As the Rangers try to move on from an abysmal Game 3 loss at the Garden and block out all the noise about their franchise-worst six-game home losing streak in the playoffs, Alain Vigneault wants his Rangers to channel their inner Sergio Garcia.
“The analogy I’ve gotta give you is if you go to play golf and you have a bad round, if you bring the bad round the next game you’re gonna have a tough time,” Vigneault said Monday after the team’s practice at MSG. “You’ve got to knock it out of your mind and go out and play. That’s what the guy who just won the Masters did. He knocked all those bad rounds or majors out of his head, went out and won. Most of the experts, most of the people, most of the fans thought he couldn’t do it and he did.
“That’s the beauty of sports. You get opportunities and that’s what we’re gonna get (tonight).”
A golfer can only blame himself. A hockey club needs everyone pulling the rope, and there are too many Rangers playing below their potential right now, handling the puck carelessly and on Sunday failing to adapt to Montreal’s defensive game plan. They didn’t make it hard enough on the Canadiens in regard to forechecking and their power play has provided nothing.
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“No one’s tougher on us than ourselves,” Derek Stepan said. “We’re working so hard, but I think we need to start working a little smarter. I don’t think it’s a lack of effort. I think it’s a lack of brain power at times. That’s stuff we can fix.”
Everyone other than Henrik Lundqvist can be better. The Blueshirts need more playmaking from their centers, from Stepan to Mika Zibanejad to Kevin Hayes. The latter two have been disappointing for quite some time.
“I’ve been too passive,” Zibanejad said.
The Rangers often wax poetic about playing at the Garden, especially in the playoffs. They talk about feeding off the crowd and being a tough team to play against in their own building, but the Garden was significantly quieter than the Bell Centre was over the first two games, and the Garden crowd booed the Blueshirts during the third period.
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“I don’t know,” Lundqvist said when asked about home struggles. “If we had just one thing to point out we’d correct it. But you can only go to yourself, prepare a certain way and make sure you come here and do whatever you can to help the team. If we have 20 guys doing that tomorrow we’ll have a good game.”
Vigneault is not looking at the Rangers’ issues at home in a big picture. The confounding six-game playoff streak and the eight-game home losing streak during the regular season don’t figure into his mindset, and he is declaring that Game 4 will definitely be better than Game 3.
“Different group, different year,” he said. “Now obviously we didn’t pick a good time obviously to have a very ordinary game, but (tonight) we’ve got an opportunity to make this series 2-2, and anybody who believes this group doesn’t want to play well and doesn’t want to win doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
“We’re gonna go out and we’re gonna compete. We’re obviously gonna make a few adjustments and we’re gonna play a lot better than we did (Sunday).”
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