GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Alain Vigneault has joked about his sometimes imprecise use of numbers, calling it “French math.”
After practice Friday before heading to Washington for Saturday’s game against the Capitals, the Quebec-born coach didn’t use the term, but instead a sort of switch on Bill Parcells’ mantra: “You are what your record says you are.”
The Blueshirts record reads 2-2, but Vigneault declared: “We could easily be sitting here 4 and 0 with the way we played both offensively and defensively. I like the way our team is playing.”
It’s true that in the Rangers losses to the Blues and Red Wings, they used their team speed to often outplay their opponents, but were stymied by goaltenders Carter Hutton and Jimmy Howard, who allowed just three goals between them on 65 shots on goals. A handful of attempts struck goalposts as well.
“It’s a results-based league, and we’re 2 and 2 right now, but I really liked all four of our games,” said center Derek Stepan.
There’s no misunderstanding of the numbers for the Capitals, who at 3-0-1 look like the team that won the Presidents Trophy last year. “Same obvious strengths,” said Vigneault, mentioning Alex Ovechkin, a potent power play, and Vezina-winning goalie Braden Holtby.
Henrik Lundqvist, who was in the net for the 2-1 loss to the Red Wings on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, will start against the Capitals, but Vigneault said he did not make up his mind for Sunday’s home game against Arizona.
Rookie Pavel Buchnevich, whose treatments for back spasms “are coming along,” did not make the trip and will miss his third and fourth games this weekend. That leaves the Rangers with just 12 healthy forwards, and Vigneault tinkered with the right side of all four line combinations.
Because Mats Zuccarello didn’t play any preseason games after returning from the World Cup in Toronto, Vigneault hasn’t seen the Norwegian winger with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, the team’s most-productive duo. “I wanted to try that and see what kind of chemistry they can come up with,” he said.
Rick Nash was moved to a line with Derek Stepan, with whom he has played in the past, and Jimmy Vesey. Right wings Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast were switched, with Grabner elevated to the third line with Kevin Hayes and J. T. Miller and Fast, who played on the third trio on Wednesday, was back with center Josh Jooris and Brandon Pirri.
Dan Girardi, shelved with a groin strain in the St. Louis game last Saturday, practiced and made the trip, and the defenseman could play either Saturday or the second game of a back-to-back against Arizona on Sunday, but not both, Vigneault said. “I’ll take the skate in the morning and see what the docs and the coach says,” Girardi said.