When the Bruins scored the goal that eliminated the Rangers in Game 5 of the second round of the NHL playoffs in Boston last spring, the quintet that head coach John Tortorella had deployed was Kris Newbury, Steve Eminger, Roman Hamrlik, Micheal Haley and Derek Dorsett.
Only one of the six, Dorsett, remains with the Blueshirts as their season opens in Phoenix Thursday. The loss was the tipping point that triggered Tortorella's ouster and the offseason changes that followed.
The winningest coach in Vancouver Canucks history, Alain Vigneault, was named to succeed Tortorella to provide a calmer tone, a more positive approach and an offensive jolt to a frustrated, banged-up team that seemed to lose confidence in itself.
Vigneault, 52, who also coached in Montreal, brought a new coaching staff, and as with any overhaul, the Rangers are trying to get comfortable with a different system.
"There's going to be mistakes," said captain Ryan Callahan, who will miss the opener while rehabbing from shoulder surgery, but expects to be back on the road trip that begins in Arizona and ends in St. Louis on Oct. 12. "We have to improve each game as we get more accustomed to the reads."
Tortorella went with gut feelings and was impatient with players who didn't quite fit his mold, which included blocking shots with abandon; Vigneault's approach favors speed, transition and smarts.
"On the forecheck, if you see the guy looking at you, you don't go 400 miles an hour," Callahan said. "You can wait for him to make a move; it's a read on the play, to pressure or lay back a bit, and your linemates have to read off you. The big thing is, either way you read, you have to commit to it, you can't be in between."
The Rangers seemed to be in between for much of last year's 48-game season, with veteran center Brad Richards slumping and Tortorella unable to coax the most out of sniper Marian Gaborik or elite winger Rick Nash.
After Gaborik was traded to Columbus for Derick Brassard, John Moore and Dorsett, the team went 10-3-1 to grab sixth place in the East and edge the Capitals in the first round, thanks to a stellar performance from Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist, who posted shutouts in Games 6 and 7.
To reach the playoffs next spring in the realigned Metropolitan Division, which has added Washington, Columbus and Carolina, Lundqvist will need to be in vintage form, and the top two lines and the power play (which was dismal) will need a revival. The defense should be strong, led by Ryan McDonagh, and bolstered by the return of Marc Staal, who had been sidelined late in the year with an eye injury.
The signing of No. 1 center Derek Stepan after missing 16 days of camp and preseason games was critical. Richards is now being tried at left wing and Nash, who had just three goals and six assists on the power play and one goal and four assists in 12 postseason games, needs to rebound to All-Star form.
"I've started to get a feel for the team" Vigneault said. "This is going to be a constant progression and I expect us to keep getting better. I'm watching Phoenix's two last games to try and counter their strengths, but a lot of it is how we need to play, how we need to execute and how we need to use the puck."