Let’s just get right to the numbers.
Here’s how John Tortorella deployed his defense in 2012, when the Rangers went to Eastern Conference Final and lost to the Devils:
Note how little New York’s sixth defenseman, Stu Bickel, played per game, and how much Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal were playing.
Related PHT post from that time: Do the Rangers look tired to you?
Now, here’s how Alain Vigneault is deploying his defense in these playoffs:
Notice a difference?
Related PHT post from last week: Rangers coach says his team is fresh despite two seven-game series
Despite constant questioning on the topic, Tortorella never bought the notion that he played his top players too much. In fact, after the lockout ended in 2013, he said he planned to “play the hell out of” Girardi and McDonagh. And true to his word, he did. And after he was fired by the Rangers and hired by the Canucks, he played the hell out of Vancouver’s top players, garnering particularly poor results compared to their time under Vigneault, who didn’t have them on the ice so much.
Look, we’re not trying to pile on Tortorella here — he’s won a Stanley Cup as a coach; Vigneault still hasn’t — but the current Rangers, even with that “stupid schedule,” don’t appear anywhere close to running out of gas, and that couldn’t be said two years ago.
Granted, it’s possible New York just has more depth now, and Vigneault is the lucky recipient of that. But there’s a distinct philosophical difference there — one guy plays the hell out of his top players, the other doesn’t.