With injuries currently sidelining several marquee Rangers forwards, the club has been looking to several of its depth players to step up. One player the Rangers have been counting on for offense was Brandon Pirri.
However, Pirri fell into a prolonged scoring slump at the worst possible time for the Rangers. He went 12 consecutive games without picking up a point, dating back to a power-play goal he recorded in a 7-2 win at Vancouver back on Nov. 15. Not surprisingly, the Rangers posted a mediocre 6-5-1 record in those 12 fruitless games for Pirri, averaging just 2.33 goals per game over that span after lighting up the league for the season’s first month-plus.
On Sunday though, Pirri finally broke out with two points against the New Jersey Devils — one goal and one assist — both of which came with the man-advantage.
Breaking the Slump
Pirri is known as a shooter and for his prowess on the power play, where the Rangers play him on the top unit. In the third period against the Devils, he finally rewarded the Rangers for continuing to give him minutes on the power play despite his recent struggles.
The key to Pirri’s goal, besides the fact that Ryan McDonagh got his initial point shot through traffic to the goaltender, was that he attacked the net instead of just remaining out on the perimeter. He eventually found the loose rebound in front and made no mistake, batting the puck in for his first goal in nearly a month. His reaction of looking skyward summed up the rough few weeks he has endured.
While Pirri had to wait a dozen games between points, after his goal that put the Rangers up 4-0, he only had to wait about a dozen minutes for his next appearance on the scoresheet, as he picked up an assist on Jimmy Vesey’s power-play marker that made the score 5-0.
The key to this goal was that Pirri took the shot. The quality of his shot is no secret, and it handcuffed goaltender Cory Schneider to the point that he allowed a rebound to the far side, which Vesey pounced on.
Scoring Streak Coming?
Pirri’s points might have been mostly inconsequential with respect to the final outcome of the game, as the Rangers were already up 3-0 in the third period. But for him, they surely carried all the significance in the world. His reaction after his goal is enough evidence of that. Even so, he was doing his best to maintain a positive attitude throughout his slump, citing that the law of averages would have to swing things in his favor.
Pirri this morning: “The law of averages is if you get pucks on net, you’re going to score goals. It’s just a matter of staying with it.”
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) December 12, 2016
Now that he has broken out of his slump, the hope for him and the Rangers is that he will turn this into a streak of consistent scoring. While Rick Nash is expected to come back within the next week, per his original diagnosis last week that has not changed, Pavel Buchnevich’s situation is still shrouded in uncertainty and Mika Zibanejad will still be out for awhile. Any type of ongoing production from Pirri would help mitigate those absences.
Pirri has shown in the past that he can catch fire for a long stretch of games. In the 2014-15 season, he scored 22 goals in 49 games for the Florida Panthers. Incredibly, 19 of those goals came during a stretch of 26 games he played in between January and the beginning of April.
Production at that level would be spectacular, but even if he never has a run like that again, he has shown that he can put together some consistent performances over a decent period of time. Maybe that’s coming now that he has just gone through such a drought. After all, that would fit with the law of averages.
Tom has been with The Hockey Writers for almost four years. After previously covering the LA Kings and the New York Rangers, Tom now covers the Anaheim Ducks.
While in college at Clemson University, the 2016 college football national champions, Tom wrote game summaries and feature articles for the official team website of the Greenville Drive, a Class-A minor-league baseball team and affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Tom is happy to be able to continue to fulfill his passions for sports and writing with THW.