Can Brendan Smith and Jacob Trouba be a top defensive pairing for the NY Rangers?

A major wild card for the NY Rangers heading into the playoffs is the Jacob Trouba/Brendan Smith defensive pairing. While the bottom-four pairs are known entities at this point, this pair was only put together for a handful of games before the season was paused. Last night was the first look we got in five months, and they did not disappoint. The NY Rangers are facing an uphill battle with their defensive pairs, as Carolina has a huge edge.

A grain of salt is required here, since it is one game, but the Trouba/Smith pairing really stood out last night. They completely dominated the Islanders when they were on the ice. They had that healthy balance of generating quality and quantity for, while also limiting quality and quantity against.

Context matters here. If Smith and Trouba are going to be relied upon to be a shutdown pair, then they need to go up against the top opposition and still produce results. It wasn’t a perfect situation last night with Libor Hajek was rotating in to get shifts. However when that duo was together, they were mostly going up against the Mat Barzal line.

Again, grain of salt required. When the Smith/Trouba defensive pairing was on the ice, they were mostly up against the Mat Barzal line. It’s not always going to be a clear cut matchup, as special teams and changes on the fly usually mix things up. David Quinn was trying to get that pair out there as much as possible against the Isles top line, and he did so when he could.

What Does All This Mean?

It’s tough to make a conclusion out of one exhibition game. The Rangers had 7 defensemen to start the game, then lost one of them in the third period. However we safely assume that Quinn will be trying to use the Smith/Trouba pairing as his top defensive pairing in a shutdown role.

Going against Barzal and doing a pretty good job is step one in the process. Step two is showing this can be repeated against the Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen line. That line is significantly more dangerous than the Barzal line. This is a tall order.

A major piece of the matchup against Carolina will be limiting that top line’s production. They won’t be contained, that’s virtually impossible. Limiting opportunities will be a critical success factor. Based on last night, it looks like this pair is up to the task.

Charts from Evolving-Hockey and Natural Stat Trick.

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  • I would be much more comfortable with Smith playing 2nd pairing minutes as opposed to top pair minutes in a “shut-down” the other team’s top line role. I would fell better if Lindgren was paired up with Trouba, but he works so well with Fox that it’s a hard change to make.

    • Same here, Smith just needs to play a simple game and would be a bonus if he plays like he did in the Montreal series.

    • “I would fell better if Lindgren was paired up with Trouba, but he works so well with Fox that it’s a hard change to make.”

      You can’t play the mix match combo game with this D corps. Maybe if Trouba was worth being the 7+ million D man but that is far from the truth so here we are. Lindgren might look mighty strong to the spectators but the kid struggles to the eyes with experiences. He is getting by due to Fox/chemistry but his faults are to glaring to pair with Trouba who already lacks top pairing skills.

      Lindgren becomes a lot worst when he has to stay in the dz. He isn’t built for that kind of game, no matter how “strong” he looks or says. This isn’t a Ryan Ellis type who can out think bigger and faster opponents. This guy can’t really protect the low or middle slots. His reach doesn’t allow for him to cover more quadrants or take away passing lanes. His best attributes are chipping the puck east/west to Fox.. Or staying ready with his legs for a return pass to move it up north in a relatively quick fashion.

      I don’t see how Trouba and him can work long term ( can’t be more than a game
      or two ). Troubs already sucks at defending prolong shifts in his own end. His awareness is at about 40/60 at reading when to break plays up near around his corner of the ice.

      • “Lindgren might look mighty strong to the spectators but the kid struggles to the eyes with experiences.” Me being the “spectator” and you being someone with “experiences”? lol I played for over a decade and worked in the industry another decade, my eyes are just fine.

        • Sorry but I can’t believe someone with various screen names… Eddy use to be a regular here and he called you out on it long time ago… Better watch out, Dave might catch you and expose you again.

          • You’ve had a few screen names Gecko, who are you trying to fool? By the way, your claims to hockey knowledge and experience are endlessly hilarious. Thanks for the laughs.

          • Peter

            This buffoon has the gal to call anyone out, then claims to be knowledgeable, is a joke.

            Everyone on this site realized he was Gecko due to his man crush of Hayes, and beginning sentences with “Than, instead of Then, shows how smart he is. He’s a moron……………Great call Peter!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Eddy? Dave has never “caught” me as you say, there’s nothing to “expose” … try again.

          • Ok as far as I can tell in a very quick lookup…

            Tanto has always been tanto.

            Peter has always been Peter.

            NotSoAvery was mintgecko and switched over at some point.

            If NSA is referring to “EddieEddieEddie” – then know that I know who that is, and he has not posted here in a little while.

          • Maybe NotsoAvery, mintgecko, should change his handle one more time to Clarabell!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Dave

            By the way, if you get a chance, could you send E3 a note telling him we miss his posts. I have posted in the past that I hope he isn’t ill, and it would be great to hear from him again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • We are yet to see them playing against quicket and mroe aggressive Canes…. Old russin say: you count chick on fall….

  • The Trouba/Smitty pair played fine against the Fish sticks. The seeing eye pass Smith made to Fast which lead to the only Ranger goal was brilliant.

    In the end it comes down to goaltending. If Shesterkin continues to provide top tier goaltending all the blueline defensive pairs will look impressive.

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