NEW YORK (WFAN) — Rangers coach Alain Vigneault says the NHL is more competitive this season than it’s been at any point in his coaching career.
“This is my 12th consecutive year, and I’ve never seen it this close,” Vigneault told WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Wednesday. “I’ve never seen the balance of the league from top to bottom. You have to be on top of your game every game.”
The Rangers started 3-7-2, but have won 10 of their last 13 since. Vigneault said one reason they’ve finally found their grove is that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has returned to form after a slow start.
“Hank’s found his way, and usually when he does, the rest of our group falls into place, from our defensive positioning, to structure, to our offense just feeds off that,” he said. “We’ve been a lot better lately, and we’re going to have to continue to improve and get better.”
Prized free agent signing Kevin Shattenkirk also has finally settled in, Vigneault added.
“It took Kevin obviously a little bit of time. … But I can say now that he’s really used to the environment, the culture that we have here,” Vigneault said. “He’s playing extremely well, both offensively and defensively. It’s normal when a player has been a long time with an organization to take a little bit of time to get used to the new surroundings. And I do think on top of that, Kevin was putting a lot of pressure (on himself). He was coming back home. He wanted to play here in front of friends and family. He wanted to play for the Rangers. He put a lot on himself, a lot of pressure for him to play well and for the team to win. And once he got used to it, he’s been everything we expected.
“He’s a very good puck-moving defenseman, excellent power-play quarterback. And he’s playing real well and got us on the right track here.”
To listen to the interview, click on the audio player above.