It may have taken the New York Rangers some time to find themselves under new coach Alain Vigneault, but find themselves they certainly have.
Since the beginning of January, the Rangers are 22-11-2 in 35 games, during which they’ve scored an average of 3.1 goals, including blowout victories of 7-1, 7-3, and 8-4.
For context’s sake, only six teams — Anaheim, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Colorado — have averaged more than three goals per game this season.
“We play a different system now where we play differently in our own end,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist told Yahoo Sports. “I think it gives us the ability to have more speed coming out of the zone. I think this year we create more chances and score more goals, which is huge.”
“We have a fast team, a lot of good skaters, so AV wants us to play in a straight line,” said forward Derick Brassard, per The Province newspaper. “We try and establish shots and we have a lot of guys on the back end who can join the rush. He wants us to move the puck fast.”
The Rangers are set to meet the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, where — in quite the twist — there was already no shortage of debate about the future of ex-Rangers coach John Tortorella.
A visit from the Blueshirts has only added to that debate, given Vigneault coached in the city from 2006-13, leading the Canucks to a pair of Presidents’ Trophies and to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.
Take Brassard’s comment about Vigneault wanting his players to move the puck “fast.” In Vancouver, that rings especially loud after an unnamed scout told The Province that the disappointing Canucks “play so slow” under Tortorella.
Similarly, Lundqvist’s remark about playing “differently in our own end” and having “more speed coming out of the zone” could be viewed as a knock on Tortorella’s collapsing, shot-blocking defensive approach.
When two coaches switch jobs, the comparisons are naturally going to be made. And at this point, most of them paint Vigneault in a better light than Tortorella.
“You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing that happened with Alain and I,” Tortorella said yesterday, per NHL.com.
“We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot, and he’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy, and rightfully so. When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized.”