Trouba suspended

Taking a page out of Rob Luker’s book, it’s time to shakeup the Rangers defense pairs. The Rangers have had some relatively poor process the last two weeks, and while the focus has been on the offense, the defense is not without blame. Since the second Blackhawks game, which is when the process really tanked, the Rangers have had five of seven games with over a 2.4 xGA/60. That number is a bit arbitrary, to be fair, as it’s the current 16th best ranking in the NHL over the season.

Regardless of the number chosen, the Rangers have had some issues on the blue line. Not all of it coincides with Nils Lundkvist’s illness, and the subsequent dressing of Libor Hajek. We all know that would go poorly, and low and behold, it did. But this goes well beyond the 8th defenseman. Even with Lundkvist in the lineup, the Rangers needed to shake things up.

Current Production

Instead of trying to re-hash stats, Rob put this image up on Twitter yesterday. It tells us what we already knew. Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox are clearly a top pairing in the NHL and carrying the Rangers. K’Andre Miller-Jacob Trouba has been downright bad, and we’ve seen that on a bunch of miscues on goals against. While Patrik Nemeth-Nils Lundkvist have been better, they are still prone to mistakes. This isn’t the most optimized lineup.

The major need is to break up Miller-Trouba. They’ve been inconsistent at best, and downright bad at their worst. Trouba excels when he is paired with someone who is more defensively minded. It’s safe to assume that Miller would play better with the same kind of structure, allowing him to move up the ice freely.

As an aside, Adam Fox can play with anyone.

Optimal Rangers defense pairs

The trick will be finding the optimal Rangers defense pairs. There is absolutely no data or stats to show how the Rangers will play if breaking them up, so where we are at now is pure educated guessing.

The prevailing theory is that Lindgren-Trouba is your optimal shutdown pair. It plays to Trouba’s strengths, paired with a primarily defensive partner. We’ve also see that Lindgren does perform without Fox, albeit on limited minutes. In theory, this pair could replace Lindgren-Fox as the primary shutdown pair.

If we are looking to put Miller with a defensive minded partner, then Fox does fit that bill. It’s not your traditional offensive/defensive defenseman pairing, but Fox is so good, Miller should thrive. He will, at the very least, learn from Fox. If the ideal career path for Miller is that of a Brent Burns, then learning how to play with the best defenseman in the game can only be a good thing, right?

That still leaves Nemeth-Lundkvist. They’ve been better of late, so why break them up?

Galaxy brain ideas

Of course we could go full galaxy brain and go something like Miller-Nemeth, Lindgren-Trouba, and Fox-Lundkvist, which would give you the offensive/defensive pairings on two pairs. But that vaults Lundkvist up in the lineup, where he might not be ready. This also puts a pair of defenseman on their off-side.

Or, and hear me out here, the Rangers just call up Zac Jones, who is playing very well in Hartford. That moves Nemeth to the press box. Jones-Lundkvist isn’t a pairing that Gerard Gallant or Chris Drury seem to want, so again the pairings would need to be broken up.

Do the Rangers then go Lindgren-Lundkvist, Miller-Fox, and Jones-Trouba? Not ideal, as again this doesn’t get the best out of Trouba. But Jones, in theory, is more seasoned than Miller defensively. Trouba wouldn’t have the freedom to roam, but he would have someone who makes fewer defensive mistakes.

Again, these are galaxy brain ideas. But you never know if/when the injury bug will hit.

The path of least resistance is to just go with Lindgren-Trouba; Miller-Fox; and Nemeth-Lundkvist. At least for now, that would optimize the Rangers defense pairs based on current lineup and production.


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