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The Rangers blueline is quietly getting the job done

ANDREW THEODORAKIS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

ANDREW THEODORAKIS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

One of the less talked about narratives of this season has been the New York Rangers unheralded blue line, particularly their ability to provide offense. When most people think of d-men with offensive ability, they always tend to think about players with big point shots or nifty powerplay quarterbacks.

The Rangers don’t really possess either, at least in the traditional sense. And yet if you look at the stats and project them against a full season, you’ll find that the Blueshirt’s blueline has quietly put up a decent amount of points in this abbreviated season.

Had this been a full 82 game season, Michael Del Zotto would be on pace to put up 35-40 points (again), as would have McDonagh. Girardi is creeping up on 30 pt territory and Marc Staal was on pace for a 40+ point season. All of these players have had to carry the weight defensively at various points during the season either because of zone starts or because of top flight match-ups. And yet these core d-men all still found a way to potentially clear 30+ points.

And who the hell knows what John Moore could accomplish with a full season on Broadway.

If you look around the conference, particularly those in the playoff picture, few teams have the kind of blueline depth we have. The Penguins have a bit of a drop off after Kris Letang and Paul Martin. The same applies for the Capitals after John Carlson and Mike Green. The Islanders aren’t much without Mark Streit patrolling the blueline. The Bruins have some depth after Chara, but not to the extent we do. Toronto, Montreal, and Winterpeg all have their stars, but I’ll take John Moore over any of the players they have on their 3rd pairing.

At the end of the day, you have to give credit to this coaching staff. No one thought Staal would be anything more than a defensive defensemen. McDonagh was tabbed a second pairing defensemen by most scouting reports. Even Girardi was thought of as just a shot blocker and nothing more just a few short years ago. Torts, Sully, and Schonie have molded these guys to be more than what the experts predicted these kids would become. To think some of them still haven’t reach their peak yet is quite enticing.

The one thing that ties all of our defensemen together from MDZ right on down to Eminger is skating. Skating is something Torts has preached since he was first handed the job four years ago. Rozi, Mara, Morris, even Redden were all good defensemen in their own right, but they didn’t fit the Rangers team template. This coaching staff wants our defensemen to be aggressive.

The staff wants them joining the rush, pinching off the blueline, forechecking, all the while being able to get back into position and not sacrificing d-zone play. You can’t be great at those things without being strong on your toes, but they have and they’ve gotten the job done. Not one of our core blueliners are less than solid in our defensive zone. Even Stralman has become a much more competent player in his own end zone than he was in Columbus and Eminger has been eating minutes and we got him for Voros, who was like Avery without the fashion sense.

When it comes to the defense, this organization has drafted well, traded well and has filled in the gaps with capable free agent signings. Finally, coaching has made it all work together. Should the Rangers go deep in the playoffs, don’t underestimate the blueline. Hank gets all the praise. Forwards get the headlines. But the defense is still this team’s backbone and should be for the foreseeable future.

14 Responses to “The Rangers blueline is quietly getting the job done”

  1. Mikeyyy says:

    Good one.

    I think people forget that prime scoring area on the weak side as the dman pinches.

    Like the old Leetch play back in the day. Keep it to one side, get players to bite, find a seam across near the far side faceoff circle for the shot. He was a pro at it.

    • The Suit says:

      Indeed. I think we would have seen more of that this year if Richie had played better. He was very good at finding those seems off the half wall last season.

  2. Matt Josephs says:

    Having that brick wall otherwise known as Lundqvist has to raise our defenseman’s confidence that they can try to make an offensive play. Something we’ve seen more of this year.

  3. Walt says:

    I felt the gem of the Gabby trade was the kid John Moore, man I like that guy. He has plenty of upside in his offensive game, and is solid as a third pair d-man!

    The team has drafted well when it comes to defense, and don’t forget the fact that McIlrath, and Sam Noreau are developing nicely. Sam, a fifth round draft pick, is also like McIlrath, big, strong, and is developing a nice offensvie touch. The teams future, as far as defense goes, will be well served for many years to come.

    You are right on with your analysis, the D is solid, and chipping in with offense is a gift. Just about any team would love to have our D-corp, and build out from there. The Pens are tough, but come play-off time it will be interesting to see how their D holds up. The Flyers are crap this season because of their D-corp, main reason for not making the play-offs, along with bad goaltending.

    The only weak link now is goal depth, and that is where the team should be looking at the next draft. Oh yeah, a nice big power forward, with soft hands wouldn’t hurt either!!

    • The Suit says:

      I’m still hoping Kreider can be that guy Walt, but he has to have it between the ears first.

      • Walt says:

        Suit

        Kreider is a very bright kid, and has been blessed with speed, and some skill. Do you really believe that it is all between his ears??? I can’t see where he isn’t catching on, but he has had a tendency to drift during games, is that what you are refering to??? Maybe he has A D D, can’t keep his mind on where it should be!

        • The Suit says:

          Was just making a general statement. No one outside the locker room knows for sure how he handles himself. I just know that’s a big part of it.

  4. Bloomer says:

    5 of the Rangers D-men were 1st round picks and it shows with their skating and puck skills. Now that the Blue Shirts have a more balanced attack they are much more harder to defend against as well. With the King between the pipes this is not a team that you want to meet in the playoffs!

  5. Bryan says:

    I really enjoy the fact that since the trade deadline, I have read 3 or more articles, each telling me that the key to the Gaborik trade will either be, slick and speedy skating John Moore, or that Derick Brassard is the key with so much skill and upside, or wait til you guys see Derek Dorsett, he will be the key to this whole trade. That sounds really promising when it comes to trading the enigma and his 7.5m cap hit, and his ability to disappear in the playoffs. But that being said, I was there when he scored that triple OT goal against the Caps, so I will always love Gabby a little for that.

    • Ren says:

      Man, I remember one of Gabby’s 40 goal campaigns, everytime he was streaking down you knew he was going to score. I think he will have a good season next year, hard to really judge anyone on this wanky year.

      On topic though imagine what our d would be like if sauer hadn’t got concussed. He was just as good as McDonagh in my opinion.

    • Chris F says:

      Gaborik was a huge reason for the Rangers successful year last year. He stayed healthy, produced consistently and was a constant threat on the ice. He also came up huge obviously in that tripe OT game.

      I think he should always be remembered fondly by Rangers fan as an elite talent, who was fun to watch. It’s sad that at the end, he just wasn’t the right fit for this team, but no one should hold any ill-will toward him. I know I don’t.

    • Walt says:

      I for one liked Gabby, but he lost his will to play for this team, system, or coach. When the trade was made, I know that there were a number of us who wished him nothing but the best. That stated, I just hope he never has another 5 goal game against Hank.

      • The Suit says:

        Will always appreciate Gabby, ditto Jagr. But I’m glad we turned the page on both of those players. The beat goes on…