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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As the feeling of shock lifts from the Ranger fan community, we’ve begun to examine some possible replacements for coach John Tortorella. The new man behind the bench will be the story of the offseason, but the departure of Tortorella could also have an impact on many other important decisions the franchise will make.
Henrik Lundqvist will sign a contract extension
I still believe that The King’s comments on Monday were harmless, but many Rangers fans panicked over Lundqvist’s hesitation to commit to New York long term. To me, Lundqvist was only being smart before negotiating what should be his final NHL contract, one that will put a massive dent in New York’s payroll going forward. Nevertheless, there have been some clues that Lundqvist was less than thrilled with Tortorella. With the ornery general out of the way, no amount of money or years should be an obstacle in locking up Hank for the next eight years. Firing Tortorella was a strong message to Lundqvist and others that New York recognizes its window won’t be open indefinitely and that there’s a sense of urgency every year to bring home the Cup. Expect Lundqvist to ink a new pact this summer. Read more »
Could they move Girardi to create cap space?
You know what you’re going to get with Dan Girardi. An honest effort, fearless play, positional consistency, relentless shot blocking and an overall fine defensive game (not to mention cyborg body parts). While Girardi chips in offensively, he’s clearly a defensive player first, and an impressive one at that. That said, Girardi has a glass ceiling, and given the seemingly never ending (over) use of Girardi by the Rangers, Girardi has tired toward the end of the season – which was inevitable – and the potential of all that overuse blunting his game, and future, is a legitimate concern.
With Ryan McDonagh already every bit the equal of Girardi, Michael Del Zotto (still, and perhaps worryingly) the Rangers best offensive option, and John Moore developing nicely in his short period with the Rangers (throw in Anton Stralman and the potential of Marc Staal returning), the Rangers have a host of defensive options. The back end needs an upgrade in the nastiness department, and in all likelihood that will need to be addressed from outside the organisation in the short term (with Dylan McIlrath hopefully filling the void long term).
All this brings us back to Dan Girardi. This isn’t a post to say they should move him or have to move him. Defensively, Girardi is All Star calibre. However he’s not been the same player this season and that may be due to overuse by the coaching staff for various reasons. What this post is about is Dan Girardi not being as critical as he once was and the Rangers, having multiple needs on the roster and limited cap space to address them. Girardi cold be a solution of sorts.
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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.”
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In his pre-game interview, John Tortorella was asked “what will it take to win this game?”. His response was that sometimes you can outplay the other guys and still not win. That’s exactly what happened tonight as the Rangers were able to escape Long Island with two points after being outplayed by a ridiculously fast Islander team. The 1-0 overtime win came on the back of Henrik Lundqvist’s first shutout of the season, and an absolute beauty of a snipe by Dan Girardi. Only one goal to break down in this one…
Rangers 1, Islanders 0
During the final minutes of overtime, the Rangers recovered the puck in the top of their defensive zone. Two quick breakout passes later and Derick Brassard carried the puck across the Islander blue line. Dan Girardi intelligently read the defense converging on Brassard and snuck in behind undetected. Brassard sauced a beauty between the D, and Girardi carried the puck toward the near side of the goal. He saw some open real estate above Nabokov’s right shoulder, and sniped it top corner, right off the elbow. Read more »
The Rangers took two points from the rival Flyers tonight, 4-2 at The Garden. With the exception of an incredibly scary puck to the eye suffered by Marc Staal, and some offensive zone penalties, it was a pretty awesome game to watch. Rick Nash flat out dominated and Ryan Callahan continued his high-scoring ways. Oh, and Henrik Lundqvist is back. Let’s get to the goals…
Rangers 1, Flyers 0
The Rangers started this game with a lot of energy and offensive pressure. The Callahan, Gaborik, Miller line was pressing in the offensive zone when Cally drew a holding penalty on Kimmo Timmonen. On the ensuing power play, the Rangers carried the puck into the zone on the near side. Max Talbot misread the puck and committed to the high slot. Stepan then sets up and 2-on-1 with Callahan down low, and The Captain takes it out on the water bottle into the top corner. Read more »
Per Pat Loenard, Michael Del Zotto (lower body), Dan Girardi (foot), and Darroll Powe (concussion) are all on the ice today for practice. Del Zotto missed Saturday’s game, and Powe had been out since his incidental contact with Matt Hendricks. Girardi didn’t even miss a game. Still convinced he’s an alien.
Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and Arron Asham are not at practice.
Time for McIlrath to put the sweater on? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
With the injuries mounting in New York and the likes of Stu Bickel and Steve Eminger clearly not enjoying the trust of John Tortorella, could we see first round pick and great white hope, Dylan McIlrath rushed to New York? With a nickname like the Undertaker and a (listed) 6-5, 220 lb frame, McIlrath has the potential to be an imposing defenseman.
As seen by the recent inclusion of Christian Thomas, and to a lesser extent Chris Kreider and JT Miller, readiness may not be the priority but rather the necessity of numbers and positional relevance. If you’re going to have to fill the roster you may as well fill it with players with upside. Clearly the Rangers hope Dylan McIlrath will fulfill his talent and draft status in upcoming seasons. He may get a chance sooner rather than later.
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No, Girardi and Staal are not brothers. They are elite defensemen.
The Rangers may have leaked goals in bunches at times this year and may have been, at best ‘rusty and inconsistent’, to begin the year. That said, the Rangers blueline – at least the top end – has been at the very heart of why the Rangers are back on the winning trail. With Dan Girardi and Marc Staal leading the way (and Ryan McDonagh getting back to previous form) do the Rangers have a Norris trophy candidate?
In a shortened season points surely can’t be the sole measuring stick of a Norris candidate, and if the best defenseman award goes to, well, the best defenseman then the Rangers could be in the mix for the award. With Erik Karlsson unfortunately out for the season due to a nasty injury and Nicklas Lidstrom working on his golf handicap, two of the main front runners are no longer in the running. With Shea Weber playing beneath the level of hockey we have been accustomed to – missing Ryan Suter by any chance? – there’s certainly an opening for a new winner.
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