Archive for Ryan McDonagh
With the Rangers on their bye week, which was perfectly timed with the halfway point of the season, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate the Rangers with nothing else going on. Midseason report cards have been a bit of a tradition here at BSB, so let’s keep that tradition going, shall we?
Over the next few days, each of us will be tackling a different aspect of the team, and assigning grades accordingly. I’m batting leadoff here, and I’m going to be discussing the most polarizing aspect of this year’s team: The defense.
Overall, the back line for the Rangers has been relatively bad. The combination of age, injuries, wear and tear, and a shift towards speed has made what was once a strong defense into a bottom-five unit in the league. The slow start by Henrik Lundqvist exposed the defense even more. But it’s not all bad, either.
People talk about the Rangers 5-2 come from behind win against the Pens as a statement game. For me, the biggest statement games were the significant Blues and Lightning victories a couple of weeks back – I feel they were more complete games even if the comeback against the Pens was very impressive. For me, the Rangers gave up far too many high quality chances against the Pens on Monday. It wasn’t a quality defensive performance.
Michael Grabner could go pointless for the rest of the season and he’d already represent good value. His goal against the Blue Jackets last week summed him up best. His speed gives teams fits, he’s up on the play so quickly and once he’s away you cannot catch him. The way he settled the puck and finished his breakaway underlined the confidence he’s playing with right now. It was a goalscorers finish.
Oh, and another thing: Michael Grabner, Cy Young winner?
Suffice it to say, last year was a disaster for Ryan McDonagh. He struggled mightily, and seemed unable to carry an injured Dan Girardi who really shouldn’t have been in the lineup. There were many theories behind his struggles, from no support from his partner (whether it be Girardi or Kevin Klein) to no support from forwards. But part of the onus did fall on McDonagh, who was one of the many players caught running around in his own zone last year.
This year, we have seen a Ryan McDonagh like we have never seen before. We’ve known what he can do in his own zone, but he’s never been one to really rack up the points. McDonagh has nine assists so far, with an eight-game point streak. He’s been eating minutes at all strengths, and looks like the McDonagh of old.
Here’s food for thought: why can’t the Rangers have Jacob Trouba AND Kevin Shattenkirk? I think it is a legitimate option that the Rangers should explore. I am not normally an advocate of blowing your remaining assets to trade for any one player, particularly one (Trouba) who isn’t the finished article and particularly as the franchise is still in replenish the mode. However there is one circumstance where I’m willing to change my thinking and that is for a young, hard to find player that the team can build around. That player could be Jacob Trouba.
To cut to the chase, the Rangers should try their hardest to get both Trouba and Shattenkirk. There are so many benefits to this. Forget about the likelihood or practicalities of making this happen for a second, and just think about the benefits. A top four containing Ryan McDonagh, Trouba and Shattenkirk would immediately make the Rangers owners of a truly elite, modern blueline. Possession numbers would be better, special teams would be better, better breakouts almost a given and you can argue, having a stronger blueline should extend not just the Rangers’ window of contention but by default, Henrik Lundqvist’s career.
It’s never fun enduring a long offseason while fans of other clubs get to enjoy a playoff run. This may sound a little spoiled to fans of teams like Edmonton and Calgary, but over the last decade, Rangers fans have been treated to a consistent expectation of contention. Since the Rangers have been eliminated, I have read a lot of great analysis about the importance of this offseason and potential directions for the club to go.
It’s going to be very difficult to handicap the exact moves from an analysis standpoint and hey, that’s up to you guys and gals anyway (shameless plug for the Off-season Plan Contest). I have kind of a conceptual thought-dump I wanted to share about this coming offseason and to see how you are felt about some of these things…
Some good news for Rangerland today, as Ryan McDonagh was a full participant in practice today. He did not have a non-contact jersey, and he was gripping his stick with both hands. This bodes well for the Rangers, who could use a healthy McDonagh to strengthen their blue line play.
No word on if he plays in Game Three, but it’s the playoffs.
Per Steve Zipay, Dan Girardi is a full participant in practice today after missing the last two games of the season with an upper body injury. Girardi was leveled by Brian Boyle in the third period of that contest.
Ryan McDonagh was on the ice in a non-contact jersey, but holding a righty stick. He’s not close, and AV confirmed he will not play in the opener.
Some notes from practice today, and there were a bunch of them:
- Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg will not play tomorrow in Detroit. They are both “dealing with lower body issues.”
- Oscar Lindberg will be back in the lineup. A call up from Hartford is also expected.
- No surprise here, Antti Raanta will be in net for the Rangers tomorrow. Giving Henrik Lundqvist rest is much needed, considering the workload this year.
- Dan Girardi will be ready for the playoffs. Neither he nor Ryan McDonagh (hand) skated at practice.
Last night, the Rangers and their fans held their collective breaths as captain Ryan McDonagh, the anchor of their blue line, blocked a shot by Brandon Dubinsky with his hand, and immediately left the game. McDonagh did not return, and will be re-evaluated today, per Alain Vigneault.
While a recall of a defenseman –likely Brady Skjei– is all but confirmed at this point (Update: written before the Skjei recall), the major issue will be how the Rangers deal with the injury in the playoffs. McDonagh and Keith Yandle are without a doubt the two best Rangers defensemen, and perhaps the only two skaters that the Rangers couldn’t lose for a serious playoff run.
Over the course of the season, we, along with many other folks, have beaten to death that the Rangers defense is not what it used to be. While we’ve addressed some of the root causes, we have not addressed what specifically changed from last year. The personnel is the same. The system is the same. So it’s fair to expect similar results.
As with anything in sports analysis, it is very rarely one thing. A culmination of factors can conspire to change something that once appeared static and reliable.
First, let’s take a look at age. The average age on the blue line is 29.7 years old. That is not a young group. Dan Boyle’s spritely 39 years obviously skews things a bit, but Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath are the only members of the defense significantly under 30 (Yandle is 29). Especially for the less mobile defenseman, there are a lot of miles on those bodies.