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Rangers Vs. Capitals: This One Is On The Coach

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Notes (sort of) from the Rangers loss to the Capitals in Game 4. The Capitals have a 3-1 series lead.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

These are your notes for the game even though they don't look like them.

I think there are a lot of places you can place blame for the situation the Rangers are in right now. I'll say it at the top because I do think it's played a role: The Rangers, very simply, have not gotten a single bounce all series. Is that an excuse? In a way yes, but in a way no. Because it's not the biggest reason why the Rangers are losing even if it's playing a pretty enormous role.

I thought the Rangers played their best game of the playoffs in Game 3. I love their effort. I thought they deserved better than what they got and a bad bounce (and a lack of good bounces) did them in. Game 4 was exactly the same, which is actually part of the problem. There was no adjustment. There was no attempted solution to the lack of offense.

The Rangers have been a very rush-happy team this year, which has been one of their calling cards for success. So Barry Trotz turned his team into the John Tortorella Rangers of old -- clog all the shooting lanes, don't get caught flat footed and play defense unless you see an opportunity for a safe offensive play.

And you know what? It's working brilliantly. As the Rangers fruitlessly look for their home run and breakout passes the Capitals give the Rangers the outside when they get into the zone and throw their bodies in front of anything that happens to get inside.

What the Rangers should be doing -- since those breakouts aren't available -- is adjusting and trying to work the puck into the offensive zone with possession, rather than failed stretch passes and dumping and chasing. I made the comment on Twitter last night: The Rangers look like they're just skating in the offensive zone. There is no plan.

Know who that falls on? The coach. Alain Vigneault.

The fourth line (and Mr. One Goal All Year Tanner Glass) being on the ice with five minutes left down by one? That's on Vigneault. And don't give me the "they generated a chance" crap. Glass has one goal all year; you're really betting on him to score there? Imagine if a real player had been on the other end of that J.T. Miller pass? You play your best players in crunch time and bet the odds. Vigneault responded to the situation by icing the worst player on the team. He literally couldn't have made a worse decision at the time.

Not double shifting Nash and Brassard until three minutes left? That's on Vigneault.

Generating three shots in the final five minutes down a goal? That's on Vigneault.

Not getting a shot off in the final 2:38 including the entire minute-plus Henrik Lundqvist was pulled? That's on Vigneault.

Not even being able to get possession of the puck let alone get a shot off the final two minutes? You guessed it, that's on Vigneault.

Don't get me wrong, the Rangers players shot themselves in the foot in this one. When your best players make mistakes AND your offense can't buy a goal it's a serious problem. On the first Capitals goal Chris Kreider turned the puck over, Derek Stepan got tripped up (I have no problem with it not being a penalty) and Dan Girardi apparently paid for tickets to watch the goal because he did nothing more than watch the entire play develop and the shot go in.

On the second goal Ryan McDonagh -- who is also mainly responsible for the 1.5-second goal in Game 1 -- knows Girardi is not in support and has a complete mental meltdown, tries to do the impossible rather than just play it safe, turns the puck over and boom, the Rangers are down 2-1.

It's right there that Vigneault had a choice to make. Change the way the offense is working, throw every shot you can at Braden Holtby and crash the net relentlessly looking for a dirty goal or keep doing the stretch passes that aren't working/outside possession and outside shots/weak point shots with no one in front. The latter -- which was a major part of the Rangers 100+ minute scoreless streak -- was apparently good enough for the man behind the bench.

Very simply, the Rangers' offense has looked out of sync all playoffs. I gave the Rangers a break in the first round because they won the series and I thought they were in a mini-funk and would work their way out of it. I thought their speed would shine through against Washington and they'd be back to the Rangers of old. I have, thus far, been very wrong.

I mentioned back in Game 3 how this year reminds me a lot of Tortorella's final playoff series where the Rangers never made any adjustments and Boston cruised through the series in five games. During Game 4 (and really through the playoffs) Vigneault has deployed the fourth line like he did last year. The difference? Last year's fourth line was fantastic and had quality players who you could lean on for a little offense while completely trusting their defense. This year's fourth line (and I'm not even counting the Glass - Miller - James Sheppard abomination Vigneault created last night) has about three times less skill and has been a tire fire all series. The Penguins' bottom six helped shelter them. The Capitals have cracked them open and started cooking breakfast.

I'm not even saying that to bash the fourth line, I'm saying it because a lot of times this series Vigneault is coaching exactly the same way he did last year. Except with completely different personnel and very different situations.

Since we're being honest, I really do think Vigneault is a good hockey coach. But the rub with him has always been his inability to get over the hump and win the big games. This year is very much looking like another year in that type of resume, fair or not. If Nash can be blamed for not scoring in the playoffs despite being relatively dominant then Vigneault can be blamed for not wcultivating that offense. Before game 4 Vigneault talked about how Brassard needed to get Nash going. In a lot of ways he's right, but it's also Vigneault's job to get the offense going. He hasn't, and now we're here.

I'm sure this is exactly how I felt last year. Actually, last year I might have felt worse. But this feels a lot different. The Rangers don't seem like a team able to make the adjustments they need to make to win the next three games in a row.

And in the end, that falls on the coach.