Nick Holden becoming an important, steady force on defense

Bobby Bevilacqua


Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

It seems like the biggest complaints regarding the Rangers tend to be about the defense, at least in recent years. Whether it’s the contracts, poor play or possession or something else, there tends to be an issue that is touched upon.

At the beginning of the year, all of the negativity was focused on Nick Holden. To some extent, it was deserved because Holden looked pretty shaky. Vigneault was playing him on his off side while he adapted to a new system and a new team. His possession numbers were bad and he didn’t look like the steady player that Patrick Roy lauded.

But lately, Holden has become one of the team’s most consistent and reliable defenseman for quite a stretch now. This doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had his lapses or issues at all, but those mistakes have been few and far between.

Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 29, Holden scored a huge first goal while the Rangers really weren’t playing all that well. The Rangers had little to no sustained offense through the first two periods, with almost no scoring chances. When it looked like the team would have another lackluster, unremarkable offensive performance. Holden came through with a goal on an excellent individual effort, and helped spark the come from behind victory.

That goal was his third of the season, and ha has 12 points in 26 games. In the last 20 games, Holden has tallied 10 points (2-8-10). His 12 points are one behind Brady Skjei for second on the team in points for defenseman, and his three goals are tied with Dan Girardi for the team lead in goals for defenseman. The fact that he’s chipping in points at a pretty good rate gives him even more value.

More importantly is his defensive responsibility. Holden has become one of the steadiest and reliable defensive forces on the back end outside of Ryan McDonagh. As a defensive defenseman, people say that if you don’t hear their name on the TV broadcast, they’re doing a good job. That’s Holden to a T. Rarely a mistake, nothing really remarkable or flashy, but almost always defensively responsible. It’s nice to know that when Ryan McDonagh needs a break, you can throw Marc Staal and Nick Holden on the ice and not be worried at all.

It’s no secret that the Rangers have some pretty big issues on the blue line. Some players aren’t performing at the same level that they used to, there’s a lack of true puck movers which is hurting the speed and transition game, and the right side of the defense is relatively weak. But surprisingly, Holden is one of the reasons that the back end hasn’t completely fallen apart.

I feel like the Rangers would have a hard time getting a big name defensive player at the trade line that would help alleviate their problems. Jeff Gorton would have to give up a ton of assets, which he may be hesitant to give up after last year’s trade deadline debacle with Eric Staal. If Gorton could snag another glue guy like Nick Holden, the Rangers might be okay defensively moving forward.

Posted on December 5, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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