The New York Rangers have an awesome defensive corps. All six defensemen play outstanding positional hockey, making subtle plays that go a long way to help their team win a hockey game. The majority of attention goes to Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, and rightfully so. They are the stars of the defensemen, but there is one more player who is having an amazing playoffs: Marc Staal.
Staal has had a rough couple of years due to various injures. Two years ago he missed the entire first half of the season because of a concussion suffered at the hands of his brother, Eric Staal. Last season, Staal suffered a gruesome eye injury that forced him to miss the majority of the shortened season, and 11 out of the Rangers’ 12 playoff games. Then this year, Staal suffered another concussion, sidelining him for a couple of weeks.
All that is in the past for Staal, who is now playing unbelievable hockey during the biggest time of the year. Coach Alain Vigneault stated before the Rangers’ second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins that he has extreme confidence in Marc Staal, especially going against the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Staal is the Rangers’ biggest defenseman at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds and has a huge reach. He has great poke checks and is always standing people up at the blue line. He also has the ability to jump into the rush, something he is doing more this year because of the change in styles. Staal has done that a lot in these playoffs, even scoring a goal in Game 3 in the first round. He also has a +/- of +7 meaning he is rarely on the ice when the Rangers give up goals.
As teams get deeper into the playoffs, they rely heavily on their defensemen, especially the top pairs. For the Rangers, McDonagh and Girardi are going to be logging heavy minutes. Having Staal playing at the top of his game gives the Rangers the flexibility to put Staal on the ice, even when they would like to have McDonagh and Girardi out there. Staal is having an excellent playoffs, even if it is going unnoticed.