After the New York Rangers dropped a 3-0 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers -- just 24 hours after blowing a third period lead to the Boston Bruins -- Alain Vigneault admitted what we all knew: the Rangers had been winning games because of luck/Henrik Lundqvist more than the group being "resilient" or whatever other narrative most of the media is throwing around.
#NYR head coach Alain Vigneault: "We probably have gotten some of those wins because of extraordinary goaltending."— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) November 28, 2015
This isn't a new idea. I've talked about it here and Mike talked about it here, long before it started happening. The Rangers have relied on a ridiculous shooting percentage and an even more ridiculous save percentage so far this year and in the three-straight losses the Rangers have gone through they've saw both of those things crash down to earth.
There's two sides to Vigneault's comments above. The reassuring aspect is that Vigneault is seeing the same thing we are and is aware the Rangers cannot -- and already have not -- sustain that level of play. The concerning aspect, however, is that Vigneault has been aware of this and hasn't done anything to try and fix it.
Dan Girardi is still a top-pairing defenseman for the Rangers. Jarret Stoll is still playing more even strength ice time than guys like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Oscar Lindberg and sometimes even Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. Keith Yandle is still criminally underused on the power play. Vigneault continues to use Girardi - Marc Staal as a pairing in crunch time. The brass doesn't at all seem concerned the Rangers are losing the possession battle in almost every single game they've played this year.
Go read the above paragraph again. It would be bad if one or two of those things were happening, let alone all of them. Vigneault talked about how the Rangers need to "man up" after their loss to the Flyers. He talked about how he's challenged them to not only get better but to be better, but how, exactly, can the Rangers be better when they don't adjust their game? Trying the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, and yet it's been like this for weeks.
Vigneault is a very good hockey coach, and the people who argue against that are the knee-jerk types you should avoid when following hockey on the Internet. It is not unfair, however, to point out that Vigneault has never gotten over the hump as a head coach and a big part of that might be his refusal to get away from veterans he trusts who have lost the right to be in those situations. There are more examples than I can care to run through but a quick synopsis would be: Brad Richards on the point, Martin St. Louis' usage last year, the entire Tanner Glass saga, Stoll's usage and now the Girardi situation. There's been more between those lines, of course, but that flaw in Vigneault's coaching strategy has followed him everywhere he's gone.
My point isn't to say Vigneault isn't the right guy to get the Rangers over the hump, either. I truly believe he is capable of it, but he might need to get a little uncomfortable in his methods to get there. Record aside, the Rangers -- as currently constructed AND as currently utilized -- are not a Stanley Cup contender. This team might not even get out of the first round let alone force a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
So Vigneault tasked the Rangers to "man up." Good.
Now he needs to task himself to do the same.