So after watching the Rangers a little more closely for two playoff rounds now, we ask ourselves what to make of Ryan McDonagh.
A few times in these playoffs, and again last night, I see a loose puck, behind the Rangers' rush or forecheck, and an opponent ready to pounce, and I think "Breakaway opportunity!" The race develops, and I see this Ranger wearing #27 effortlessly skate down the puck/opponent. His stride is smooth, assured, but not stately, just fast. A micro-second later, my mental Rolodex spits out that #27 is Ryan McDonagh. And I'm elated and crushed, concurrently.
The race actually didn't develop, but aborted. A guy that big shouldn't move that fast. That's what impresses me more than anything. And there are other obvious matters to consider, like his offensive production. He's not eye-catching like P.K. or Erik Karlsson in that regard, but he's so mobile, so confident with the puck, he gets it on net, scores a lot that way, or gets assists.
But it's the mobility, again, that impresses me, like when he jumps into the rush, or tries to sneak in back-door like Andrei Markov does. Heady, mobile, skillful.
And I start to think about what could have been, what a pairing that would be with him on P.K.'s left, but then I wonder. Would that have been too much of a good thing on the same pairing? Do you want to spread out that talent on two different pairings? Would one puck be enough for both of those guys on the ice at the same time?
I tended to think of Ryan McDonagh as a very skilled, smart steady-eddie. A guy who's reliable, dependable, big and tough enough, that won't get you in trouble. The kind of guy the Sens were looking for when they traded for Marc Methot. And that's just selling him short. He's not a defensive guy who can skate and who can handle the puck, but would defer to a puck-mover. He's an all-round excellent defenceman, the archetypal two-way All-Star defenceman.
I bow to you, Glen Sather. The polls have closed, the results are in, and it seems you've won this one.