New York Rangers: Don’t be concerned about the third defensive pairing

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04: Marc Staal
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04: Marc Staal /

The New York Rangers’ defense was in the spotlight of criticism last season. With the new season underway, is there still reason for concern about these pairings?

It’s no secret that the New York Rangers’ defense was at the height of their fan base’s concern to start this new season. With the disappointment of their play last year, the team knew there had to be some changes made.

And that’s exactly what they did. With the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk and Anthony DeAngelo and the re-signing of Brendan Smith, it’s obvious that the defense was at the front of the organization’s mind.

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The New York Rangers’ defensive pairings were predicted to be as follows:

Ryan McDonagh- Kevin Shattenkirk

Brady Skjei- Brendan Smith

Marc Staal- Anthony DeAngelo/Nick Holden

Of course, with Alain Vigneault as the head coach, those pairings wouldn’t last long. In fact, they barely lasted past the first game of the season.

The pairings now look like the following with DeAngelo sent to the AHL:

Ryan McDonagh- Brendan Smith

Kevin Shattenkirk- Marc Staal

Brady Skjei- Nick Holden

On nights that Holden is in the lineup, that pairing admittedly starts to look a little worse. It’s true that Holden can put up good points, considering he had 34 points last season. However, that had no bearing on his defensive abilities.

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The saving grace for the Rangers here is that McDonagh still looks like his usual hard-working self. Shattenkirk has come through on his promises to help the power play. And Skjei continues to prove his worth night in and night out.

In addition, if the Rangers were ever concerned about having “grit” in their lineup, they don’t have to look any further than Smith.

As of right now, the defense isn’t looking stellar because of lack of chemistry. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that at least four of the six have serious talent.

Perhaps if there was someone else in Vigneault’s positions, those parings would look as they are supposed to. And that would definitely make a difference in their effectiveness.

However, Vigneault is well aware that he’s on the hot seat. The only way for him to keep his job secure now is by deploying the talent of his best players in ways that show their talents best. We might just begin to see the lineups we all predicted before the season started soon.

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Overall, this isn’t something the Rangers should focus too much on. Right now, they should focus on being able to score goals consistently. They should focus on emphasizing their strengths where they have it, which is in their forward group.

And maybe soon enough, the defense will begin to look as good as everyone knows it can, with or without the the predicted pairings.