Ryan McDonagh earned the well deserved reputation of being warrior after last season's breakout year which saw him finish the regular season as a +25 player with 182 blocks while averaging 24:44 of ice time per game.
And I don't think there's a Rangers fan who will ever forget when McDonagh took this hit, which would have put most of us in the hospital, against the Capitals in the first overtime of Game 3 in the playoffs last year…
…and not only didn't miss a shift, but played two more overtimes for a total ice time of 48:24 for the game.
What we sometimes forget is that McDonagh at just 23 years of age playing in just his third NHL season (one full) is still developing. So it's not completely concerning to me when we see him struggle with two egregious turnovers and -1 against the Sabres on Sunday night.
Having said that, I've seen more mind boggling turnovers and defensive zone lapses from McDonagh in the first 20 games this season than I did all last season. Now, I'm not saying that McDonagh has taken a step back, but it's obvious that he's had some difficulties this year, which is something even John Tortorella admitted yesterday…
"(McDonagh) is a really good player, but he's been fighting it. For a young man, he hasn't had that happen too often. So these are all good things for young players to learn how to handle it. Get through it. Become even better and he will.
"He hasn't been really bad. He's still been a very good player for us. But i guess when you have a standard or expectation of what he's done, you have to be very careful. And Mac has to be very careful too and not to bind himself even more by overthinking. We just expect so much from him. But he'll come back. The biggest thing is the consistency of his play."
McDonagh has 2g, 5a and is even this season. With his 31 hits, he would also be on pace to surpass his 82-game hit total from last season (118), however his 37 blocked shots is well short of last season's pace.
…i've said it a couple of times on the blog, but I really do feel that last season's Herculean type effort from McDonagh which I'm assuming drained him physically and mentally is effecting him. I can't imagine it's very easy to bring your battle level back up to peak performance after literally destroying your body last season then allowing it to rest so much longer than he's used to due to the lockout. His body and mind probably got very comfortable with the lack of a pounding during the work stoppage and it looks like they aren't ready to mold back into form on a consistent basis just yet.
…but if there's one thing we've learned about McDonagh is that the kid is competitor and that he'll find a way to work himself back into the shape we've grown accustomed to.
H/T to reader Fleisch14 for the post idea.