Late yesterday, some surprising news broke. Tony DeAngelo is apparently injured and will be a game time decision when puck drops in a few hours. This was not something that appeared to happen in the exhibition game against the Islanders. Naturally, this is a very troubling potential injury and could have an impact throughout the lineup.
1. DeAngelo is one of those guys that the Rangers will need in this series. Carolina is a dump and chase team, and puck movers who make quick decisions with the puck help break that dump and chase. It’s a major blow if the Rangers lose 33% (or 25%, depending on if you count Igor Shesterkin) of their puck movers on the blue line. He’s not just a puck mover either, he’s one of the best transition defensemen in the league. That’s a major blow.
2. DeAngelo is also one of the Rangers better zone entry defensemen. While the Rangers appear to give up the blue line by design, having the ability to stop the carry-in does help if Carolina shifts up from dump and chase. This is less of a concern right now, but something to keep in mind as the coaching game plays out.
3. It’s not just a blow to even strength either. DeAngelo is a critical piece on the top powerplay unit. The Rangers boast one of the better powerplays in the league, and missing DeAngelo is going to hurt. Adam Fox can step in for PP1, but replacing Fox on PP2 will prove difficult. Assuming Jacob Trouba will shift to the point, The Rangers are going to need someone at the top of the circle. Jesper Fast? Brett Howden? Julien Gauthier?
4. Replacing DeAngelo paints an even uglier picture for the Rangers. Libor Hajek will now be getting regular minutes. This is an area where we all hope to be wrong, but he’s not going to be the answer in a playoff series. The only other option is Darren Raddysh, so it’s not like the Rangers have much to turn to.
5. When it comes to defense pairs, it’s best to not disturb too much. Brendan Smith-Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox work. They are both solid pairs, not perfect, but solid. Leaving them together means Hajek and Marc Staal become a pair. If that happens, that pair should really only get sheltered minutes. I’m talking minutes against bottom-six only and no penalty kill time.
6. The only other option is to change things up to pairs that we’ve seen before. That means Smith-Staal and Hajek-Trouba, and neither of those pairs had any success. Best to have two pairs that work and one you need to shelter. Especially when the only other option is two pairs that don’t work at all.