Rangers Lose an Important Piece With Tyler Motte Injury

With the New York Rangers receiving some reinforcements back as the team gears up for the playoffs, they are without one key role player. Tyler Motte, a forward for the Blueshirts, suffered a significant upper-body injury against their April 7 shutout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Motte, a new member of the Rangers, was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline on March 21, 2022, and only participated in nine games before he was sidelined with the injury. The team had been mostly spared of serious injuries this season; in most circumstances, a majority of the injured players recovered and rejoined the lineup in decent timing. Forward Sammy Blais, of course, is still out at this point. But forwards Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney recently joined their team to beat the Ottawa Senators Saturday.

Tyler Motte New York Rangers
Tyler Motte, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Of course, there were injuries sprinkled throughout the season here and there. Yet, the timing for Motte could not be more unfortunate as his team inches closer to the postseason — and more personally, as he awaits his first point as a Ranger. The situation could be worse, though, as coach Gerard Gallant stated Motte would not miss the rest of the season. The timetable for his return is still unclear, but it certainly sounds like it will not be anytime soon (from ‘Tyler Motte out with ‘significant’ injury as Kaapo Kakko nears Rangers return,’ New York Post, 4/8/22). 

The 27-year-old jumped right into his role when he arrived on his new team. He started on the fourth line, where he brought not only depth to the roster but specifically speed and solid penalty-killing abilities. Motte’s arrival came at a crucial time while Kakko and Rooney were still absent. Though the two are also reliably penalty killers, Motte’s skillset still would have brought a profound impact.

Even with the versatility and depth that the Rangers’ roster boasts, they will miss Motte’s presence in all situations. Night in and night out, he stood out. Whether the situation was even strength or penalty killing, he contributed excellent defense. Though the sample size was small, it’s clear the Rangers are a better team with Motte in the lineup. There is an opportunistic style, consistency and sturdiness to his game that his young teammates could very well learn from.

A Closer Look at Motte’s Numbers

Since he landed in New York, the left-shot Motte has averaged almost 13 minutes a night. Prior to the trade, he averaged a little over 14 minutes a night with the Canucks, where he recorded 15 points in 49 games – seven goals and eight helpers. As mentioned, though he has yet to tally his first goal or assist, that shouldn’t label him as unhelpful.

In fact, he is only one point shy of matching his career-high for points (16 points) when he had a personal-best nine goals during the 2018-19 campaign. However, he broke his career-best for assists this season. As for other career statistics, he collected three shorthanded goals and game-winning goals. He has yet to collect a shorthanded assist but has definitely received many opportunities, as he’s quickly earned Gallant’s trust.

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With forwards chipping in defensively, netminder Igor Shesterkin’s job becomes a little less chaotic. Never mind that Shesterkin is enjoying a career season and is essentially waiting to be handed the illustrious Vezina Trophy, a little help from Rangers skaters is always welcomed. In fact, contributions in all areas up and down the lineup have made a difference for the Rangers this season, and that’s why missing Motte will hurt.

A Look Ahead for the Rangers in the Postseason

Crucial meetings against the Penguins, for example, reinforce this point. The team finds success when they limit the shots that arrive in Shesterkin’s crease, though they fully trust the 26-year-old Russian to lead them to the win column night after night. Yet, with an impending playoff series against the Penguins, the Rangers will need to lean on this system that works so well for them, especially against the pesky Penguins.

Related: Weekly Lost & Found: Pittsburgh Penguins & New York Rangers

It could be a taxing series against the Penguins, and Motte’s role would be especially useful. The Rangers recently punched their postseason ticket for the first time since their 2016-17 season, and thus, the vision of a deep Stanley Cup run comes into clearer view. At times, the Rangers have exhibited strengths in all areas needed to go far in the postseason: physicality, depth scoring, and the ability to come back from deficits.

Momentum has been the name of the game for the Rangers. They have boasted several win streaks this season and have further evaluated their success in order to build off their games. Using momentum, whether it be a goal lead during a game or a favorable record in their prospective playoff series, will be key for the young team, learning as they go along.

A player like Motte, who can quickly tilt the ice in their favor, will be ideal to have after the regular season concludes. While there is no real rush for the forward to recover as the season dwindles down, fellow trade deadline acquisitions Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp could attempt to fill Motte’s missing role with their own ample success. The return of Kaapo and Rooney allows Gallant further options for line shuffles.

Andrew Copp New York Rangers
Andrew Copp, a recent acquisition of the New York Rangers from the Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers).

Indeed Motte’s injury basically stemmed from frustration of the opponent, an imminent threat again for the Rangers as they push to be the last team standing. The four-game season series between the two clubs was an extremely physical stretch of games. Yet the Blueshirts played some of their best hockey against the Steel City Pens; their 3-1 series record agrees with this statement.

The Rangers host the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow night with another two critical points on the table. The Rangers’ offense is currently captained by Chris Kreider, who has amassed 49 goals with no signs of slowing down. Dynamic winger Artemi Panarin leads the team with 67 assists and a team-high 88 points. Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho leads his team with 33 goals and 39 assists on the season. He also takes the third category with the most points at 72 currently, so it should be quite the battle between the two teams.

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