Not wishing to take anything away from the performance of
Henrik Lundqvist in game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins; but I want to give
my star of the day to the New York Ranger’s coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault
was like watching a grand chess master in action the way he outcoached and
outsmarted Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma not just in game 7 but in games 5 and 6.
Anything Bylsma tried to get his team going was countered
swiftly and decisively by the Ranger’s coach. From playing cheerleader and
supportive parent in the emotional return of Marty St. Louis in game 5 to
mixing and matching his lines in game 6 to the magnificent chess match in game
Alain Vigneault showed that he had learned from the coaching
mistakes of the past which cost him jobs in Montreal and Vancouver. He blended
his own open ice attack to the Ranger’s Tom Renney/John Tortorella shot
blocking defense but Vigneault improved on that defense as well.
There wasn’t no dependency on shot blocking, it was
important yes but at the same time using 4 lines one right after another kept
his players from being burnt out despite being the only team forced to play
back to back games in 2 straight series.
In game 7 no Ranger forward played more than the 17:44 played by Mats Zuccarello
but it sure seemed as if Dom Moore and Brian Boyle never left the ice. When
Bylsma tried to shift players around to get better matchups; there was
Vigneault countering each and every move.
In the 3rd period when Pittsburgh was trying to
throw everything at the Rangers; there was the calmness of the Ranger coach.
And that calmness was responded to by the Ranger players as you never really
saw any kind of panic no matter what the situation.
The Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in a playoff series
for the first time ever, they defeated them in a game 7 on their ice and they
did it by coming back from down 1-3 in the series. It was an effort that no other
Ranger’s coach had ever done and let’s hope they don’t have to do this again.
Now we find out how much of a genius Alain Vigneault truly
is as the Rangers now attempt what will appear to be an almost impossible task.
Get past either Montreal or Boston to play for the Stanley Cup something the
Rangers have not done since 1994.
Don’t bet against Vigneault taking this team to the cup
finals and winning it all. More than
anything that Vigneault has done is that he has Ranger fans believing they can
win it all and that alone is something else.