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Playoffs 2013Rangers enjoying Moore depth on defence

Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 | 04:28 PM

Categories: New York Rangers, Playoffs 2013, WAS vs NYR, Washington Capitals

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John Moore was acquired by the Rangers in the trade that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) John Moore was acquired by the Rangers in the trade that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Defenceman John Moore, acquired in the Marian Gaborik trade, has become an important part of a New York Rangers roster that's suddenly not looking quite as thin.
By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports

NEW YORK -- Even when he was down to one good eye, Marc Staal saw something from day one in John Moore.

"He's smart and quick," said Staal. "I was excited when I saw him play his first game, knew he was going to be a great player."

The Blue Jackets no longer thought so, apparently. Almost four years after making him the 21st player taken in the 2009 draft, they included Moore with Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett in the trade deadline deal that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus and revived the Rangers' playoff chances.

It used to be whoever got the most talented player in a trade almost invariably won it. But stars have a harder time starring in today's NHL of 40-second shifts, and depth has become everything, so the three-for-one (the Blue Jackets also got two middling Ranger prospects) isn't the sucker deal it used to be for the team needing to lengthen its lineup.

Before being banished to obscurity in Columbus, Gaborik was hard to find in long stretches on the Great White Way, too. It was time for a trade-in. The Rangers had given up two good support players in Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky to acquire Rich Nash, and weren't going to make the playoffs unless they acquired some depth, which they did in two failed No. 1 Columbus picks, Brassard and Moore.

In New York, these guys no longer have to be players the franchise is building around, only solid contributors. Brassard had a goal and an assist in Game 3 Monday night, when the Rangers cut the Caps' series lead to 2-1 with a 4-3 win. His feed to Arron Asham, who provided the Rangers the first of their two goals in the third period, was made possible by Moore quickly and smartly pinching down the boards.

Desperate times -- 10 pathetic shots and no goals on seven power plays in the first two games -- called for desperate John Tortorella measures. Moore played on the coach's first power-play unit in Game 3, a sighting that could have knocked over a Blue Jacket fan with a feather.  Such was the skinny -- easy to bump off the puck -- on the skinny Moore in Columbus, where he couldn't make a Blue Jacket blue-line that wasn't exactly composed of Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson and Bill Nyrop.

A change of scenery helps some of the time. Confidence helps most of the time.

Depth helps all the time. The Game 3 return of Staal, who had taken a deflected puck in the right eye on March 5, gave the Rangers back a first-pair-caliber defenceman, on top of Moore's emergence as a second-pair-caliber defenceman. Suddenly the dangerously thin Rangers are six deep with blue-liners, thickening the plot of a series in which New York had threatened to be overmatched.

With Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on the first pair, Staal and Anton Stralman on a second pair, and Moore playing with Michael Del Zotto on a third, Tortorella played six defencemen 17 minutes or more in Game 3.

The Caps blew a chance to take control early by taking six penalties before half the game was over. But the Rangers, who also received a goal and some big faceoff wins from centre Brian Boyle, who had returned in Game 2, had plenty left in the end, including Tortorella praise for Moore.

"He is very mobile and I think he is understanding how to use his range to the best of his ability because he takes up a lot of space," said the coach. "And he understands how hard he has to be in the corners.

"He still [needs] a lot of improvement there but I think he is picking those things up and he is making quick reads as far as where he should be on the ice.

"The last 10 or 15 games, not just starting in the playoffs, we thought our D was coming off the blue-line too early and not allowing us to create more offence. Especially with [Moore] and McDonagh, if they get caught they can recover. Moore's play on the [Asham goal] and Mac's [pinch] on the winning goal, those are two big plays."

Notes

Rick Nash, who fed Derek Stepan's winning deflection in the third period but wasn't as active as he had been in Game 2, did not skate Tuesday. The Rangers, of course, were giving no information ... The Capitals were given Tuesday off. "Rest is the best weapon," said Coach Adam Oates.

Follow Jay Greenberg on Twitter @ScribeJG.

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