Blueshirt Blueline: Best in the League
The Rangers Stanley Cup appearance was not necessarily due to their spectcular offensive skills, but rather their stellar defense. It is no secret that the Rangers struggled throughout the 2013-14 season to find the back of the net, but when they did, it was not just the offensive players, but some defensemen as well.
This season, Ryan McDonough developed into one of the top defensemen in the NHL. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a Norris Trophy candidate next season. Over the past three season his points per game average has increased from .39 to .40 and .55 respectively. Which means he is well on his way to a .60 or above season. Not to mention, he seems to really fit Vignealut’s system very well.
While many were disappointed with the loss of Anton Stralman, the addition of Dan Boyle is nothing to be upset about. Boyle is a great offensive defenseman, which is just what the Rangers need. In 75 games last season, he had 12 goals and 24 assists. He finished the season with a 53% Corsi percentage.
Boyle will most likely pair with Marc Staal, which is an upgrade in pairing for Boyle. This will hopefully take both players to the next level. Additionally, there is no doubt the Rangers power play was a weak spot. Boyle had 6 power play goals and 12 power play assists last season. He had 1.32 goals per 60 minutes on the power play, which is more than Brad Richards had with 1.00 goals per 60 minutes. Who is mad about Stralman now? Not this writer.
Other than the addition of Boyle and the loss of Stralman, the defensive unit is much the same. McDonough and Girardi will continue to be a strong defensive unit on the first line. They stop big offensive players from other teams and contribute offensively when needed. Yes, Girardi did struggle a little in the playoffs, but at the end of the day he is a solid defensive player.
The second line will be Staal and Boyle, which is another solid pair. Staal will be able to hold tight defensively allowing for Boyle to make the offensive moves the Rangers need from their defensemen. Staal still has plenty left in him, as he was a top defensemen a few years back. His set backs of concussions and an eye injury weren’t enough to write him off. Staal still looks strong and confident, which can only lead to better play in the future.
Finally, there is the unit of John Moore and Kevin Klien. Although they aren’t spectacular, they are rock solid and steady. Both work hard and in my opinoin are upgrades from Michael Del Zotto. Klein is a great shot blocker and is a smart defensive player. Moore is a solid skater with the ability to stand up for himself and his teammates. Moore had 15 points this season and just two in the playoffs. He has contributed on the power play, but next season the NYR will look for him to maintain a consistent level of play on defense.
With the UFA frenzy, there has been a number of changes to the Rangers’ roster, which has left a bit of uncertainty. However, fear not! Our blue line is strong and may just be the best in the league.