The Rangers’ defensive pairs were once set in stone each and every night with no doubt that they were in the most effective arrangement.
Much like every other aspect of the Rangers’ season so far, suddenly there are questions about the duos that once worked so cohesively. It’ll be interesting to see where Gerard Gallant goes with his lineup decisions after the head coach jumbled it up once again mid-game before the Rangers defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime Monday night at the Garden.
Aside from the pairing of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, the other four defensemen have been mixed up in recent games. K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba were split up and then reunited, as were Braden Schneider and Libor Hajek.
Since the start of the Rangers’ four-game winning streak, Miller and Trouba, and Schneider and Hajek have skated together. After Trouba had a few rough shifts to start Monday night, however, Gallant dropped him down to the bottom pair with Hajek.
The Rangers captain’s first turnover came less than three minutes into the game and resulted in a shot on goal from Devils forward Tomas Tatar that goalie Igor Shesterkin had to save. The next one the Devils made the Rangers pay for. Another failed clearing attempt from Trouba directly led to Dawson Mercer’s 2-0 score. Later in the game, Miller’s aggressive pinch forced Alexis Lafreniere to try and cover a Devils two-on-one rush that ended with a Jack Hughes backhander and a 3-1 deficit for the Rangers.
Minimizing turnovers needs to be a goal for the whole team, but the defense as a whole could play a bit smarter, as well.
Gallant said he liked the new balance of the D pairs after he split up Miller and Trouba for a three-game stretch, but he quickly went back to it. Those two have logged the most ice time together this season at 391:37, according to Natural Stat Trick, over which they’ve been on the ice for 12 Rangers goals and 22 against.
Miller’s and Schneider’s numbers provide more of an endorsement for remaining together. In 81:09, those two have been on for five Rangers goals and only three against while barely getting out-chanced 39-38.
Vincent Trocheck recorded two points in the win over the Devils, including his sixth power-play goal of the season, which matched his total from last season. The center is one of only two NHL players, joining the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, who have registered 20-plus points and 75-plus hits this season.
This story originally appeared on NYPost