We understand where Alain Vigneault is coming from. The schedule for his New York Rangers, which has seen them play five intense post-season games over seven days, has been burdensome and might have provided the more-rested Pittsburgh Penguins with an edge.
At least, we can see how that might happen.
But Vigneault’s decision to share his thoughts with the world, let alone his players in private, was a mistake. The man paid to lead, motivate and set a tone has given his players an excuse for losing by laying blame on a “stupid” schedule.
We’ll never know if the Rangers would have won Game 3, or even scored in it, had they been given an extra day to rest. What we do know is Madison Square Garden is a busy venue and the home team had to work around pre-booked events – a WBNA game and Billy Joel concert. The NHL didn’t start the fire.
We also know the Rangers had legs and dominated in zone time and shots on goal in Game 3, registering 35 to the Penguins’ 15. They limited Pittsburgh to one shot in the third period and outhit them 32-16. Energy wasn’t a huge factor.
What did let them down is a power play that went bagel-for-5 and is now scoreless in its past 33 attempts. Rick Nash, the man acquired to be a game-breaker, doesn’t have a playoff goal since last May.
On the flip side, they’ve encountered a red-hot goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, a netminder who for all his “bad goal” notoriety, has also proven capable of extended head-stands in his crease.
And the Rangers could have avoided the challenge of a condensed schedule had they dispensed of the Philadelphia Flyers in fewer than seven games in Round 1.
That train, however, has left the station. The engine that’s remaining has plenty of steam and the opportunity to tie a series against a favored opponent on Wednesday. Based on play so far, it’s capable of doing so.
What it needs to guard against is victimization. There is oodles of veteran leadership on the Rangers, guys with enough big-game savvy to know you don’t win championships without overcoming adversity.
We’re just a little surprised their coach, the man who is supposed to reinforce the “no-excuse” mindset, fell into his own trap.