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Until Marc Staal comes back, the defense will struggle against deep teams

May 20, 2013, by
Al Bello/NYDN

Al Bello/NYDN

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.

Neither defenseman is perfect, and both have flaws that can be easily exploited by smart teams. We saw this last night. Girardi was on the ice for all five goals, and MDZ for four. We can spend all day pointing out how the Bruins did it, but that isn’t the point of this post.

Marc Staal’s absence leaves a gaping hole that the Rangers are not able to fill. Staal’s presence in the lineup gives the Rangers four top-four defensemen, five if you count Anton Stralman as a bottom-tier second pairing (or top-tier third pairing). More importantly, it makes a possible Girardi-MDZ pairing unlikely to occur.

The fact here is that the Rangers aren’t properly equipped to deal with a deep Bruins club on the blue line while Staal is out of the lineup. It’s not that the replacement (Steve Eminger) is playing poorly (he’s not), it’s that he’s not Marc Staal. The Rangers are a rare team that has three top-pairing defensemen, and has relied on them heavily. Take one out of the lineup, and they have trouble matching up on deeper teams.

There are many problems facing this club at the moment, but the biggest one is the absence of the only Staal not in the Carolina organization. It’s created one giant matchup problem for the Rangers, one that simply can’t be fixed until he returns. Of course, it would be nice if we stopped seeing that Girardi/MDZ pairing while Staal’s out. Just my two cents.

Categories : Defense


  1. supermaz says:

    I would prefer not to see Del Zotto at all.

    • supermaz says:

      I don’t understand what people see in him.
      I say trade him before other teams realize what the “intelligent” Rangers fan already knows….he sucks!

  2. Ray says:

    Totally agree. McD and Staal are both able to take full advantage of Girardi’s many strengths and cover for his weaknesses. With the right partner, Girardi is a top pair defenseman. I agree MDZ is second pair. But if they’re together, I’d rather see Eminger-Moore get their ice time.

  3. The Suit says:

    I don’t think we will see another game like that for Girardi for a long time regardless of who he is playing with. He will rebound.

  4. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Per Andrew Gross, today’s defensive pairings in practice are back to normal:

    McDonagh – Girardi
    Del Zotto – Stralman
    Moore – Eminger

    Hopefully that puts a smile on your face, Dave.

  5. HARLEMBLUES says:

    3 rookie Dmen playing regular shifts and we are having trouble scoring again.

  6. RangerMom says:

    Agree. Staal is our best defenseman, and we are really exposed in this series without him. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see him back this series, and I hope he’ll be back next year, but eye traumas like he suffered are really, really tricky.

  7. jackelau says:

    sorry Dave but MDZ is no where close to top 25 nevermind top 4. he has blinders on when he’s got the puck and there’s pressure on him . sure he has a hard shot but where does it go 80% of the time? High and to the far side. let him and torts find pastures somewhere away from here….

    • Spozo says:

      He means that on most teams in this league, MDZ would be in the top four of their defensive depth chart. Not top four overall in the NHL. I don’t think you can argue that.

      Honestly I think Del Zottos biggest flaw is being labeled as an offensive defenseman on a team that got to watch Brian Leetch play for 17 seasons.

      If only every team gave up on their 22 year old defenseman who has averaged 40 points in two full seasons………

    • Dave says:

      Top-four as in pairing on a team, not specifically top-4 in the league. He’s top-50.

    • rumble says:

      Completely agree. Just watch him. His shots are almost ALWAYS blocked, he’s on the ice for a lot of enemy goals and he’s out of position so often. John Moore is so much better. And Del Zotto absolutely sucks on the power play. Why is the author puking out the complany line?

  8. Nicholas says:

    Just think where we’d be if we had Mike Sauer AND Marc Staal here.

  9. Walt says:

    Talking of Mike Sauer, I hope he recovers from that hit from Dion Phaneuf, and gets well for his sake. As much as I would love to see the guy play for us again, I believe his playing days are over. What a shame!!!!!

  10. Gary says:

    I would like to see the NYR’s attempt to trade assets for the number 1 overall pick. Any combo of mdz stall miller kreider skeji? Mcilrath, first rounder 2014, haggling. The aves are rebuilding and could use more than just Seth jones to be contenders sooners then later