NEW YORK -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said his lineup is set but won't reveal it publicly before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).
The final decision Vigneault made at forward, likely between rookie Pavel Buchnevich and veteran Tanner Glass, could not have been easy, but it had to be easier than making no change at all considering how ineffective his group of 12 forwards were in a 3-1 loss in Game 3 on Sunday.
If the Rangers keep the same lineup for Game 4 it would be a surprise at this point, especially because Vigneault started by calling it a "very ordinary game" for the Rangers, and then went as far as saying it was a "bad game" for them.
It also wouldn't be surprising if Buchnevich does replace Glass in the lineup. Glass has been part of the fourth line, with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, and Vigneault said that's been the Rangers' best line.
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"It's the truth," center Derek Stepan said. "They've been our best line."
But Vigneault might have to rob from that line to get more out of his first three lines, which have produced four goals in three games. He explicitly said he would consider doing just that in Game 4.
"Yes, I'd do anything to help us win tonight," he said.
And that brings us back to Buchnevich, who rotated with Glass on a line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad in practice Monday. It's unlikely Vigneault would use Glass on a top-three scoring line because that's not his role. But more telling is Buchnevich was with Zibanejad and not another center.
Buchnevich had nine of his 16 even-strength points when playing with Zibanejad during the regular season, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
The fourth line featured Lindberg, Fast and Michael Grabner. While that line wouldn't have the same element of physicality it has with Glass, it would give the Rangers a balance of speed and skill on all four lines. Grabner leads the Rangers with two goals in the series.
Buchnevich also was on a power-play unit with Zibanejad, Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh. Why would Vigneault have Buchnevich practice with the power play if he weren't going to play him in Game 4?
Jimmy Vesey, who had been on the power play, was not on either unit in practice Monday.
The power play also is an obvious sticking point for the Rangers and Vigneault. It is 0-for-10 with 11 shots on goal in the series after going 0-for-3 with three shots in Game 3. Not only is it not scoring, it's not giving the Rangers any momentum, either.
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"Our power play has had quite a few areas where it hasn't executed so far, where we finished off the [regular] season and our power play was giving us momentum and giving us timely goals," Vigneault said. "I'm very confident that tonight we're going to turn it around. Pavel there or Pavel not there, we've looked at a couple areas and we've got to execute, and that's what we're going to do."
However, inserting Buchnevich on the power play would give the Rangers an added weapon they've been missing, chiefly his shot. Buchnevich has one of the quickest releases New York has. When he has space, he can get off a shot that has the potential of beating Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
"Pavel can move it quick too," McDonagh said. "He's got that skill to see the ice really well. If he can't get a shot off quick, he's going to get the puck into the hands of somebody who has got a lane."
The other factor to consider is the style the Rangers have been playing. In Game 3 it almost looked as if they were trying to run the Canadiens through the boards. They were going for big hits but weren't generating anything off of transition, their bread and butter all season.
Buchnevich thrives in a transition game. Glass thrives in a physical game.
Glass might have been one of the Rangers' most energetic forwards in the first three games, but Vigneault might have to sacrifice what he provides in order to get more offense.
Is that what he's thinking?
"You'll find out," he said.