New York Rangers Need a Flexible Lineup


After Game One against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Rangers are looking refreshed with a different lineup for the Eastern Conference Final.

When the going gets rough – as in facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final rough – what does New York Rangers head coach, Alain Vigneault, do?

He switches up the lineup.

Obviously coming out of Round Two, the Rangers needed to step up their game. They dodged a bullet, sidestepping the Washington Capitals with a game-tying goal, 101 seconds left in an elimination game. They then barely scraped by in heart-stopping, one-goal games to complete a comeback and take the series.

Something had to change going into the Eastern Conference Final if New York wanted to stand a fighting chance facing Tampa Bay and Ben Bishop – a team they failed to win against in the regular season and a goalie they had never won against, ever.

So before Game One, Kevin Hayes was plucked from the bottom-six and plopped in the first line alongside Derick Brassard and Rick Nash.

New York Rangers
New York Rangers /

New York Rangers

Consequently, Martin St. Louis was displaced to the third line next to Carl Hagelin and Dominic Moore.

In turn, J.T. Miller was banished to the not-so-bad-but-also-not-the-greatest fourth line.

After watching these changes in effect, the Rangers are now on a whole new level.

The Blueshirts came out roaring in the first period. The new first line was close to scoring after Brassard stole the puck right in front of the Bolts net. Brass found Hayes and Hayes ripped a shot that rang loudly off the crossbar for one of the biggest chances before first intermission.

Then in the second period, the good ol’ second line of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast bumped the Rangers into a one-goal lead. This line has been outstanding since day one and it only makes sense that Vigneault would leave it as is. Why try to fix something when it already works?

When the Lightning caught up in the third period, tying the game 1-1, it wasn’t long until another switch in the Rangers lineup would strike again. With Dominic Moore on the ice now beside Brassard and Hayes, New York was lifted back into the lead as a rebound bounced off Moore’s leg and into Tampa Bay’s net.

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The changes in the lineup have breathed life back into the Rangers offense. Their forecheck was at its finest in the first forty minutes of Game One. When it wavered, another switch generated some much needed luck to win the game. With that, New York finally beat Bishop who until Game One was 8-0 against the Blueshirts.

Hence, Vigneault should not do what he did in Round Two. If offense is struggling, he shouldn’t keep a rigid lineup waiting for good things to happen or let a comeback wait until the literal last possible moment.

What Vigneault should do is keep the lineup flexible moving forward in the series and, heck, for as long as they’re in the race for the Cup.

When the Rangers need to up the ante, AV should do what he did in Game One against the Bolts: switch things up. If he does that, the Rangers just might have an easier time earning three more wins in this round than the last.

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