The New York Rangers are one of the least defensively sound teams in the NHL. They are 25th in the league in goals allowed per game, 30th in shots on goal allowed per game, 20th on the penalty kill and last in the league for penalty minutes per game. These statistics don’t build a “playoff contender.”
Despite the woes of defensive assistant Lindy Ruff’s system, the Rangers have kept their postseason hopes alive with something that has never been a strength: defensive scoring output. Multiple skaters on the backend have helped keep the team near the top of the league in points from defensemen. Let’s take a look at how some of the team’s defense can help buoy the Rangers’ playoff chances through their offensive game.
One takeaway from the 6-3 Rangers win over the New Jersey Devils, is that Tony DeAngelo is the most gifted offensive defenseman on the team. He finished with five points on five separate goals, tying the Rangers’ single-game record for a defenseman.
If you thought the Rangers had leverage in future contract negotiations, think again. Since being traded to the Rangers in 2017, DeAngelo has stepped up as a key piece in the team’s rebuild. At only 24 years old, he leads the team in points among defensemen with 36 in 43 games. That’s roughly on pace for 70 points this season; the Rangers’ points leader in the 2018-19 season was Mika Zibanejad with 74. That’s pure dominance from DeAngelo.
If he’s able to stay on track, his consistent offensive game can win the Blueshirts some tight contests down the stretch. Not to mention, he ranks fifth in scoring among NHL defensemen. His play-making abilities, power play presence and overall point efficiency can help the Rangers in a potential playoff run.
The Long Island native is playing exactly how the front office envisioned when they snagged his rights from the Caroline Hurricanes in April 2019. Adam Fox already has 24 points on the season, including five goals, and he’s shown no signs of stopping.
After tallying his 23rd NHL point, Fox became the first Rangers rookie defenseman to record 23 or more points within the team’s first 42 games of a season since Brian Leetch in 1988-89. The former Harvard defenseman has a long way to go, but his past NCAA dominance is rubbing off at the NHL level as well. Fox has been critical on the Rangers’ first and second power-play unit and he seems to find the right spots on the ice.
At 21 years old, Fox is already proving his worth every single game. He ranks third in points among defensemen who are 21 and younger. That statistic alone should have Blueshirt fans jumping out of their seats. If he can maintain his offensive abilities throughout the season, especially on special teams, the Rangers will be closer to the competition playing for a wild-card spot.
When the Rangers inked Jacob Trouba to a seven-year, $56-million contract, they expected him to become their defensive leader. For the most part, he has been exactly that. He has the most physical game of any of the Rangers defensemen and he logs 23:03 of ice time, highest on the team. There have been struggles from time to time for the former Winnipeg Jet, but he has performed decently, to say the least.
Trouba has tallied six goals and 15 assists, which ranks in the top-50 in the NHL for defensive scoring. Despite being on pace for about 40 points, the Rangers faithful must remember that he is still just 25 years old. He still has plenty of room to grow, like most of the other defensemen on the team. If he can captain the power play further into the season and keep up his physicality on the backend, the Rangers will have their number one defenseman. It’s hard for teams to make the playoffs without a clear standout force on the back end, and he will need to be just that if the Rangers want to make a playoff run.
The Rangers face a tough schedule in January facing the St. Louis Blues, the rival New York Islanders three times, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the lowly Detroit Red Wings. If the Blues taught the hockey world anything last year, it’s that a team can go from nowhere to somewhere in a hurry. The Rangers’ defense needs to compete stronger defensively, but their scoring output must remain near the top of the league if the Blueshirts hope to make a run at the playoffs in 2020.
Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.