While the New York Yankees are currently in the middle of their 2014 regular season, the New York Rangers will be heading back home to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years when they face the Montreal Canadiens.
The Rangers had a chance to close out the series on Tuesday night in Montreal, but fell 7-4 in Game 5 and will be looking to win the Eastern Conference Finals by defeating Montreal in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman himself is a huge hockey fan, although he is a fan of the Rangers rivals, the New Jersey Devils. However, he does notice a lot of similarities from Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault to his former manager Joe Torre, who won four World Series titles in the 11 years he was the manager of the team.
"Joe didn't want to make that call, but he wasn't afraid to make it when the situation forced him to," Cashman said Wednesday. "With [Vigneault], he's clearly not afraid to do it his way. If he wasn't man enough to make tough decisions that will be dissected inside and out, and live with the results, the Rangers wouldn't be in position to get to the Stanley Cup finals."
What prompted Cashman to compare Vigneault to Torre was the Rangers head coach's choice to pull star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after allowing three straight goals that allowed the Canadiens to take a 4-1 lead. After Lundqvist was pulled, that was when Vigneault decided to use a quote Torre had said in 1996 after the Yankees lost the first two games to the Atlanta Braves and then promised that the Yankees would win the next four, which they did.
"A player's coach doesn't need to care more about soothing a player's ego than he does about winning a title."
Lundqvist being pulled from the game drew the comparison of Joe Torre benching Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs and Paul O'Neill in Game 3 of the World Series; a game the Yankees ended up winning and then won the next three. Now, the Rangers will hope that Lundqvist will respond positively from being removed from Game 5 like the Yankees players did after they were benched for Game 3 of the 1996 World Series.
A strong game from Lundqvist could earn the Rangers their first trip back to the Finals since the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup in 1994. If Vigneault can coach the Rangers to the Finals, he would be a first year New York coach getting his team to the championship round after being fired from a previous team; just like Torre was and then responded with a championship.
It would only be fitting if Vigneault can follow in the footsteps of Torre from 18 years ago.
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