Rangers head coach John Tortorella admitted he didn’t know much about defenseman John Moore when the Rangers acquired him at the trade deadline in a package from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Marian Gaborik.
A little over a month later, Moore has become a mainstay on the Rangers blueline, averaging close to 12 minutes a night.
“I’m not trying to look back too much, but I think I’ve come a long way, I guess,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “Confidence, especially for a young player, is a big thing. Everyday I’m getting more and more comfortable, but again, I’m not looking back. I’m just looking forward. I’ve been fortunate with the opportunities I’ve gotten.”
Moore has made the most of them since arriving in New York, along with Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett. In 13 regular season games with the Rangers, Moore had a goal and five assists. He had played just 17 games this season with the Blue Jackets, where he posted just one assist. In his first full season last year, Moore had two goals and seven points in 67 games.
Tortorella said Moore is beginning to better understand the defensive-side of the game.
“Just positioning, period,” he said. “It’s such a such a tough position to play, just to pick up quick thoughts, quick reads as far as where he should be on the ice.”
Moore said being strong in his own end has been his focus since he arrived in New York.
“I don’t know what it is, but I think defensively it all starts there,” said Moore, who has posted a plus-9 rating with the Rangers after posting a minus-28 in 84 career games in Columbus. “To earn opportunities as a young player, you need to be trusted defensively … That’s really been my only focus, is making sure I’m strong and good defensively.”
Moore, 22, had his first real taste of power play time in Game 3 Monday night, when he logged 5:37 with the man advantage. He said he hadn’t played much on the power play since his days in junior hockey.
“To get a chance like that is huge for me, and anything I can do to help this team win, and in the playoffs, power plays especially, that’s a huge part of it all,” he said.
Moore’s play has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. Like Tortorella, many said they didn’t know much about the defenseman prior to his arrival in New York. But he’s opened plenty of eyes throughout the locker room.
“His skill impresses me, the way he skates. He moves the puck and has a really nice shot as well,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “He has everything you need to be a great defenseman. I think his skating ability is really what stands out. You forget how young he is, but when you’re in here you don’t really think about age; you’re in here because you deserve to be here.”
Fellow defenseman Marc Staal, who played with Moore for the first time last night, said he noticed Moore’s potential from his first game in New York.
“The mobility and the way he skates — everyone’s talked about it,” Staal said. “You can see his ability out there. He’s smart, quick. I honestly never seen him play or knew who he was when we got him. I was very excited when I saw him play his first game. I knew he was going to be a great player.”
Moore has been effective in his first three postseason games, averaging 17:28 of ice time per game, with seven shots.
He said he got “goosebumps” prior to the start of last night’s game, his first postseason matchup in Madison Square Garden.
“That was crazy,” he said with a smile. “Jumping on the ice, everyone going bananas … The place was rocking.”
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