During his fourth season as a Ranger, defenseman Ryan McDonagh's offense blossomed. He had 14 goals and 43 points in 77 games before injuring his shoulder in Vancouver and sitting out the last five games.
McDonagh is still spending more time on ice than any other Blueshirt, playing 26:07 per game and seeing action in all situations, but has not been on the scoreboard in the five playoff games.
"I haven't produced offensively and I've taken the approach of making sure that I'm strong in my own end," McDonagh said yesterday before the Rangers headed to Philadelphia with a chance to oust the Flyers in Game 6 and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals against Pittsburgh.
"In the last couple games," McDonagh said, "I've definitely felt better with the puck, hands-wise and decision-making. I'm not trying to do much out there, just really focus on being tough to play against, making simple plays, making good outlet passes, letting our forwards use their speed up front."
To be sure, the Rangers' defense has risen to the occasion, allowing only 10 goals (including one empty-netter) to the Flyers in five games.
"When we first looked at this team, we saw they scored a lot of goals in front of the net," McDonagh said, "and I think we've done a pretty good job of eliminating their second and third whacks, especially on the power play. It's an area we're going to have to continue. We've done a pretty good job of not allowing rebounds to find their sticks."
McDonagh not only has battled in the Stanley Cup playoffs but competed in the Olympics with Team USA for the first time in 2014. He understands the intensity level required and said that for Game 6, he is thinking like the opponent.
"I try not to think that there is another opportunity [for the Rangers in Game 7]. You've got to approach it as this is our last shot at it, too," he said. "You understand what's at stake for them. You almost try and put yourself in their shoes, see what their mindset, what their mentality is, and know you somehow ramp your game up. You wrap that situation up in your head and know you've got to go above and beyond that. This is a team that has proven they can come back. They're not going to go down easy."
The Rangers should know the landscape, having lost 11 straight games after taking a lead in a playoff series. But in franchise history, when they have led 3-2, they are 10-5 in Game 6.
"There's this theory that the last one to win is the hardest," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's probably true, because it permits you to move on, so there's probably more desperation from both teams -- the team that can end their season and the team [that] wants to pursue their season."
In the case of the Rangers, McDonagh said: "Everybody on this team feels like they have more to give."
Notes & quotes: Rick Nash, with 23 shots, is tied for fourth in the playoffs with teammate Brad Richards and Chicago's Patrick Sharp but hasn't scored. "He's due," Vigneault said. "I have, and his teammates have, a lot of confidence in him. Sooner or later, those [shots] are going to go in." . . . In Game 5, J.T. Miller stepped in for Dan Carcillo, who played both games in Philadelphia. Carcillo could dress for Game 6 . . . The Rangers are 1-for-the-last-20 on the power play, but Carl Hagelin predicted: "I think we'll get a goal [Tuesday night]. It's just a matter of time. Marty [St. Louis] would've had one last game, but there was the quick whistle."