Defense And Hank Look To Rebound

Frank Curto

The defense of this Rangers squad has been the Achilles heel over the past few seasons. Giveaways with the puck, poor coverage in front of their own net and lazy penalties is a tough way to go through a season, yet that is exactly what the defense has done.

Brendan Smith is welcoming a fresh start this season under a new coaching regime. The defenseman who re-signed with the Rangers last summer looks to find his game again and make a squad that desperately needs his speed and hitting prowess. Could a reunion with Brady Skjei be in his future?

Skjei has been in New York for three seasons now. The 24-year -old took a step backward last season, as did most of his teammates. He is considered one of the veteran Ranger defenseman now that Ryan McDonagh is no longer with the club and needs to step his game up as the team eyes a return back to the playoffs. He has all the tools to be a top-five defenseman in the NHL as he looks to lead the Rangers power play on the blueline, and continue to battle the opposition’s top players.

Kevin Shattenkirk looks to rebound following meniscus surgery in January. Coming into camp this year, the team is looking for him to continue the success on the power play he and the team had prior to his injury. The hope is that he will also help the younger defenseman on the team. He should see top-four playing time and quarterback the first power-play unit.

Marc Staal is the veteran of the team on defense. Entering his 13th season, the alternate captain is coming off a solid year last season. The experience Staal has in the NHL cannot be measured. He should be able to bring the knowledge and insight to players like Neal Pionk throughout the season. The stay at home defenseman will continue to do what he has done over the past years, be the strong defenseman with a huge reach who makes the good first pass out of his end and stands strong in front of his own net.

Pionk, the rookie call-up last year, plays with confidence on the ice. This season he enters camp with a great chance to make the opening night roster and, should be able to get a better understanding of what the team is trying to establish under first-year coach David Quinn. Pionk has the ability to play on both the power play and penalty killing units which is the kind of player Quinn will enjoy calling on throughout the season.

Anthony DeAngelo is at a make-or-break point of his career. The young defenseman was recalled to the team late last season and showed vast improvements on the ice. DeAngelo has been recognized for his power play skill, but now he may be more relied on for his offensive play as a third pair defenseman.

Adam McQuaid was acquired late this summer in a deal with the Boston Bruins. He brings to the Rangers 490 games of experience, A Stanley Cup Championship and an aggressive style of play the team has been looking over the past few seasons.

John Gilmour and recently acquired Fredrik Claesson appear to be on the outside looking in on a team with few defenseman spots available.

Projected Defensemen Pairings:

  • Skjei-McQuaid
  • Smith-Shattenkirk
  • Steel-PionkPionk
  • Extra: Claesson-DeAngelo

Goaltending

The King, Henrik Lundqvist, will take his spot as the number one goaltender between the pipes as he enters his 14th season with the club. There are plenty of questions regarding Hank’s play but the  36-year-old is expected to carry the load. He is projected to start in 55-60 games this season.

As for the backup situation, Alexandar Georgiev should win the battle over Dustin Tokarski. The club will need to decide how they would like to see Georgiev progress as a professional. General manager Jeff Gorton and the management could decide that it would be better for his growth to play in Hartford and use Tokarski as the backup. Tokarski has only appeared in 34 games over the past six seasons playing for Tampa Bay, Montreal and most recently Anaheim.

Projected Goalie Lineup

  • Henrik Lundqvist
  • Alexandar Georgiev

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