Yesterday we talked about how big if an impact the Marc Staal injury has had on Dan Girardi. And when John Tortorella deploys Girardi, he's generally putting Ryan McDonagh out there with him.
McDonagh started last year with the Connecticut Whale, became a mid-season call-up and never looked back. He's been a mainstay on the New York Rangers' defensive corps since then, but he's never been leaned on as heavily as he is right now.
McDonagh is averaging nearly 27 minutes a night, compared to Girardi's 31. McDonagh has blocked three shots, but he's also been important in another category: takeaways vs. giveaways. McDonagh has three takeaways to his name so far this season, he hasn't given the puck away once.
McDonagh also has a point on the year, thanks to a brilliant pass to Brad Richards for the Rangers' tying goal against Anaheim on Saturday.
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McDonagh, like Girardi, is the other leg of the penalty kill. McDonagh has averaged 4:14 of ice time when the Rangers are down a man, and he's excelled in that role. McDonagh also averaged 29 seconds of ice time with the man advantage, but that's not a role he's going to be expected to fill this year.
Esentially, McDonagh has looked at home on the first defensive pairing, which is a great thing for the Rangers. The 22-yar-old defenseman has made some spectacular plays, highlighted by his brilliant poke-ckeck to end a Los Angeles Kings' three-on-one.
Although it's only been two games, McDonagh has been tasking with going up against the opposing team's top lines. That's no easy task when going against the Ducks and the Kings, where both sides have top lines that among the most dangerous in the NHL.
It really makes you wonder how deep the Rangers' defense will become once Staal returns, since it would push McDonagh down to the second pairing to group with either Tim Erixon (if he stays) or Michael Del Zotto.
And while McDonagh can certianly add some offense (nine points in 40 games last year) that's not an aspect of his game to expect to develop this year. McDonagh was Mr. Everything for Wisconsin in the NCAA ranks, that includes playing the point of the power play. I do fully expect McDonagh to start putting up offense numbers, but maybe not this year.
Either way, his defense has given the Rangers something to be excited about.