The New York Rangers have relied heavily on their star players to clinch their first postseason appearance in five years. The Blueshirts’ role players, however, have started to play better since the trade deadline, and they will need that trend to continue in the playoffs.
When the Rangers made deep runs into the postseason during the 2010s, role players like Carl Hagelin, Anton Stralman, Dominic Moore, and Brian Boyle all stepped up and proved to be difference makers. Here are three current Blueshirts to watch for in the postseason:
Unfortunately, Tyler Motte, whom the Rangers acquired at the trade deadline, suffered a significant upper-body injury a few weeks ago, and it remains unclear if he will return this season. However, the Blueshirts did get Kevin Rooney back from an upper-body injury after he missed five weeks.
Rooney plays a smilier style to Motte, and he will be an important fourth-liner and penalty killer in the postseason. He is an aggressive forechecker, and while he isn’t the biggest player on the team, he plays with physicality. In addition, he is never afraid to block shots, and he has 46 in 58 games this season.
While Rooney has never finished with more than eight goals or 14 points in a season, he is a valuable defensive forward. He has six goals and five assists this season, but he has gone more than 30 games without a goal. Still, the postseason is a fresh start, and the Rangers won’t be counting on him to score much. Instead, they will rely on him to defend well and step up on the penalty kill, which is what he has excelled in during his two seasons with the Rangers.
The Blueshirts will also rely on Barclay Goodrow for their penalty kill, and the gritty forward has proven to be an excellent addition. Unlike Rooney, Goodrow has plenty of postseason experience after winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in consecutive seasons. He also scored an overtime goal for the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019.
This season Goodrow has played with physicality and helped improve New York’s penalty kill, but he has also broken out offensively. He has set a career-high in goals with 13, and in points with 31. He has also shown a knack for scoring timely goals, as he scored a game-winning goal late in the third period of a game against the Ottawa Senators in October. He also scored a game-tying goal late in the third period of a victory against the Los Angeles Kings in January.
Goodrow’s strong defensive play and physicality have made him an effective player — and made him an alternate captain with the Rangers — but he is also capable of chipping in offensively. Any production the Rangers can get from him in the postseason will be a big boost, and would provide the team with a spark.
The Rangers drafted Braden Schneider in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, and while they hope he will become a top defenseman for years to come, right now the 20-year-old is playing on New York’s third defense pair with either Patrik Nemeth or Justin Braun.
Schneider has earned a spot in the lineup by showing poise and maturity, in addition to his strength and skating ability. While he has had a few rookie moments and giveaways, for the most part, he looks like he already belongs in the NHL. When the Rangers have needed him to fill in as a top-four defenseman, he has stepped up and played well. He has also chipped in offensively, and has two goals and seven assists in 40 games this season.
Schneider’s unique skill set could make him a weapon in the postseason. Not many third-pair defensemen have the combination of strength and skating ability that he possesses, and he has the potential to be a difference-maker this postseason.
For the Rangers Moving Forward
The Rangers have already clinched home ice in the first round of the postseason, and now they will look to make a run. While it’s unclear which team they will play in the first round, they will certainly face a very good team, and the Blueshirts will need their stars to continue playing well in order to advance. However, they will also need some of their role players to rise to the occasion, and Rooney, Goodrow, and Schneider are three players with the potential to do so.
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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.