The New York Rangers have had a rough few weeks on defense with steady blueliner Ryan Lindgren out of the lineup since Feb. 25. Additionally, K’Andre Miller was ejected for spitting on Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26, and then received a three-game suspension.
The timing was especially bad as the Rangers were making a push to save money to acquire Patrick Kane before the trade deadline. As a result, they ended up playing a few games with only four or five healthy defensemen. During this stretch, team captain Jacob Trouba played his best hockey of the season and he has helped the team continue to win games with Lindgren out of the lineup.
Trouba’s Play This Season
The Rangers named Trouba captain this offseason but he struggled in October and November. He made too many giveaways including a few uncharacteristic ones in the defensive zone. He also failed to produce much offensively, with no goals and six assists in his first 26 games.
Related: Rangers Correct to Name Jacob Trouba Captain
Latest News & Highlights
The Rangers also had a disappointing start to the season with an 11-10-5 record through their first 26 games. Trouba tried to spark them with a few big, clean hits and dropped the gloves when opponents challenged him. During a particularly disheartening 5-2 loss at home to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks, he threw his helmet at the boards and yelled at his bench after a fight. They went 22-4-3 in their next 29 games.
Trouba also returned to form during that stretch, limiting his giveaways while playing much better in the defensive zone. He made smarter decisions about when to pinch in the offensive zone and his reliable play allowed his defense partner Miller to become more aggressive offensively.
Since Lindgren’s injury, Trouba has stepped up with three goals and three assists in eight games and the Rangers are 5-2-1 in those games. He continued to excel defensively, playing alongside Niko Mikkola and Ben Harpur while Miller served his suspension. He has blocked tons of shots and gotten more ice time than usual without experiencing any drop-off in his play over the past few weeks. He now has seven goals and 17 assists while playing in all 67 games. He also leads the team in hits with 187, and blocks, with 167.
The Rangers’ Situation on Defense
With Miller back from his suspension, the Rangers have some stability on defense again. However, their top blueliner Adam Fox has not played his best with Lindgren out. Braden Schneider has also gone through a rough stretch with some sloppy giveaways.
Miller and Trouba have played like a top defense pair since Miller returned to the lineup but the Rangers need to have Lindgren healthy to make a deep playoff run. They have gotten by with Mikkola playing alongside Fox but he has made a few bad decisions resulting in penalties. While the big blueliner was steady on their third defense pair, he is not a top-pairing defenseman.
Like Mikkola, Harpur has filled in admirably on defense as he went from a healthy scratch to playing more than 28 minutes during the Rangers’ 5-2 victory against the Kings on Feb. 26. However, ideally, he will be their seventh defenseman once Lindgren returns.
The Rangers have overcome Lindgren’s injury and some of their recent defensive struggles, thanks to the excellent play of Trouba as well as Igor Shesterkin’s impressive goaltending.
For Trouba and the Rangers Moving Forward
After a tough start, Trouba has turned his season around and he has stepped up with Lindgren and Miller out of the lineup. He has once again become a reliable defender who is also capable of chipping in offensively.
The Rangers are looking to build on last year’s run to the Eastern Conference Final and expectations are high after they acquired star wingers Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko at the trade deadline. Last postseason, their top four defensemen played very well and Trouba’s strong play of late is a great development. He will be a key player for them down the stretch.