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.
McDonagh is an incredible defensive player that works hard every shift. He plays the opponents body to disrupt momentum and give his team time to settle back. He's contributing more offensively and is by far the last player the rangers have to worry about. Del Zotto has looked awful for over 5 games with just recently playing how he was. Dude looked like he was in a fog!
@TheNYRBlog It's only been since the Pacioretty hit that he's been a bit out of sorts. Far too talented and hard-working to make me worry.
Never been less concerned about a player. He's a stud and its not like he's been terrible. Just less studly. I think in a few months nobody will even remember he struggled a bit.
I'm not concerned with McD, he'll be fine. And I agree with Torts, he hasn't played awful. I do love Torts' response. Torts gets a lot of crap for how we think he handles certain players, ie Kreider, Del Z (who he doesn't seem to get on enough even though he's been a poor-decision machine). But Torts has the pulse of his players. We may think he jerked Kreider around but you know he didn't let the kid go up and down again without talking to him.
I forget myself that McD is only 23 sometimes. He always composed. I just can't wait til he realized how good his puck-handling skills are. I know it sounds crazy but there are times, though rare, when he looks like Leetch, especially when he goes end to end. Kid is gonna be really special.
@boogiepicker Leetch is a tough comparison, but its not that crazy. McDs by far their best puck handling Dman, blows MDZ out of the pond. But besides MDZ not being mentioned, I think Staal is really getting his game and confidence back.
@TheNYRBlog we have nothing to be worried about with him. I mean our whole team in underachieving ...atleast the devils are too!! Haha
You're worried about McDonagh? I'd be more concerned about Del Zotto and his lack of confidence and awareness. How come no one mentioned Del Zotto's terrible pinch that lead to the second Buffalo goal the other night?
@Beckfan5 Actually I said I wasn't worried, but it's no secret he hasn't played at the level of last season.
Kid has amazing heart and that "grit: factor, not too mention he leads by example at the age of 23. He called the team out about 8 games ago about not being tough enough, and since than, he has been the toughest guy on the ice, especially in front of the net.
He is going to be something special.
Incidentally (or not), his struggles really started after he took that hit from Pachioretty. It's a little worrisome.
@rangersfan He didn't have a crisp start to the season either, after about 8-10 games he finally started playing with some confidence and looks a lot less timid on the ice. I hope the Pax hit doesn't set him back to that point again