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Rangers coach David Quinn bemoans poor defense in loss to Capitals

Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo sets for a face-off

Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo sets for a face-off against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Rangers coach David Quinn made it clear after Friday’s 5-2 road loss to the Washington Capitals that he didn’t think much of his team’s defensive effort in that game.

“We’ve got to play defense,’’ Quinn said after the Rangers lost for the third straight time and the second time in as many nights. “I mean you have to play defense. And it's frustrating, because I thought we were making some strides in that area, but when the game starts, it's got to be a big piece of you, and when the game is over, are you evaluating yourself and asking yourself, 'did I play good defense tonight, and was I committed to playing good defense tonight?'’’

As is his way, Quinn made some in-game changes that reflected how he felt about what he was seeing. He dropped rookie Kaapo Kakko to the third line because he thought the 18-year-old, playing in his first NHL back-to-back, “looked tired.’’ And the coach benched defenseman Tony DeAngelo, playing him two shifts in the second period and none in the third. Asked about it later, Quinn wouldn’t explain why he benched DeAngelo, simply calling it a “coach’s decision’’ and adding, “as a team, we just didn’t defend well.’’

DeAngelo, who missed the first half of the preseason as a restricted free agent before signing a one-year, $925,000 contract, played 8:09 in Friday’s game and he was a minus-2, which dropped his plus/minus to -6 on the season, the worst on the team and among the worst in the league. And though many people don’t assign much value to the plus/minus statistic anymore, being among the worst in the league in any statistical category is not  good.

DeAngelo didn’t talk to the media after Friday’s game, but earlier in the week he spoke to Newsday and admitted he hasn’t gotten off to the start he’d hoped.

“There's lots of room for improvement, but I'm kind of kind of 50-50 on how I feel about it so far,’’ he said. “It hasn't been, in my opinion, bad. But it hasn't been where I want it to be.’’

DeAngelo admitted he doesn’t particularly like the plus/minus statistic, which generally doesn’t favor offensive defensemen like him, who play on the power play (you don’t get a plus for a power play goal) and who may play in end-of-game, goalie-pulled situations (you do get a minus for allowing an empty-net goal, presuming it is even-strength or shorthanded). But he owned his number, he said, and he promised he is working to improve it.

“You don't want to be on the ice for goals against; you want to be on the ice for goals for,’’ he said. “I look at it as it's a five-man unit. Everybody plays a role in each goal. Sometimes, maybe you don't,  maybe just a bad bounce or whatever. (But) I'm not going complain about the stat because I'm minus(-6). Because last year, I could say, Oh, I was plus six and, and like the stat.’’

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