New York Rangers fans breathed a sigh of relief when Martin St. Louis notched his first goal as a Ranger on Wednesday, but fans were holding their breath late in the game. During an innocent-looking play late in the third, defenseman Ryan McDonagh was awkwardly propelled into the glass by Vancouver Canuck Alex Burrows.
McDonagh left the game with an injury, and Burrows received a five-minute major penalty. Fans expected the worst, but according to the Larry Brooks of the New York Post, McDonagh's injury is minor and he will be traveling with the team to Colorado.
There is no word when McDonagh will return to the lineup, but his injury is going to briefly impact the Blueshirts' lineup. Luckily, the Rangers are very secure in the standings—as of writing they have a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Sports Club Stats—and they have the defensive depth to compensate for McDonagh.
Despite the severity, or lack thereof, of McDonagh's injury, there's no reason to rush him back into the lineup. His potential exit from the lineup coincides with the return of John Moore, so the Blueshirts' defense corps will be more than adequate for the remainder of the regular season.
Here is how the Blueshirts' defense should look if McDonagh misses the remainder of the regular season.
|Potential Defense Pairings For Remainder of Regular Season|
|No. 1||Marc Staal||Dan Girardi||Rangers' former No. 1 pairing has chemistry and consistency as a unit.|
|No. 2||John Moore||Kevin Klein||A pairing that has gained chemistry, Klein works well with Moore as a veteran/rookie pairing.|
|No. 3||Anton Stralman||Raphael Diaz||Solid balance of defense, offense and quality skaters.|
|One man's opinion.|
While missing McDonagh hurts, you can't go wrong with reuniting the Blueshirts' former top pairing. Even the second pairing looks good with steady rearguard Kevin Klein, a defender who has really taken to the team since being acquired in a deal that sent Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators.
John Moore can accompany him on this pairing, just like he did prior to his injury, and Raphael Diaz and Anton Stralman can provide a balance of offense and defense on the third pairing. In addition to changing up defense pairings, the Blueshirts will have to replace McDonagh on the power play.
McDonagh wasn't logging a lot of time on the power play to begin with, but his injury gives Scott Arniel and Alain Vigneault the opportunity to tinker with the man-advantage unit before the start of the playoffs. If the coaching staff wants to stay conventional and replace McDonagh with another defenseman, Moore would be a perfect fit.
Moore was on the team's second unit prior to suffering an injury, and it is unlikely that he will replace McDonagh on the top unit. Diaz has showed great poise on the power play, and his smooth hands and skillful passes make the top unit a dynamic threat.
If Vigneault doesn't add a defenseman to replace McDonagh on the power play, it would make sense to give Carl Hagelin a shot. He is one of the few top-nine forwards who doesn't receive significant power-play time, as he currently averages 0:13 a game while New York has a man advantage.
John Tortorella famously said that "Hagelin stinks on the power play", but his speed and ability to gather pucks in the corner would make him a nice addition to the second unit. The power play under Arniel has looked better, so there's a chance a player like Hagelin could step in and make a difference.
He is also a solid two-way forward, so he could transition back to defense if the situation arose.
No matter how you slice it, losing McDonagh is not a good thing for the Rangers. It was mentioned above how the Rangers can manage in the interim, but a long-term loss of No. 27 would be catastrophic for the Broadway Blueshirts.
The team is fortunate that his injury isn't serious, and they are lucky they have the depth to plug the massive hole he leaves behind him.
More information should be available once the Rangers return to New York, but it is safe to say that Rangers fans can exhale at this point in time.
Stats via NHL.com.