When the New York Rangers‘ star defenseman Ryan McDonagh was shutdown for the rest of the regular season after suffering an upper body injury, most people were expecting him to be fine for the playoffs. While McDonagh is completely healthy, his game has slipped in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers. He hasn’t looked like his usual self, and that is a problem for the Rangers. They need McDonagh to elevate his game quickly.
The Flyers have clearly gone out of there way to target McDonagh. If you remember in Game 1, Scott Hartnell laid a hard, but clean, hit on McDonagh that resulted in the Flyers’ first goal of the series. Every Flyers’ player is making it a priority to hit McDonagh when he has the puck, especially in the corners in the Rangers’ own zone. McDonagh should be used to this, as he was always being hit hard by other team’s better players during the regular season.
McDonagh was voted the team MVP by the players, the first person not named Henrik Lundqvist to win that award in a long time. It was well deserved by McDonagh, as he developed into one of the league’s best two-way defenseman. He set career highs in all offensive categories and still was a force as a shutdown defenseman. He also become a force on the Rangers’ power play unit thanks to coach Alain Vigneault.
But since coming back from his injury, McDonagh has looked shaky. It could be that he is just shaking off some rust, but the Rangers don’t have time for him to shake the rust off. Without McDonagh playing at his usual elite level, they will not be able to beat the Flyers.
While it is true that other defenseman like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have stepped up so far this series, the Rangers can’t afford to have McDonagh not play well. He is the best player on the team and without him this team goes nowhere. McDonagh has to elevate his play, and he must do it in Game 4.