The above was just one of many articles leading into Opening Night,
yet, four months later the coach himself remains a pacifist.
...but this really has more to do with Dylan McIlrath.
Since Thanksgiving, work, life, and whatnot, has taken much of my free time otherwise usually spent operating this Trolley.
In truth, however, it seems as if I'm picking up where I left off (which is an indictment of itself). So little has changed that perhaps I would have just been spending much of the last 3 months sniveling about the Rangers anyway.
We've officially entered crunch time folks ... and if you haven't noticed, things are starting to get a little chippy.
The New York Rangers presently own a 31-18-5 record (67 points), good enough for 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division, and 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
"We're a skilled team that can mix in hard work as well..." - Henrik Lundqvist
The Rangers goalie said that soon after shutting out the Penguins Wednesday evening in Pittsburgh, extending the Rangers win streak to 4 games.
It was a positive spin on the here and now, but, read between the lines. Lundqvist has been critically vocal throughout the season regarding gridlock in the royal road, and the team's overall inability to clear traffic from his crease.
The defense has clearly taken a step backwards this season. Dan Girardi's relentless style over the years seems to have caught up with him, while the overall blue line pairings look a step slower (if not fatigued), and are playing as passively as ever.
Now for the other pertinent stuff:
- Having both Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein in the line-up has officially become an untenable situation - specifically Klein's inadequate play.
- The opposition handles the puck into the Rangers defensive end with grace, style, and ease. Once in the zone, opposing forwards are permitted to loiter around Henrik, sometimes in the form of menacing mobs.
- Above all else, opposing teams/players continue battering Rangers players and taking their runs with impunity, much less a reaction, from the Rangers coach. That in turn, translates onto the ice.
Yes, I'm going there, again, meaning Alain Vigneault's preference for playing Kevin Klein over Dylan McIlrath for the better part of the season. It's only recently, with Klein banged up, that McIlrath has been given more ice time.
Dylan McIlrath made his season debut on Oct. 13th, but did not play again until November, when he was squeezed into just 5 of the Rangers 14 scheduled games. In December, however, he played in 11 of the Rangers 13 games. Then in January, he was again relegated to just 3 of the Rangers 11 scheduled games.
Circle back to Feb. 2nd, when the Rangers suffered their lone defeat this month (to date) against the Devils - McIlrath did not play, while the rest of the team got pushed around.
McIlrath then played against the Wild in a game without incident. Then came Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers - a game Dylan McIlrath did not start.
If you don't know ... Saturday, Feb. 6th at Philly, Wayne Simmonds sucker punched Ryan McDonagh with his glove still on. McDonagh hasn't played since, out with a concussion. It's hard to say whether McDonagh suffered his concussion as a result of Simmonds' initial check into the boards, or as a result of the punch, or both.
In either case, I'm sick of it...!
The Rangers followed up on Feb. 8th, turning the tables on the Devils with a 2-1 victory. Newark didn't quite play with the same rambunctiousness they displayed on Feb. 2nd. I offer no theories why, other that to simply state Dylan McIlrath started, registered 2 SOG and 4 hits in 14:24 (even strength) minutes, and committed no penalties.
Dylan McIlrath made his 2nd straight start Wednesday night in the Rangers 3-0 victory over the Penguins. He registered 5 hits in 13:27 minutes.
I think by now you smell what I'm cooking.
- Small Picture - I'm interested to see how the Rangers handle Milan Lucic and the Los Angeles Kings on Friday. My mind, however, is already fixed on Sunday's rematch against the Philadelphia Flyers - if I may be so bold as to even suggest vengeance should permeate the air.
- Big Picture - It's been proven throughout his tenure with the Rangers, Alain Vigneault's pacifism gets players hurt. He had one or two enforcers in Vancouver, and refused to utilize them as well. Thus, this is purely philosophical. His is a great system for the regular season, but reaches it's law of diminished returns come playoff time.
In effect, open season on Blueshirts has begun. So I ask, what good is making the playoffs if one continually exposes his premium players to snipers, while at the same time restrains his team from firing back?
Proactive deterrence (don't make me laugh) is an entirely different matter.
Some call it playing with discipline. There's something to that ... but in this case I call it soft, which will get the Rangers nowhere except placed on the disabled list.
If that's not enough for ya, then let's circle back to Henrik Lundqvist, because the Rangers have reverted back to requiring nightly miracles from their liege. At 33-years of age, he presently leads the NHL with 46 games played (while starting 40 of the Rangers 54 games played to date).
In a bit of irony, a coach's philosophy, a poor penalty kill, worn down blue liners, injuries and perhaps indifference, are all imposing a stiff tax upon The King.
It's all relative...