by Patrick Hoffman on 09/11/12 at 08:00 AM ET
When it comes to great New York Rangers' defensemen, one thinks of Brian Leetch, Brad Park, Harry Howell, Ron Greschner, as well as a few others.
Nowadays, the Blueshirts have several terrific defensemen. Last season, along with the great play of netminder Henrik Lundqvist, the team's defensive corps finished third in the league in goals allowed and helped Lundqvist win his first Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.
With that said, there is one defenseman on the Blueshirts that stands just above the rest. Believe it or not, it is not Dan Girardi or Marc Staal.
Rather, it is 23-year-old Ryan McDonagh. Looking back at the deal that brought McDonagh to the Blueshirts, it appears that Glen Sather absolutely robbed the Montreal Canadiens.
In his first season on Broadway in 2010-11, McDonagh scored 1 goal and added 8 assists for 9 points in 40 games. While that is not a lot of offense, it was his strong defensive plays that opened up the eyes of the organization and its fans.
Those same eyes grew wider last season. McDonagh posted 32 points (7 goals and 25 assists) while playing in all 82 regular season games.
Once again, the numbers do not tell the whole story when it comes to McDonagh's rise to being the team's top blueliner. It is his play on the other side of the puck that is truly terrific.
When Staal missed most of the first half of the season due to post concussion symptoms, McDonagh played so well that he jumped onto the team's top defensive pairing with Girardi. Even Rangers' head coach John Tortorella was impressed.
“Now, I’m not sure if I’ll ever split those two guys up,” John Tortorella said of Girardi and McDonagh before an optional practice Tuesday at the Garden in preparation for Wednesday’s Game 2.
“That’s just the way it works, and that’s the interesting part when you have injuries, how things work out.
“We always talk about when there are injuries, another guy gets an opportunity. You never know where it’s going to lead you. But with Mac, the amount of time he got so quickly in key situations because of (Staal’s) injury has accelerated his pro gress, where that maybe a year down the road if we didn’t have an injury.”
McDonagh, along with Girardi, was one of the team's most reliable defensemen last season. He blocked a ton of shots, broke up many scoring opportunities, did a great job of clearing the front of the net for Lundqvist and was confident and crisp in making outlet passes.
There is a lot more to the eye when it comes to McDonagh and a lot more that he will more than likely do on Broadway with the Rangers. One thing that is clear, however, is that McDonagh is the Rangers' best defenseman heading into the upcoming season.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.