In light of the criticism coach Alain Vigneault has received since the Rangers were eliminated by the Lightning 2-0 in Game 7 Friday, I’ve put up a little interactive poll. It’s simply stated. Did he put the best lineup out for Game 7? I’m on record as saying I didn’t like reinserting Matt Hunwick as a seventh defenseman because it shortchanged the bench going against what Vigneault believes in. He contradicted himself by going with seven D and 11 forwards which hurt the rotation.
What made it worse was once Ryan McDonagh returned, Hunwick was never heard from again after taking six shifts and logging four-plus minutes. Basically, Vigneault shorted his bench by sitting effective physical forward James Sheppard. A move which made no sense especially coming off a 7-3 Game 6 win where Sheppard scored his first career postseason goal which was a big one that saw the fourth line all involved. Rather than keep him in with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass, Vigneault risked losing that energy in a do or die Game 7.
With scoring chances tough to come by, it led to a emotionless display from the Blueshirts. The Lightning played with more passion and took the crowd out of it. Vigneault’s odd decision wasn’t the only thing off. His lack of in game adjustments hurt too. They allowed the Bolts to take away the neutral zone and keep them to the perimeter. There wasn’t enough sustained forecheck nor any Ranger willing to get their nose dirty in front of Ben Bishop. That lack of edge played right into Tampa who did what it took to win the series posting a second consecutive road shutout at The Garden.