Rangers have two choices for final forward spot as playoffs approach

With five games remaining on their regular-season calendar, the Rangers wake up Sunday morning five points ahead of the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division and with a points on the Bruins for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.

They still lead the entire NHL with 108 points.

Outscoring their opponents 66-47 since the beginning of March, the Blueshirts haven’t lost two in a row over that span.

Jonny Brodzinksi
Jonny Brodzinksi AP

Wins have come in all different forms, the most recent one on the backs of the bottom six, which totaled three goals in the Rangers’ 4-3 win in Detroit.

“Going into the playoffs, we need everyone,” said Barclay Goodrow, who now has three goals in four games after he scored twice on Friday. “You can’t rely on your top six every night to get the offense. It was good to be able to help.”

The 12th and final forward spot in the Rangers’ playoff lineup has seemingly come down to two fourth-line skaters — Jonny Brodzinski and Matt Rempe — who give the team two different looks whenever they play.

On one hand you have the speedy Brodzinski, who has proven capable of providing secondary scoring with a career high of 19 points in 54 games in his longest stretch as a NHL regular.

The other hand holds a chaotic power in Rempe, who has been a healthy scratch in four of the past five games and hasn’t had much of a chance to show his true capabilities under his sheltered ice time.

Just because one starts in Game 1 of Round 1 doesn’t mean that the other won’t be in if it comes to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

That being said, it’ll be important for the bottom six to be aligned in a way that sets the Rangers up for the most success. Peter Laviolette tried a different look Friday when he moved Goodrow to the left wing of Brodzinski and Jimmy Vesey, and the line certainly gave the Rangers head coach something to think about.

Matt Rempe
Matt Rempe Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“I liked it,” Goodrow said of playing on the wing. “I’ve kind of bounced around the last three years, so it’s a little change for me. I’ve been playing center pretty steady this year, so it’s nice to switch it up. I think me and Jonny are pretty interchangeable when it comes to faceoffs and playing center any given shift. Wasn’t too much different, but it was a fun time.”

Goodrow, Brodzinski and Vesey posted a 76.04 expected goals for percentage that was second to only the consistent Artemi Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Alexis Lafreniere unit, which clocked in at 81.91 xGF%.

The fourth line led all Rangers units with 10:58 of ice time, outchancing their opponents 8-5.

It’s a small sample size that will likely grow over the next week and a half, but the early signs indicate it could be a good starting point in the playoffs.

Rempe should definitely get some games over this final stretch, if for nothing else than to just see what the 6-foot-8 ½ forward looks like with a normal workload and some consistent reps.

Even if Rempe isn’t in the lineup to start the postseason, Laviolette knows how the 21-year-old rookie can impact a game.

He could be a tool in Laviolette’s back pocket.

“I think from the beginning we were just putting pucks behind them, forechecking, got some good looks off of that,” Vesey said of what was working for his line Friday. “First one maybe was a little bit fluky but the rest of the game I thought we played well, played simple and had some great looks.”


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