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"Talking New York Rangers Hockey, since 2007"
New York, NY • United States • 23 Years Old • Male

Breaking It Down (3/5)

Posted 9:46 PM ET | Comments 2

If you missed the previous sections of this 5 part series, follow the links below to catch up:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5


So, you want to be a contender? Well, New York, you have not made it there yet. 47 games only puts you in a position to contend, but there is still work to do.

With a week off, here is a player-by-player breakdown of what needs to be accomplished in the next 35 regular season games and the postseason.

Stay Healthy, Stay Strong

He isn't flashy, but at the end of the day, Dan Girardi is one of the three most important Rangers. He leads the league in ice time, he has blocked the third most shots, he plays 65% of the team's PK time. The list goes on. If not for the club's reliance on Gaborik to score and the otherworldly play of Lundqvist, he would be far and away the team's biggest asset. But he is also at the most risk. Too much ice time leads to fatigue and poor play as the season winds on. Blocked shots take their toll, if not through an actual injury, then through the accumulation of bumps and bruises.

Everything Girardi does so well can also hurt him. The Rangers cannot afford that. They can afford him to get less ice time when they have the game in hand. They can afford to let Lundqvist handle some shots, thanks to the points cushion they have accumulated. That is not to say Girardi should stop playing hard. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Girardi and Tortorella, should start picking their spots to protect this valuable asset. Because if he doesn't block a shot and the Ranger lose, its two points. But if he does block it and breaks his ankle, its the entire season in jeopardy.

Get In Open Space

One of the biggest problems the GAS line experienced when it went stale was its style of offensive play. Its best scorer, Marian Gaborik, is at his best when he can utilize his speed to create opportunities. But slowly his line began to rely more upon board play and cycling in the offensive zone. While that may be effective for power forwards like Callahan and Dubinsky, it did not fit the GAS line's skill set.

Enter Carl Hagelin. Instead of the big bodied Anisimov, one of the fastest skaters in the NHL is now playing on the top line. It has looked good to start, mostly because the shift in personnel led to a shift in style. The top line creating more off the rush, and even the cycle play is more speed than size oriented. But all this success could regress if the line resorts back to a physical style, especially because for all his faults, Anisimov is better suited to board battles than Hagelin. It is up to the All-Star rookie to use his legs to create for himself and his linemates, and make sure this line plays to its strengths, not its weaknesses.

Steal The Bad Ones

In years past, the Rangers have relied upon Henrik Lundqvist to steal regular season games. A lot of them. Without his elite play, the Rangers do not make the playoffs five of the last six seasons. Not with an offense than only once finished in the top half of the NHL in scoring, when Jagr potted 54. But now the tides are turning, and the club has been hanging around the top ten all season. They have scored 4+ goals in 16 games, and scored 3 goals in an additional 12 games. They have played the fewest one-goal-games in the league. Lundqvist has been great, perhaps because he does not need to be.

What the Rangers need from Lundqvist over the home stretch and through the playoffs is to steal the games where the Rangers offense struggled. It will happen, especially against strong playoff defense. He needs to make a difference in those contests, allowing the Rangers to win games even if they don't hit that 3 goal mark, which has resulted in just one loss (in a SO) this season. The club is 4-for-19 when scoring two or less. If Lundqvist can improve that number, coupled with the team's dominance when they do score, they could make a very deep run.

Get Offensive

What more can you ask from a defenseman in his first full NHL season? McDonagh has seamlessly slid into the top pairing in Marc Staal's absence. From that position, he has clocked over 25 minutes a night, which is territory reserved for the league's elite blueliners. Yet the only thing more impressive than his ice time has been his gameplay; McDonagh is tied for 6th among defenseman with a +17 rating, which is even more impressive considering his partner Dan Girardi clocks in 7 clicks lower at +10.

But if there is room for improvement in McDonagh, it is on the other side of the puck. He is a very good skater and has shown skill in handling the puck. But despite the raw ability, he has played more of a shutdown role. Generally, pairing up with a defensive minded partner like Dan Girardi enables defensemen to jump in more often, but that has not been the case with McDonagh. And while he has never been a scorer, if he can improve in that area without sacrificing his excellence on defense, it will catapult him and his entire defensive corps into elite status.

If you missed the previous sections of this 5 part series, follow the links below to catch up:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5
Filed Under:   mcd   rags2riches   rags2riches   hags   g money   hank  
January 30, 2012 11:46 AM ET | Delete
Love these pieces keep it up.
January 31, 2012 12:02 AM ET | Delete
Have to disagree on mcdonough - I see him jumping into the offensea lot
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