The New York Rangers are getting healthy, but has the deep playoff runs of the past four seasons starting to have an adverse effect?
By Ernie DeFalco
Dan Rosen of NHL.com indicated that the New York Rangers diminutive forward Mats Zuccarello (brain contusion and skull fracture) will be ready for training camp. Rosen also reported Captain Ryan McDonagh (broken foot) is skating and working out and is just about 100%.
In a separate report, Mike Murphy of Blueshirtbanter.com reported more good news on other key players. Center Derick Brassard (wrist surgery), Defenseman Marc Staal (boot chip removed from ankle), Defenseman Dan Girardi (bursa excision on ankle), and Defenseman Keith Yandle (shoulder sprain) all will be ready for the start of camp.
Healthy for much of the year, the playoff grind really hit the New York Rangers hard last season. The players listed above were all playoff casualties, and all important players. Injuries are certainly part of the game. Sadly for the Rangers players and fans, those injuries came at the worst possible time.
On that note, there might be some reason for Rangers fans to be ultra concerned. While there are a lot of reasons why injuries occur, fatigue is most definitely one of them. One often overlooked number is the amount of hockey the Rangers have played over the past four seasons. Since 2011-2012, combining regular season and postseason, the Rangers have played 370 games.
That is a lot of hard, tiring hockey.
Bodies wear down, players wear down, and fatigue sets in. Deep playoff runs also result in shortened off-seasons. Instead of having the better part of five months to recover, teams that go deep into the playoffs only get three to four months to play a little golf (2012-2013 lockout excluded). Of course playing meaningful hockey deep into the playoffs every year is preferred, but it does come at a price.
As each year passes the the players who makeup the Rangers strengths, defense and goaltender, get a little bit older. It is OK to begin to question if all the extra hockey is beginning to wear down some of the key players, especially late in the season. More specifically McDonagh (26), Girardi (31), Staal (28), and Lundqvist (33) are the Blueshirts key guys.
These four have been a critical part of the core since the Rangers began this impressive four season run. Lundqvist aside, the others seem to tail off as the playoffs stretch into the late spring. It is very likely fatigue is a large factor. That same fatigue that leads to injuries.
It is very hard to win. The more times a team fails, that less likely it is to get back. The Rangers, with all those games played, all that used energy, all that effort have come up empty. They have also become fatigued. One has to wonder if the injuries faced in last year’s playoffs was just a foreshadowing of things to come.
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