Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Six

Sather says new Rangers coach Vigneault ‘loves the offensive game’

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We touched on this a couple of days ago, but the topic is worth revisiting after Alain Vigneault was introduced as the new head coach of the New York Rangers Friday morning at Radio City Music Hall.

Before we get to what was said today, let’s first read what was written about Vigneault, right after the Canucks fired him last month, by undoubtedly his biggest media critic during his time in Vancouver, The Province’s Tony Gallagher:

AV’s roots are in defensive hockey, while the team he coached was built to attack. At times he fought his instincts and the team did well, but at other times, particularly when the club had injury problems, he would revert to his comfort zone of dump-it-in, dump-it-out hockey. That’s fine with bigger, lesser skilled teams. Not with this roster. And when the Canucks tried to play that way the past two seasons when it counted, in the playoffs, it’s been hideous.

This change is long, long overdue.

Now, it should be noted that not everyone agrees with Gallagher all the time. But when Rangers GM Glen Sather says this morning that he made the hiring decision in large part because Vigneault “loves the offensive game,” well, it sort of stands out. Because it almost makes it sound like Vigneault is the philosophical opposite of the last Rangers coach, John Tortorella, who Sather said he fired because the “game has changed” and teams don’t win with dump-and-chase hockey anymore.

Vigneault, not surprisingly, met the issue in the middle, explaining it’s important to “play well at both ends of the rink.” If there’s space to get creative, get creative. If not, make the “high-percentage play,” i.e. dump it in (or out, if you’re defending).

He also said — and this is probably the key part — that a team has to “put a system in place that maximizes the talent you have.” For example, when he first came to Vancouver in 2006, the “skill level wasn’t as high” as it was later in his tenure when the Canucks ranked among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL.

So here’s the big question — what does Vigneault think of the current Rangers roster?

“I feel in New York our skill base is pretty solid,” he said.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”