The Tampa Bay Lightning have been the ones to beat during the 2017-18 campaign. As they prepare for a promising playoff run, they’ve acquired several tools to aid them in their quest for a Stanley Cup, including Ryan McDonagh, the former New York Rangers captain.
Ryan McDonagh Steps Into Lightning Role
Currently sitting atop the league with 89 points, there’s no question McDonagh has been traded to a very viable cup contender. The Lightning has been number one in the NHL for the majority of the season. Only the Vegas Golden Knights briefly overtook their number one spot at the end of January.
McDonagh will be greeted by many familiar faces in the Tampa Bay locker room. These include Anton Stralman, long-time Ranger Dan Girardi and former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. J.T. Miller. Miller was packaged with McDonagh in the trade and will also carry on the Blueshirt legacy in Tampa. This built-in chemistry for the Minnesota-native will undoubtedly ease his transition to his new team. Look for a deep playoff run.
Bolstering the Blue Line
In New York, McDonagh was the man of the hour. Playing an average of about 24 minutes in regular season games. He increased that to almost 26 in the post-season. When McDonagh was out, the Rangers blue line was in deep trouble. Additionally, if McDonagh was off his game the Rangers were in even more trouble. The story couldn’t be more different in Tampa Bay.
Adding McDonagh creates a more fearsome defensive left side for the Lightning. Victor Hedman already has 44 points this year, including 35 assists, making him the Lightning’s most productive defenseman. The lessened pressure on McDonagh is likely to boost his confidence on the ice. He will no longer feel that the team success rests solely on his shoulders. To aid McDonagh he will play on the second pairing with long-time friend Girardi. He said in a recent interview that McDonagh can come to Tampa Bay and just “be himself.” This is a welcome notion as the new guy in the locker room. Girardi has 12 points on the year, including nine assists.
Another comforting statistic to note as McDonagh joined the Lightning is their offensive prowess. The team holds the highest goal differential in the NHL with +57 and the most goals for with 227. There’s absolutely no pressure on McDonagh to be an offensive threat on the Lightning, a comfort for the defensive-minded 28-year-old. On the Blueshirts, McDonagh needed to be a two-way defenseman on a nightly basis. However, his offensive performance peaked in 2013-14 with 43 points. He’s been declining ever since. Luckily for him, the Lightning have a plethora of power forwards like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point. Don’t forget Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde too. With the offensive pressure lifted off McDonagh’s shoulders, he can settle into the role he plays best.
Since his arrival in 2009, McDonagh provided thrills and excitement for the Rangers. In another world, he and Henrik Lundqvist would hoist the cup under Madison Square Garden’s iconic ceiling. In reality, McDonagh will likely be kissing the legendary silver trophy under the cover of palm trees and an ocean breeze.
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