Archive for Ryan McDonagh
The Rangers have now past the ten game mark of the new season, and will be taking on the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Madison Square Garden in search of a 7-2-2 start. There has been much to analyze in the early going, so naturally I have some thoughts…
1. Mainstream media analysis, especially in the early goings of a season, is especially broad. Good starts, slow starts and unexpected performers litter the narrative landscape. Reading publications like The Hockey News or ESPN, the assumption is that the Canadiens are invincible and the Ducks and Blue Jackets are toast. You dig a little deeper into the individual teams and you find that each club has it own sources of consternation and optimism.
Like most teams the Rangers go as their best players go. Right now, only Henrik Lundqvist can say he’s his usual elite self and keep a straight face. Rick Nash, Derick Brassard as well as the entire blueline are not contributing as expected. Right now it’s the blueline that is causing most concern. Other forwards and the Rangers’ general depth are covering for Nash, for Kreider and for Brassard (take a bow Oscar Lindberg) but the defensive unit – as a collective – are making a series of errors each and every game.
The entire blueline has been a relative tire fire. It’s been hockey punctuated by individual mistake after individual mistake, by poor coverage and unacceptable defensive zone exits. The Rangers blueline has also been a turnover machine throughout October. Through all of that negative narrative (say that drunk) and no one, perhaps not even Dan Girardi, has begun the new season in as disappointing fashion as Ryan McDonagh.
The Rangers’ defensive unit was the story of the season in October. According to the pundits, they are “one of the league’s best” and “one of the deepest.” But through six games, they’ve been the story for a totally different reason. They have hemorrhaged shots, they are constantly out of position, and they have forced Henrik Lundqvist to make spectacular saves. This is not the start this six man unit wanted. Only Kevin Klein and Keith Yandle are off to good starts.
While much of the vitriol has been directed at Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle, and Marc Staal, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Ryan McDonagh has truly been struggling. While we don’t know if he’s still dealing with lingering injury issues from last season or whether it is dependent on his partner, we do know that he simply hasn’t been the number-one defenseman the Rangers need.
Update (5:20pm): To address the goaltending question, both Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist were way above league average in adjusted goals saved above average (adjGSAA) which by definition compares goalies and, “as definitively as possible, regardless of circumstance, and in consideration of the tools we have and the variables we can actually account for, Goalie A is performing better than Goalie B.” Since these two goalies are above average, we can assume that they bail out their defense on high-danger shots on a regular basis.
Throughout this golden era of Rangers hockey, a period of time in which we have seen the most consistent success from the Rangers (still missing that one essential piece though), their vaunted defense has been the subject of much praise. That was until very recently, about the mid-point of two seasons ago, when the Rangers faced a critical decision with Dan Girardi. They re-signed their franchise defenseman, and then re-upped Marc Staal the following year. This locked up two core pieces for what could be the remainder of their careers.
- Ryan McDonagh had a fractured foot, suffered in Game 4.
- Dan Girardi sprained his right MCL in Game 4.
- Mats Zuccarello had a brain contusion (yeesh), full recovery expected. He was unable to talk for 3 days and needed speech therapy.
- Marc Staal had a hairline fracture in his ankle, suffered in the regular season.
While injuries are not an excuse, these injuries certainly played a role in the Rangers’ defensive performance in the latter half of the series.
The Rangers will be mightily relieved that Ryan McDonagh didn’t sustain a shoulder injury in Monday’s game six victory as, after an inconsistent start to the playoffs, the Rangers captain has improved after each and every game. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding is Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals captain has been a factor of course, whether it through his physical play (as McDonagh himself can attest to) or the mere fact he’s constantly throwing pucks toward the net but his influence has been minimized in large part because of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.
McDonagh has not only scored a huge, game winning goal in the series that kept the Rangers’ season alive (indeed, both of his goals this postseason have stood up as game winners) but McDonagh has been on the ice in almost every critical situation for the Rangers including the dying moments of game six when McDonagh was the one who eventually cleared the puck to ice the game. McDonagh wasn’t a factor early in the series but his influence has surely been felt as the series has progressed.
