Ready to take on the San Jose Sharks on the coast, New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault will surely throw the wrong lineup on the ice.
- New York Rangers (40-23-8)
- San Jose Sharks (39-25-6)
- NHL, Today, 4:00 PM on CSCA, MSG+, Full Preview
- SAP Center at San Jose, San Jose, California
By Robby Sabo
The man took the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year with the club. He then took them to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final the following season.
There’s not a doubt in the world that Alain Vigneault has done one hell of a job in the Big Apple.
Any doubts of making a horrid mistake by jettisoning John Tortorella for AV were quickly washed away during the unexpected squad who stole the hearts of the city during the spring of 2014.
Still, despite the heartwarming feelings that existed the last two seasons, something seems to be a little off in Rangerstown.
What’s off, is plain as day. It’s a problem that will doom the squad when they get into the really tense and ultra competitive times of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What’s off is the fact that the Rangers continuously throw out a lineup that isn’t their best.
There’s nothing more hotly contested among Blueshirts fans than who represent the healthy scratches on a nightly basis. It’s a good problem to have, to be so deep as a squad, yet it creates a scenario that has AV in hot-water with the fans time and time again.
For New York’s next game against the San Jose Sharks at 4 PM ET today, it’s already been announced that no lineup changes will be made:
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 19, 2016
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) March 19, 2016
It’s a sin that cannot be apologized with just a few Hail Marys.
To sit a 24-year old kid who’s proven his worthy beyond of a measure of a doubt this year is simply a crime. He’s tallied 14 goals, 26 assists, and posted a very solid +11 while on the ice. He contributes beautifully on the penalty kill and is one of the Rangers top two-way forwards.
In no way, shape, or form should Lindberg ever be a healthy scratch.
Rick Nash finally returning to the lineup after the acquisition of Eric Staal from Carolina has created this problem, and while Tanner Glass does provide intrinsic value that can never be measured on on the stat sheet, Lindberg must be the guy who plays.
And don’t be fooled: Glass is very valuable to the Rangers. He’s the lone real tough guy in a lineup littered with softness. This will be huge come tournament time.
The real issue doesn’t lie in the 12 forward spots, however. It actually lies on the blueline.
The reason AV has it so easy right now is quite simple: Dylan McIlrath got injured.
The monster of a guy on the Rangers blueline provides something nobody else does. He can change a game in a matter of moments with one devastating clean hit. He can clear the crease in front of Henrik Lundqist with east – something this squad desperately needs, especially come playoff time with the physicality reaches epic proportion.
Here is the Rangers best lineup, one that the fans should see down the stretch and spill over into the playoffs:
Honestly, I could care less how the top three lines get filled out. I only choose the Jesper Fast-Derrick Brassard-J.T. Miller line as tops simply because of how well they played during Miller’s break out a few weeks ago.
The bottom line is AV always wants to keep the top three spread out.
Remember in 2014 when the third line of Brassard-Zuccarello-Poulliot did so much damage? Well, yeah, same principle here.
The issue comes in making sure Dan Boyle doesn’t see the ice in the playoffs. Him being benched in favor of Dylan McIlrath serves two very important purposes.
Firstly, McIlrath is better. He’s more suited to play in the ultra physical Stanley Cup Playoffs. We saw it last year as Boyle struggled time and again against the heavier and faster competition.
Boyle would have to tally 80 points on offense to cancel out his horrid and weak defensive attributes at this point in his career.
He’s currently collected seven goals and 13 assists in an absurd 64 games played this season. Despite the idea of lunacy that Boyle has played almost every game this season, the fact that his +1 rating while on the ice is downright terrible is a realization all of Rangerstown understands.
The man is +1, and he’s had so many opportunities on the power play to pad that number in secret.
Secondly, and most importantly, McIlrath enters a lineup desperately in need of physicality. Who else on the blueline is physical enough and nasty enough to provide New York an edge in that area when the money is truly on the line? Nobody.
McIlrath’s presence also makes it OK to allow Lindberg to play over Glass. Not only does McIlrath provide a better option defensively, but he gives the Rangers that one tough guy needed in the lineup.
Besides, why is Boyle needed when Yandle has finally, and rightly so, taken the reigns as the quarterback of the No. 1 power-play unit?
What’s listed above is the best Rangers lineup now, and moving forward in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If Alain Vigneault doesn’t soon recognize this, the Blueshirts will be playing with a lesser lineup than their overall talent deserves.
AV’s blind loyalty to Boyle is going to cost this team in the end.