Two nights ago the New York Rangers faced off against their old coach, John Tortorella, with his new team. The Vancouver Canucks played like a desperate team teetering on the edge of a canyon. A volatile coach has his team feeling his same sense of urgency. The result was a reckless hit with under a minute remaining in a game that was already lost for the Canucks, who were down by two goals. Ryan McDonagh lay on the ice in a heap, visibly in pain, after being driven into the boards awkwardly in a tag-team effort. If you haven’t seen the hit, most fans were asleep thanks to time zones, you can see it here.
Many viewers complained that the Rangers didn’t react the way they should have after a hit of that magnitude. Well, there was under a minute remaining and there was a lot of shock on the ice watching McDonagh leave. The Rangers are also a smarter team in that aspect. Dan Girardi did throw a punch immediately after the hit. You can get a feel for the uncertainty in the dressing room by reading this. There is good news to this situation. McDonagh isn’t being sent home, he’s staying with the team. Luckily the team is in a good place heading down the stretch so McDonagh can heal up for the post season. At 24 years old, McDonagh is young, and obviously in great shape, which helps immensely in the healing process. Anyone who watched the first round of last year’s playoffs knows how tough he is. Remember this hit from Alex Ovechkin?
Looking at the defense, away from McDonagh, there’s a slight conundrum. How do you adjust the pairings to fill in until the line-up is at full strength? John Moore remains out of the line-up after sustaining a concussion against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The feeling is that he may be brought back a little quicker than previously anticipated. Moore cannot replace McDonagh. He doesn’t have the ability to play the nearly 25 minutes per game that McDonagh has racked up. Kevin Klein is capable of playing the minutes, but he’s not really enough of an offensive defenseman to be paired with Girardi; they are too much of the same type of player. If you start trying to split up other pairs, you damage their chemistry. Justin Falk hasn’t played a game since December, he’s not a very good choice to bring back into the line-up if you remember how he “plays”. Most likely Marc Staal will move up to the top pairing with Girardi, while Anton Stralman and John Moore look to reproduce the results of Stralman and former Ranger, Michael Del Zotto. This leaves Klein and Raphael Diaz together as the third pairing. This, of course, is subject to J. Moore’s availability. Word is the injury is not serious, though not much else is being said at this point. What is certain: McDonagh is out for a while. The time frame is not certain though the hope is that he will be ready to go before the post season begins, in two weeks.