Defense was a hallmark of the 2011-2012 New York Rangers. It was arguably the key ingredient in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. They had an unwavering commitment to shot-blocking and solid play in their own end. Even without a ton of roster turnover, the unit was not as proficient as they were last season, but still had a solid campaign overall. Let’s look at the individual contributions of each blue liner…
McDonagh experienced a slight drop off from his 2011-2012 form, but overall showed off a much more well-rounded game. Although his point totals remained very similar to last season, he showed an increased willingness to jump up into the play and be more involved in the offense. He still plays a top-notch, shutdown defensive game and can eat workhorse minutes. As his offensive game improves, he could develop into a Norris level defenseman. Let’s not forget, he’s only 24. A-
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The Rangers were able to keep their season going/salvage some dignity last night with a dramatic OT win over the Bruins at MSG. My sister-in-law, who is an ER nurse, was working last night and catching bits and pieces of the game on a hospital TV. Between the third period and OT, she posted on Facebook, “Ok Rangers, I kept my patient alive, you can keep this game alive!”. It was a nice microcosm of the attitude of Ranger fandom, and her defiant faith was rewarded. The Blueshirts still have quite the task ahead, but as they say, “one game at a time”. Since we are heading back to Boston tomorrow, I thought I’d share some thoughts about the game and series in general…
- Henrik Lundqvist was stellar again last night. The funny thing about The King in this series is that he gets blasted for Game 2 (simply due to the number of goals allowed), but I thought he was hung out to dry big time in that game. For me, if the Rangers fall say, one game short, the missed opportunity will have been Game 1. Both of the regulation goals in that game were stoppable, and the complexion of this series could have been very different going to New York.
- As Ranger fans, we tend to focus on our team’s shortcomings in the event of failure. Let’s not forget in this instance, the Boston Bruins are a very good team. They can roll four lines for 60 minutes and have plenty of system depth. We didn’t have a Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski to slot into the lineup when Marc Staal got hurt. Many fans are going to lament the teams goal scoring woes, and seek to bolster the offense in the offseason, but I think quality depth is the number one priority at this stage. Read more »
Something that was very obvious during yesterday’s loss was that the Rangers defense had a lot of trouble matching up and shutting down the Bruins forwards. Prior to the series, coach John Tortorella swapped his defense pairings to prepare for a much deeper Bruins club. In doing so, he split up Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh, and put Girardi with Michael Del Zotto.
Let’s be clear about one thing, Del Zotto is a top-four defenseman in this league. He’s a top-50 guy, which puts him in the upper echelon of second pairing defensemen. He’s not perfect, he’s not going to do well against the top scorers in the league, but he will be able to hold his own. That said, the pairing of Del Zotto/Girardi has never worked. It didn’t work two years ago, it didn’t work last year, it won’t work this year.
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Per Pat Leonard, Marc Staal, Ryane Clowe, and Darroll Powe are all out for tonight’s Game Seven in Washington. Powe and Clowe didn’t even travel with the team for the game tonight. With these three out, expect the same lineup as Game Six. It’s worth noting that the Rangers have not dressed their top lineup at all during the postseason.
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Last night, Marc Staal was a last-minute scratch from Game Four, forcing Steve Eminger back into the lineup. In Games One and Two, Eminger got enough ice time to give the others a rest, playing 10 minutes in Game One and 14 minutes in Game Two. After sitting out Game Three (with Staal in the lineup), Eminger played just six minutes in Game Four, and didn’t see the ice after a gaffe in the offensive zone that led to the Caps first goal.
Perhaps that is just a one game benching, much like we had seen with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. But we’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum (see: Bickel, Stu) where repeated gaffes led to barely five minutes of playing time per game. Eminger has seen his fair share of benching, but he has also seen top-four minutes under Torts.
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Per Katie Strang, the Rangers have activated Marc Staal off injured reserve. This is not a guarantee that he will play tonight, but it is very likely he will be back. Staal will likely replace Steve Eminger in the lineup.
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One of the oldest adages of hockey is that to win games, you must stay out of the penalty box. Nothing revolutionary there, it makes sense that you don’t want to give your opponent too many chances to outnumber you on the ice.
It will certainly ring true in Round One, when the Rangers face Washington’s #1 ranked power play, which converted at a 26.8% rate this season. The Blueshirts must continue to play disciplined hockey, but that could be tricky; Washington’s offense isn’t just a handful on the power play, the Capitals rank fourth overall in offense and possess the league’s hottest scorer, the resurgent Alex Ovechkin.
You might have heard that Ovechkin was left for dead and then came roaring back with 27 goals in his final 32 games to end up leading the league. Unsurprisingly, Ovechkin did his most damage on the power play, where he netted 16 goals, a ridiculous six more than the league’s second-most productive player, Steven Stamkos. Read more »
Per Andrew Gross, Marc Staal has been announced as the Rangers’ nominee for the Bill Masterton trophy. The Masterton is awarded to the player “who best exemplifies dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship to hockey.” Staal overcame a concussion that cost him half of last season, and has been out since March after taking a puck to the eye.
Gross also noted that Dan Girardi won this year’s Rangers John Halligan Good Guy Award. The Halligan Award is given to the “Ranger considered to have cooperated the most with the media during the season and previous winners (Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist) ineligible.”
Rick Nash needs to find twine again. Starting tonight.
It’s a game day. It’s the Florida Panthers who always seem to trip up our boys in blue. If ever there was an occasion not to play down to the level of your opponents it’s tonight. Let’s jump into the musings.
Rick Nash needs to be better. The past few games – starting with a few turnovers against the Islanders – he hasn’t been that dominant forward we’ve enjoyed for the most part of the year. This is the time of the year you need your best to be your best. That said, I think we see a strong game from Nash tonight.
For those of you that haven’t seen it, this is a nice little article on Lundqvist, on TSN. Just shows even without being a particularly old goalie, how much respect Lundqvist carries and what kind of impact he’s had on the league. There are probably many league goalies that look to The King for tips.
This time of the year, it’s about results. These next three games are in my view not just must wins but should wins. A team that needs points with the Rangers’ talent level should be maxing points in this next three. In fact, if the Rangers play to their talent level (a big ask this season for sure) there’s no reason they cannot win at least five of six. Big ask, but doable.
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Per John Giannone, Marc Staal is traveling with the club to Pittsburgh and then to Carolina
and Toronto. There is still no time-table for his return, so don’t expect him to be returning to the lineup during this trip, but it is a step in the right direction. It was reported two days ago that Staal was working out off the ice, and it appears that he has ramped up those workouts. The optimist in me thinks he can be ready for the playoffs, but I still wouldn’t plan on having him back at all this season.