1. Change the lead-protecting unit
Here we go again. Depending on how the Rangers’ postseason run ends, this will likely be the most talked about topic. Right at the forefront of the discussion will be the man in charge, head coach Alain Vigneault. It has been his decision-making that has cost the team three late leads, including two in this series against Ottawa.
Across the NHL there has been an influx of 6-on-5 goals late in the third period of playoff games. The Anaheim Ducks scored three times in four minutes to take the Edmonton Oilers to overtime a few nights ago. Similarly, the Rangers have fallen victim twice to these sorts of events. Aside from the actual play on the ice, the Rangers’ bench boss has been the one to blame.
With game on the line there are few players more reliable than some of the Rangers’ bottom-six forwards. Oscar Lindberg, Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast come to mind. Those three, along with reliable veterans Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, or Mats Zuccarello must comprise the Rangers’ forwards with a late lead.
Finally, Vigneault’s tendency to lose the Brady Skjei-Brendan Smith pairing must end. Choosing to bench two of the team’s most effective defenseman with the game on the line seems counterintuitive. Maybe that’s just me.