January 10, 2021

New York Rangers opening night defense becoming clearer

Rangers celebrate DeAngelo goal (Getty Images)

The New York Rangers will be conducting another scrimmage tonight and will have one more day of camp tomorrow. On January 12, they should be finalizing their roster as that will be a day off.

When the NHL opens its season on January 13th, the Blueshirts will be conducting their first full team practice. That will be the one and only time the finalized roster will skate before taking on the Islanders the next night.

New York Rangers defense becoming clearer

The Rangers may completely forego the whole left/right handedness on defense based on what we’ve seen so far. They’ve played righty Tony DeAngelo with Jacob Trouba on the top pair at left defense for most of camp.

DeAngelo played his OHL career on his off-side and has no issue doing it at the NHL level. Matter of fact, as an offensive defenseman he would prefer his stick be in the middle of the ice. Of course that causes a dilemma on the third pair.

tony deangelo
DeAngelo (Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Johnson is very likely penciled in as the left-defenseman on the third pairing. There’s a possibility that Libor Hajek could still win that job and there is no guarantee that Tony DeAngelo won’t be the third pair right defenseman either.

Like I said, it’s becoming clearer not finalized.

That’s because K’Andre Miller has impressed so much in camp that he appears to have made the team. The question then becomes, is he ready to be paired with Jacob Trouba on the top pair? That’s certainly not a spot for Jack Johnson and there’s no reason to break up the Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox pairing. To date, Trouba and Miller have yet to be paired in camp.

Third pair right defense is an intriguing camp question yet resolved

Ultimately I think Brendan Smith is the third pair right defenseman, even though he’s a lefty. That is if David Quinn is done experimenting with DeAngelo on the left side. Miller making the team could also push out Johnson and move Smith back with Trouba, where he finished last season.

It should also be interesting to note that another lefty has been used in camp almost exclusively on the third pair right defense. Tarmo Reunanen has had a quiet camp, but when you are a defenseman that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s look at what the opening night defense could like with camp close to concluding starting with option 1.

NYR Defense Option 1

new york rangers defense
Trouba (Getty Images)
  • DeAngelo/Trouba
  • Lindgren/Fox
  • Miller/Smith

This option represents the most likely opening night scenario and would have either Jack Johnson or Libor Hajek as the 7th defenseman.

NYR Defense Option 2

new york rangers
K’Andre Miller impressive (Charles Wenzelberg)
  • Smith/Trouba
  • Lindgren/Fox
  • Miller/DeAngelo

Option two would be just a solid in my estimation. Smith did a good job with Trouba late last season. A third pairing of Miller and DeAngelo could be incredible offensively, with a lot of risk in their own zone.

NYR Defense Option 3

jack johnson rangers
Jack Johnson (Getty Images)
  • Smith/Trouba
  • Lindgren/Fox
  • Johnson/DeAngelo

This is the safest set up on defense for David Quinn. Minimal risk in the sense that he’s going into the season with lefty/right balance and veterans. Safe is also death in the NHL and this could be the grouping many fans eventually think will come to fruition. They just don’t want it.

A tough job for Quinn

new york rangers defense
David Quinn coaches Ryan Lindgren (Credit: Richard Harbus/Richard Harbus)

This abbreviated camp was always going to be very difficult for all teams and coaches. While DQ has tried different combos during scrimmages similar to ones he conducted during RTP, none of them will be properly tested until put in front of an opposing team.

No matter what the finalize defense will be, it’s going to get questioned. Even if the Rangers went with option 3 and won their first 5 games of the season, someone with a chart will scream, “this is not sustainable”!

The only thing that seems apparent to me is that K’Andre Miller has made this team, which opens up a lot of options for Blueshirts.

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