Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh isn’t used to bowing out of the playoffs early. Since the 2012 postseason, the Rangers have gone at least two rounds in the playoffs. That includes two trips to the Eastern Conference Final in 2012 and 2015 and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
This spring, New York’s cup dreams were shattered quickly by Pittsburgh. The Penguins knocked off the Rangers in just five games and to make matters worse for McDonagh, he was forced to miss the first two games of the series because of a finger injury.
As captain, McDonagh is trying to make sure another early exit doesn’t happen again in 2016-17. He and teammates Derek Stepan and Brady Skjei have been hitting the ice together in Minnesota this off-season to make sure they’re ready once the puck drops in October.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some pretty long runs, obviously, not successful as we want to be,” McDonagh said, per NHL.com. “But sometimes you kind of lose your focus on how much you need to prepare and how much it takes to get yourself in that position again. Myself, I know I’m working as hard as I can ever remember to try to get myself ready to play the way I want to play, and help to get this team where we want it to be, and where we need it to be.”
The Rangers made a few moves this off-season, but it’s hard to imagine the outside help they brought in will take them to the next level. Derrick Brassard, who led the team in goals last season, was shipped to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad, they signed Michael Grabner and Keith Yandle‘s rights were traded to Florida.
If the Rangers take a step forward next season, it’ll be because the core group of players (i.e. McDonagh, Henrik Lundqvist, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider) will all be better than they were a year ago.
“There’s a lot of guys who were part of those long runs still around, and we’re going to have good leadership with this team with the guys we’ve got coming back,” said McDonagh. “We’ve been through some somewhat good times and good runs, but also some bad times, which was just recent.”