With the signing of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, this improved New York Rangers defense could be the best over the course of Henrik Lundqvist’s career. 

Ryan McdonaghDan Girardi, Marc StaalNick Holden, Brady SkjeiAdam Clendening. This was the starting defenseman in the lineup for the first game of the 2016-17 season. Kevin Klein and Dylan Mcilrath were the scratches.

The New York Rangers defense had a difficult season, to say the least. Examples of mishandling of the puck, being out skated by the opponent and leaving players alone in front of  Henrik Lundqvist were all too commonplace a season ago.

Today, the defensive lineup looks dramatically different with more offensive skill and promise. The Rangers organization recognized the problem and addressed it with the intention of becoming a better team that can go deeper into the playoffs.

The six starting defenseman for the start of the 2017-18 season could be the best-assembled players the Rangers have had on the ice in years, certainly, the best Lundqvist has seen skate in front of him. Ryan Mcdonagh, Brady Skjei and Marc Staal remain with the team.

Kevin Shattenkirk, signed with the Rangers on July 1, Anthony DeAngelo, acquired in the trade with Arizona along with this years first round pick for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta and Brendan Smith, who re-signed with the team prior to free agency, round off a very strong unit. As of now, the seventh defenseman would be Nick Holden or Kevin Klein. The team is still waiting on a decision by Klein regarding his decision to retire or not.

The Rangers, who throughout the entire season last year seemed to struggle in different areas of their own end, appear to be much stronger now. This should make Henrik Lundqvist a better goalie as he enters his 13th season defending the Rangers net. The Rangers now have a unit that has speed and offensive talent that’ll hopefully make better decisions in their own end when a game is on the line.

Here are the stats from last season for what should be the starting six defenseman this upcoming season:

GP – G – A – PTS – +/- – TOI

Ryan McDonagh       77   6   36   42   20    24.21
Kevin Shattenkirk   80  13  43   56   -7    19.56
Brady Skjei                80    5  34   56   11   17.28
Anthony DeAngelo  39    5   9   14  -13   17.06
Brendan Smith         51    3   6    9     1    19.15
Marc Staal                 72    3   7    10   9    19.11

On multiple occasions last season, the defense seemed to be running around and out of position. They were indecisive with what to do with the puck which leads to giveaways that ended up in the back of their own net.

This was never more prevalent than in the Ottawa Senators playoff round that saw the Rangers coughed up late leads which resulted in two overtime losses. The team now has the personnel to eliminate these mistakes and make a run deep into the playoffs

The Power play should be more efficient

The Rangers Power play only produced at 20.2% rate, good for 11th in the NHL regular season. During the playoffs, the power play was worse. In 12 playoff games played, the Rangers were at an embarrassing 7.7%. They were Ranked 15th out of the 16 playoff teams.

It always seemed to fail at the most important times of a game when the team was either down one goal or tied. With the signing of Shattenkirk, it appears the power play should have better opportunities for more scoring chances. The Rangers will now have two defensemen who are capable of quarterbacking the power play from the blue line in Shattenkirk and Mcdonagh. That could result is hearing Rangers hall of fame announcer Sam Rosen call out some more “it’s a power play goal” that we all love to hear.

Shots on goal and accurate passing all help lead to an efficient power play. Forward Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider and the other member’s of the power play unit should have more success scoring goals this season because of the upgraded defense.

Plenty of changes have been made to the Rangers lineup and fans all hope will lead to a successful season for Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. As the Rangers organization continues to work on improving the lineup for the upcoming 2017-18 team one thing is now clear.

The Rangers defenseman will be better prepared to handle the different situations that haunted them last year. A different team from last year with the same goals, to be skating in June 2018 with the Stanley Cup overhead.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at Nyrfc12@gmail.com