On April 1st in Vancouver, Rangers fans watched the season flash before their eyes as Ryan McDonagh lay on the ice writhing in pain while clutching his left shoulder after absorbing a hit from behind from Alex Burrows.
Fortunately, our worst fears did not come to fruition as McDonagh was able to return for the start of the playoffs. But from Game 1 against the Flyers, it was obvious that McDonagh did not look comfortable on the ice. Instead of his normal aggressive self, he was playing a very passive game that led to him uncharacteristically becoming a weak link on defense…
Not only was McDonagh a liability in the defensive end (-5 through 12 games), the surprising offense he displayed during the regular season had all but dried up as he was held pointless through the Rangers first 11 postseason games.
It was obvious that his shoulder was still bothering him. Or maybe not.
With the Rangers at their lowest point of the postseason after dropping Game 4 to the Penguins to fall behind in the series by a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit, something clicked for Minnesota native in Game 5 and the old McDonagh reappeared before our eyes like he never left.
He was again striking fear into the hearts and minds of his opponents, while rediscovering the scoring touch (3g, 6a in last six games) that had alluded him this postseason. And it’s no surprise that since McDonagh found his game the Rangers have been unbeatable.
So what happen? Why was McDonagh a mere shell of himself to begin the Rangers playoff run? Was it the shoulder? Rust? (via Blueshirts United)
“Obviously, I think at the beginning part of the playoffs [I] was trying to force it, try and do too much,” McDonagh said after the Rangers’ practice at Madison Square Garden Wednesday afternoon.
McDonagh added that he’s also keeping it simple, which was something he wasn’t doing enough against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
His head coach Alain Vigneault has his own theory…
“Coming back from missing those few games, it took him a little bit more time than we anticipated for him to find his game. It took him — I’m sure if you asked him, he would say the same thing — it took him more time than he anticipated to find his game, but he did find it at the right time, and we need him to continue that.”
…when you miss the final two weeks of the regular season, you’re obviously going to have some rust when you return. Especially in the playoffs. But I’ve got to think his shoulder was still bothering him as well.
…the most telling stat that McDonagh was still feeling the effect of the shoulder injury is that in the first 11 games of the postseason he had just 15 shots on goal. The last five? 14. Including the bomb of a goal he had in Game 1. We witnessed Zuccarello struggle to find his game after returning from his Olympic broken hand and it looks like McDonagh was having the same complications.
…whatever the reason, it’s great to have him back anchoring one of the best defensive corps in the NHL and it’s not surprising to see that the Rangers have allowed just six goals in the last five games since McDonagh has returned to form.