McDonagh leads all players in ice time in this series (averaging 24:22 minutes per game) and while he’s not been at his very best his form is certainly pointing in the right direction. At time of writing only four players remaining in the playoffs have averaged more ice time than McDonagh and three of those are on a Blackhawks team that have already played two multiple overtime games this spring.
Sorry I couldn’t get the goal breakdown last night folks, but they won, so I don’t think anyone really cares that I missed it. Anywho, I GIF’d up the Ryan McDoangh overtime winner here, and here it is in all its glory:
A lot happens on this play, so let’s break it down. First things first, you notice how Jesper Fast creates this entire goal with two plays. First, he pressures Curtis Glencross into a neutral zone turnover.
Sorry for the lack of a detailed game breakdown, the kind you get to enjoy from Dave. Dave had the audacity not to watch game five and I haven’t the time to do a full write up either but wanted to pass on some thoughts on the game so here we go. First, a very quick look at how the game was won.
The Rangers have scored eighteen goals in ten playoff games. Needless to say, that’s an incredibly low total and would usually mean golf tee-times booked by now but the Rangers have managed to extend their season at least one more game. The Rangers did so by sticking to their game plan, admirably never panicking and allowing their defense to continue to play aggressively.
After two frustrating periods, the Rangers seemed set for the start of the summer as another defensive gaffe by the Rangers (this time Keith Yandle choosing a horrible time to pinch) saw the Caps break in two-on-oh against Henrik Lundqvist midway through the third. Lundqvist saved Curtis Glencross’ initial shot but couldn’t save the rebound which Glencross chipped up over Lundqvist to give the Caps the lead.
The Rangers never relented and tied the game as the clock was about to strike twelve. Keith Yandle, somewhat redeeming his costly error on the Caps goal, got the puck to Derek Stepan who circled back along the left boards in the Caps zone and dropped the puck to Chris Kreider whose shot through traffic took an oh so minor deflection before beating Holtby. Queue pandemonium. Queue overtime.
Tonight old foes reunite. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have seen a lot of each other in recent years as this will be the fifth time since 2009 the teams face off in postseason play. The Rangers welcome the Caps to the Garden well rested, but with plenty of question marks thanks to an indifferent powerplay, key players underperforming, injuries, and players returning from injury. We’ll get to the Rangers in a moment. Let’s take a look at the Capitals.
Capitals at a glance
We know what the Capitals are and what they do. The Capitals are a big team with immense top end skill and are a team who look to punish you physically. Forget about Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom for a moment (if that’s possible). The Capitals will try to outmuscle the Rangers with the likes of Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Tom Wilson, and Troy Brouwer.
If you include Ovechkin, the Capitals have six players up front who stand 6-2 and above who all weigh in over 215 lbs. That’s not even accounting for guys such as Brooks Orpik and Tim Gleason on the blueline, both of whom love the physical stuff. While the Rangers can more than hold their own physically and along the boards, this isn’t the type of series they’ll want to play.
The Capitals enter the series with better possession numbers to the Rangers (52.0% against the Rangers 50.2%, even strength and score adjusted), similar shooting percentages (8.8% against 8.1% at even strength) but –for those of you that place significant worth in the statistic– are a much better team in the faceoff circle, leading the playoffs with a 56% success rate. It goes without saying that if the Rangers spend a lot of time in the penalty box, the Capitals faceoff skills combined with their (regular season) league-leading powerplay will make them pay.
Henrik Lundqvist’s injury may have you feeling otherwise, but the Rangers remain in excellent shape to make the postseason. With an eight-point cushion over ninth-place Florida, securing a wild card berth shouldn’t be difficult even if overtaking the Penguins and Islanders for the Metro Division title may now be unrealistic.
Of course the team’s playoff hopes are pinned to Lundqvist, but there’s reason to believe the best is still ahead for the 2014-2015 Blueshirts – and it’s not because they’re sure to add an impact player by the trade deadline.
When you stop to think about it, how many players are really having standout seasons? Rick Nash, obviously. Kevin Klein has certainly exceeded expectations. Derek Stepan has been a point-per-game player when healthy. And Kevin Hayes has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Read More→