Considering the physical state of the defensemen of the New York Rangers, the group may not have lasted another round had the team gotten past the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers began their quest for the Stanley Cup with 13 consecutive one-goal games, winning nine of them. The intense and rigorous contests apparently took their toll on the club’s blue-liners, as no less than four of the top six were playing with injuries suffered in the postseason.
After New York’s Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay at home, it was revealed that captain Ryan McDonagh was playing with a broken right foot. The injury occurred in the fourth game of the series, and the 25-year-old missed the first 12:41 of the decisive seventh contest as he waited for the treatment to take effect.
“I went off (to the locker room) before the start of the game, we tried some stuff in between and then I went off again and I had to get the whole foot and leg basically taped up again,” McDonagh told the New York Daily News. “We tried another solution, I came back and it was better, good enough to play a regular shift and feel like I could make a difference.”
McDonagh saw only 17:33 of ice time in Game 7, his lowest amount in 19 contests this postseason. It marked only the second time the native of St. Paul, Minnesota played fewer than 20 minutes in the playoffs, the first being Game 2 of the conference final, when he spent 19:38 on the ice.
He expects to have more X-rays of his foot taken next week and will remain in a boot and on crutches for another month before undergoing a re-evaluation. The injury forced McDonagh to adjust his playing style to the best of his ability in order to remain effective on the ice.
“It was tough. I really had to simplify, had to be pretty passive in my gap to make sure that I wasn’t getting beat as often,” he told the Daily News. “Obviously, I couldn’t be as aggressive offensively as I wanted to be and you need to be in order to create and give us a chance to win. I tried my best and the guys were very supportive in helping me out.”
Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 1, Keith Yandle suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in Game 2 of New York’s first-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The injury likely played a part in a lack of offense from the 28-year-old, who notched just one point in his next seven games before collecting nine over his last 10 contests.
“It took some time to kind of heal,” Yandle told the newspaper. “I think when we had a few days rest there to get better, get healthy, the longer we went, it got better and better. I was as close to 100 percent in this last series.”
Two other defensemen were ailing in the playoffs, and both required surgery. One was Marc Staal, who suffered a hairline fracture in his left ankle late in the regular season, had a bone chip removed on Thursday and is expected to be ready for training camp in September.
“It was just a frustrating, kind of annoying thing,” Staal said. “It was right around where some ligaments were running, so it was just a thing where when I kept playing on it, it just kept swelling and it wasn’t really healing. So we were just freezing it through all the playoffs.”
Rounding out the skating wounded was Dan Girardi, who suffered a sprained MCL during the conference final. The 31-year-old on Thursday underwent a successful bursa excision, a procedure that removed fluid that built up in and around his ankle.
Throw in Kevin Klein, who missed the Pittsburgh series with a broken arm, and the Rangers had nearly their entire blue line ravaged by injuries this postseason. But all five surely would have just kept marching toward the ultimate goal had New York advanced to the Final. That’s just how hockey players are programmed.