For a decade, the New York Rangers have been defined by one man:
For as he went, so, too, did the franchise.
Even though that fact has not changed--and will not change in this playoff season--the Rangers and their fanbase are potentially getting a glimpse of the organization’s future in the persons of Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath.
“To have guys get this opportunity to get more minutes, more responsibilities, I hope they like it,” Lundqvist told reporters after the Rangers’ 4-2 win in Game 2 at CONSOL Energy Center. “It’s a good opportunity for them to showcase their game. Guys are coming in here and playing really well.
“We need that right now.”
Outside of Alain Vigneault’s mid-afternoon conference call with reporters, the Rangers were off Sunday. The organization did announce the signing of 21-year old forward Malte Stromwall.
Stromwall had a slash line of 25 goals and 17 assists in 42 games this past season for AIK of Allsvenskan. In 55 career games for AIK of Allsvenskan, Stromwall recorded 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points, while adding another 14 points--nine goals and five assists--in Swedish Hockey League play.
While it remains to be seen whether or not Stromwall ever plies his trade on Broadway, the current edition of the Rangers are focused on the present. Which is a best-of-7 Metropolitan Division Semifinal series tied at one game apiece following Saturday afternoon’s 4-2 win in Game 2. Game 3 is set for Tuesday night at the Garden.
Which will likely mean more Skjei and McIlrath on the Rangers’ blue line.
Skjei and McIlrath have essentially replaced Ryan McDonagh and the struggling Dan Girardi in the lineup. McDonagh sustained a broken hand blocking a Brandon Dubinsky shot in the Rangers’ 4-2 over the Blue Jackets on Apr. 4 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Prior to the start of the playoffs, Vigneault hinted McDonagh could return if the series went long. It remains to be seen if the same is the case for Girardi.
Vigneault diagnosed the veteran with a “whole thing” ailment during his media availability Friday in Pittsburgh, when asked if Girardi had an upper or lower body injury.
Skjei essentially played in place of McDonagh, while McIlrath dressed for Girardi in Game 2.
Neither looked out of place.
Skjei has recorded one point on an assist in 36:10 spanning Games 1-2. A further examination reveals the 28th overall pick in the 2012 Draft has two shots on goal, eight hits, blocked four shots while skating 2:58 on the power play and 4:23 shorthanded in the two games in Pittsburgh.
McIlrath, the 10th pick in the 2010 Draft, recorded a shot on goal in 9:07 of ice time in Game 2, which included 36 seconds shorthanded.
“It’s so important,” Lundqvist told reporters after Game 2. “You need to in the regular season because there are so many games, you need different guys to step up. Going into the playoffs, everything steps up; it’s another level of intensity and pressure.”
You can follow NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.