Mar 21, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Rangers defensemen Keith Yandle (93) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in the shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Defenseman, Keith Yandle, has played big through the first three games of the playoffs for the New York Rangers, and he deserves more ice time.
Many people were skeptical about the trade that sent Keith Yandle from the obscure deserts in Arizona to the bright lights of New York City.
However, after an understandable adjustment period, Yandle has settled in well and has become a vital part of the New York Rangers‘ push for the Stanley Cup. He is a world-class talent, and should be given more ice-time by Alain Vigneault.
Through the first three games of the series, Yandle has averaged 17:44 minutes of ice-time. He played 20:38, 16:45, and 15:49 in games one, two, and three, respectively. If it were not for the stomach bug, Yandle would have likely played more in Game Three, as he was one of the Rangers most effective players.
Yandle was brought in for his offensive prowess on the back-end, leading people to believe that he is not a good defensive player. However, if you have watched Yandle over the last three games, you should be realizing that he can have a positive effect on defense because of his speed. He also plays with a little bit of an edge, as seen by his post-whistle activities from time to time.
Yandle is a great driver of puck-possession. He has an SAT of 17 through the first three games, which is best on the Rangers. Furthermore, has a SAT-Rel% of 20.7%, also the best on the Rangers. Those numbers, however, should be taken with a grain of salt because of the small sample size. Yandle also has three assists through the three games as well. He is also looking to shoot more on the power play, which despite popular opinion, will start scoring goals soon, especially if Yandle is at the top of his game.
New York Rangers
Obviously, Yandle hasn’t been matched up with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin a ton this series. In fact, he has only played a combined 6:24 and 6:27 against Crosby and Malkin, respectively. If given the opportunity, though, Yandle would be an excellent candidate to play alongside Marc Staal or Dan Girardi against either Crosby or Malkin. However, in Game Three, Yandle was out against Crosby, controversially defended him (some people think Yandle interfered with Cindy), received a pass from Girardi, then, swiftly whisked a pass to Carl Hagelin for the Rangers first goal.
Which brings me to the point of all this, that Yandle is capable enough to handle top-four minutes if he is asked to. Sure, he was a first-pair guy on one of the worst teams ever assembled. The Coyotes only finished with two more points than the Sabres, people. They were a putrid team with a miserable goalie, which more than likely points to Yandle’s poor +/- numbers. But in the short time Yandle has been a Ranger, including the three games against the Penguins, he has looked like a big-time player. It seems people have also forgotten that Yandle has played in a few playoff series himself, totaling 30 playoff games after Game Three.
With Kevin Klein coming back soon, Vigneault will likely juggle his defense pairings to get a right-handed and left-handed shot on each pair. That means it is unlikely that Yandle, a left handed shot, would move up to either of the top-two defense pairings because it would leave the third-pairing. However, if Yandle continues to play like he is right now, it will be hard not to give him more minutes.