan-Miller (St. Louis)
  3. Hagelin-Hayes-St.Louis (Miller)
  4. Glass-Moore-Fast


  1. McDonagh-Girardi
  2. Staal-Boyle (Klein)
  3. Yandle-Hunwick

For most of the season, Rick Nash replaced Benoit Pouillot on the wing of that very instrumental Derick Brassard-line from a season ago. It turned out to be such a perfect fit that he finished the season with a career-high 42 goals.

The second line for most of the second half of the season featured Derek Stepan centering Chris Kreider and St. Louis. It was effective, but not world-beating.

During the Rangers hotstreak which featured goaltender Cam Talbot – that allowed New York to go from third in the Metropolitan division to Presidents’ Trophy winners – their third line was outstanding. The combination of Kevin Hayes with Hagelin on the left and either J.T. Miller or Jesper Fast on the right went absolutely bananas.

Much like the Brassard-Zuccarello-Pouillot third line from a year ago, the Hayes-Hagelin-Miller line down the stretch of the 2014-15 regular season had us dreaming once again of a truly four-line deep squad.

Then, suddenly, St. Louis injured his leg in an awkward fall.

This forced Miller onto the second line. While the newly formed Stepan-Kreider-Miller line came up extremely productive, the Hayes line wasn’t the same.

Now, the Hayes line features two really smaller guys on both wings and the three have been very non-existent. Hayes, especially, hasn’t done much (5 goals in his last 26 games, playoffs included). Additionally, the Stepan line has lost some steam.

At the current moment, actually, the Rangers top two-lines have been the Brassard line and Dominic Moore line. Just by using the good old eye-test, it’s easy to see Hayes is having difficulty working with St. Louis.

Vigneault needs to go back to the “3rd Line” well. Switching St. Louis and Miller would allow the dominant Hayes-Miller-Hagelin group to get back together, and put St. Louis back in a familiar position with Stepan and Kreider.

Not only does it give the guys more familiarity again with each other, it spreads out those little guys evenly over the first three lines (St. Louis, Hagelin, Zuccarello). The other solution is to place the obviously-older St. Louis on the fourth line with Moore and Glass, and put Fast on the third line with Hayes and Hagelin.

Talented youngsters like Miller and Fast are currently outplaying St. Louis.

Talented youngsters like Miller and Fast are currently outplaying St. Louis.

Elsewhere, the return of Kevin Klein is imminent. While it is known that Matt Hunwick will be exiting the lineup upon Klein’s return, the argument can easily be made that Boyle should take a seat instead.

On too many occasions as of late, Boyle has been beaten on goals and scoring chances. How about the two on one rush Maxim Lapierre generated because Boyle was beaten at the blue-line while on the power play?

Cannot have that happen in the playoffs.

At least Vigneault figured out he needed to go back to the four-forward first power play unit. Going three forwards on both power play units is a sin because it keeps Hayes off the power play. Allowing Stepan and/or Brassaard to play the point on that first unit will keep this power play trending up instead of down. Two defenseman (Boyle, Keith Yandle, or Ryan McDonagh, whoever is not on the first unit), can easily keep the flow going on the second unit.

Once Vigneault made this move (during the third period of Game 2), the power play started humming the puck around.

While the Rangers won Game 3 and their defense was on lock, it could be viewed as a wake-up call. The sheer dominance they displayed during the first half of the game turned out to make the 2-1 final stunning.

Make the St. Louis/Miller switch and get back to dominating once again.

Next: Rangers Win Gritty Game 3 Over Penguins

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