Ryan Lindgren has been a workhorse on defense for the New York Rangers since he became an NHL regular in 2019-20. Acquired in the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins in 2018, Lindgren was viewed as a gritty defenseman whose game is bigger than his six-foot frame. That scouting report was accurate, as the Minnesota native’s toughness and gritty play have complemented Adam Fox’s flashy game these past few seasons.
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His value goes well beyond the scoresheet, and almost every time he sacrifices his body, he returns moments later, ready to do it all again. On Saturday, during a matinee with the Washington Capitals, forward T.J. Oshie laid a hard hit on Lindgren, which was deemed clean but was certainly questionable. After the hit, everyone assumed Lindgren would bounce right back.
He did bounce right back up, but this time, he skated straight to the dressing room with his left arm hanging low and his right hand grasping his shoulder area. The Rangers proceeded to give up five more goals without Lindgren, a microcosm of their play without the 25-year-old defenseman.
Head coach Gerard Gallant said Lindgren is “day-to-day,” per Arthur Staple of The Athletic, which is excellent news considering the impact and reaction of the check. Yet, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Lindgren is suiting up over the next week or two of games.
Rangers’ Struggle Without Lindgren
Among the Rangers’ most valuable players, including Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Igor Shesterkin, who are all vital to the Rangers’ success on a nightly basis, few people mention Lindgren despite that the Rangers perform at a higher level when he is in the lineup. In five seasons with the Rangers, the team has a 146-80-25 record with Lindgren in the lineup, per Stat Muse.
When he is out of the lineup, that record plummets to 36-48-15. Yes, Lindgren is that important to the Rangers’ defense, and yes, his play is the perfect complement to the skill game of his teammates. He has blocked 87 shots this season and averages 18:55 of ice time game.
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With the Rangers in a cap circus due to the impending Patrick Kane trade, Lindgren’s injury came at the worst possible time. In the 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings Sunday, a game misconduct to K’Andre Millet left the Rangers rotating four defensemen, as they could not risk injury to Braden Schneider for roster management purposes.
Lindgren ranks third on the Rangers with a 54.57 Corsi for percentage (CF%) at five-on-five and second with a 63.24 goals-for percentage (GF%), per Natural Stat Trick. His presence on the back end is very much needed while the team sorts out its cap issues.
Rangers Need Lindgren for Upcoming Stretch
Once the trade deadline distraction passes, a new challenge awaits the Rangers. March features 16 games, 12 of which are against teams over .500. They also have two weeks featuring three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, one against the Washington Capitals, and two against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In the thick of a playoff race and seeding for home-ice advantage in the first round, the Rangers need to come out of this month accumulating points against their division rivals. Without Lindgren, it will be a significant challenge. Arguably the best shutdown defender on the team, an extended absence would mean the Rangers must shut down Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Sebastian Aho, and others without him.
Lindgren, who usually played alongside Fox against the opposition’s top players, would have been pivotal for this next stretch. If he returns, the Rangers’ defense would be fortified in games where that fortification will be tested.
There is no timetable for Lindgren’s return, and “day-to-day” is too vague to guess. The Rangers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing he should be fine for the postseason, but the quicker he returns, the easier solidifying their spot in the playoffs will be.
Lindgren’s value to the Rangers is immeasurable. He brings the edge, toughness, and willingness to go the extra mile that every team needs. The team will face an uphill battle in every game he misses as the most unheralded Ranger, and his injury is proving that.