TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
SportsHockeyRangers

Alain Vigneault wants Rangers to play with more grit

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault watches against the

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault watches against the Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 3, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Quick quiz: Which NHL coach said this on Tuesday after a disheartening loss on Sunday?

1. “We have to be a lot more active, a lot more intense about the 50-50 pucks that are available . . . when we were in situations on the forecheck, we were coasting from the top of the circles and waiting, we were reacting to the puck versus taking the initiative.”

2. “We can’t just be relying on [fill in the blank] to score goals, there’s other people in our lineup who have a history of scoring goals and we’re not getting the goals and the offense from some people. We take the body of work over 15 games, and check back, and we have some people who are starving.”

3. On shuffling lines: “It hopefully stimulates some people to understand that we’re not going to accept what’s going on out there.”

If you answered Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, sorry.

Good guess, but in the NHL, losing coaches tend to strike the same chords. The tough talk was from Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, who watched the San Jose Sharks beat the Ducks, 6-2, on Sunday.

During the peaks and valleys of an inconsistent season for a Rangers team that had already dropped two straight on this four-game Western swing, Vigneault also has hoped for more consistency, using a slightly different vocabulary, before Tuesday’s game against the Ducks.

Vigneault also has been appealing for his squad to play with some “bite” and mentioned that word in discussions about defensemen Brendan Smith, who signed a four-year contract last summer, and Tony DeAngelo. Smith’s defensive struggles this season have been well documented, and DeAngelo, 22, acquired from Arizona and with an offensive upside, is getting a chance to play because Kevin Shattenkirk is sidelined after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

“Smitty’s trying hard, he’s trying to play with bite, trying to get back to the dependable Smitty that we all know and love, and that’s a player that plays with bite and walks that line,” said Vigneault. “Every game he’s got three or four plays — and we’ve talked to him about this — that can make the difference on one side or the other, he needs to pick the right side, he knows it, he’s working hard, we’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in him that he’s going to help us moving forward.”

DeAngelo’s performance — Tuesday was his third straight start — “is a small sample, he’s looked alright,” Vigneault said. “Defensively, he’s been trying to be dependable. I’ve seen a good stick. He wants to play with a little bit of bite, which is good, but we need to see that offensive, puck-handling ‘D.’ I need to see him breaking the puck out of our end, finding the right options; I need to see him jumping up in the play at the right time and supporting the attack and I need to see him get that shot through.”

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh also was only thinking short-term.

“We know how tight it is,” he said. “Our focus is not trying to look too much big picture and standings and where we’re at. We’ve got two games left before the All-Star break, let’s get some points . . . We’re doing some positives in each game, a lot more positives than negatives. In our last game, our penalty-kill [gave up three straight power-play goals]. I don’t think we’ve had a game like that all season and it’s just proving how important each shift is and how important each situation is. We’re getting to the 50-games mark here, every play could be the difference.”

New York Sports