GREENBURGH, N.Y. — In the last segment of games since returning from a nagging abdominal strain, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh has looked more like himself.
“I feel like I’m using my legs a lot more, defensively and offensively, allowing myself to have good gaps [between oncoming forwards], disrupting rushes, intercepting some passes,” McDonagh said after a practice to prep for an important division game against the Devils in Newark on Thursday. “It’s been a good feeling, me playing like myself.”
McDonagh has six assists in those nine games — and 18 on the season — but stats, as usual, aren’t the whole story.
“I see it with my eyes,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s been turning the corner here, his last few games especially, in the heavy part of our schedule, I really think he looked powerful on the ice, powerful to check, powerful to get away from checking, 90 percent of the time he’s getting the tougher matchups. He’s playing with speed and a lot of determination.”
A popular stat such as Corsi, for instance, doesn’t measure speed or determination or chemistry. It measures possession: shots on goal, missed shots on goal, and shot attempts blocked toward the opposition’s net at even strength while a player is on the ice, minus the same shot attempts directed at your team’s net. McDonagh has been deep in double-digit minus territory in some games.
Indeed, the Los Angeles Kings led the league in Corsi for five years, including the Stanley Cup championship seasons of 2012 and 2014, but began to struggle and missed the playoffs two of the past three years. Shot attempts weren’t being converted into prime scoring chances or goals.
Neither Vigneault nor McDonagh are overly concerned about Corsi values.
“I’m not a big shot-attempt preacher or believer,” Vigneault said. “We have one of the most sophisticated stats packages, that has evolved through the years, that gives us breakdowns of important things we believe in. I know the shot attempts, Corsi . . . I’ve got other things I rely on. I don’t put too much emphasis on that.”
Said McDonagh: “I start a lot of D-zone shifts, so they’re going to have more shots [ against] than those players who start in the O-zone. We track quality shots. I still take a lot of pride in a good plus-minus [goals for vs. goals against], especially if the whole D-group is in the positive . . . And I think it’s been a good thing to have [Nick] Holden and I together for a while here . . . He’s a guy who talks a ton out there, we both like to talk to one another.”
n Blue notes
Henrik Lundqvist will start his fourth straight game Thursday while the Rangers will use the same lineup that beat the Ducks, 4-2, on Tuesday. Boo Nieves and Steven Kampfer will be scratched against the Devils (19-9-5, 43 points), who are 1-1 against the Rangers (19-12-3, 41) this season.