Rangers star Artemi Panarin doesn’t really deserve playoff criticism

The New York Rangers made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, which wasn’t anything experts and the organization itself expected. However, by getting that far after missing the playoffs every year since 2017 the Rangers window to win the Cup is now wide-open.

Despite the improbable run, one player has become the focal point as to why the Rangers didn’t make it by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Artemi Panarin, who registered 16 points in 20 playoffs games is that player.

During the postseason, many took to speculate that he was playing hurt as the only way to explain his lack of scoring. The matter was made worse yesterday, when an article published in The Athletic stated GM Chris Drury was not pleased with Panarin’s performance.

Two league sources said Drury was vocally unhappy about Panarin’s play in the postseason, when he had 16 points in 20 games but not the consistent impact anyone around the Rangers hoped for or needed. If there’s a rift, Panarin could ask out, as near-impossible as it would be to move this mammoth contract.

Arthur Staple, The Athletic (Subscription Required)

Does Artemi Panarin deserve the criticism?

artemi panarin rangers
Mar 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) looks on at the face-off circle against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Rangers won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s make this clear, no matter what I write some people will hold firm that Panarin absolutely deserves the criticism. That comes with the high expectations of being one of the best offensive players in the game and having the second highest cap hit in the entire league.

Connor McDavid leads the NHL with an AAV of $12.5M to Panarin’s $11.6M.

The problem with using salary as an argument for why he should be criticized isn’t really strong. Let’s look at the top 10 cap hits in the NHL and how that player/team performed.

PLAYERTEAMCAP HIT (AAV)PLAYOFF STATSNOTE
Connor McDavidEDM1250000016 GP: 10 G – 23 ALOST TO COL (WCF)
Artemi PanarinNYR1164285720 GP: 6 G – 10 ALOST TO TB (ECF)
Auston MatthewsTOR116402507 GP: 4G – 5 ALOST TO TB (RD1)
Erik KarlssonSJS11500000DID NOT QUALIFY
Drew DoughtyLAK11000000DID NOT PLAYINJURED
John TavaresTOR110000007 GP: 3 G – 3 ALOST TO TB (RD1)
Mitchell MarnerTOR109030007 GP: 2 G – 6 ALOST TO TB (RD1)
Jonathan ToewsCHI10500000DID NOT QUALIFY
Patrick KaneCHI10500000DID NOT QUALIFY
Carey PriceMTL10500000DID NOT QUALIFY
Cap info via CapFriendly

So when looking at the top 10 cap hits in the league today, four players didn’t even qualify for postseason action. Three other players were bounced in the first round, and one was injured.

It just really isn’t a good argument as to why Panarin deserves criticism.

Panarin could’ve been better at even strength

What would be fair to say is that Panarin could’ve been better at even strength. When you dig into his 16 points, Panarin could only muster 7 of them 5 on 5 (3 G – 4 A), with no goals whenever the score was tied or close.

Is that all on Panarin? Yes and no.

A lot of credit needs to also go to the opposing defenses, who specifically game planned to shut him down. Against the Penguins, Panarin was a point a game player (7 GP, 3 G – 4A) including a Game 7 OT winner. When the competition stiffened versus the Hurricanes, who openly said they strategized to shut him down, he managed just 4 points in 7 games. In the 6 game ECF loss, Panarin recorded 5 points with 2 coming in the Game 1 romp.

Not terrible, but not like anything the Breadman did in the regular season scoring 96 points in 75 games. Which led to the speculation about an injury.

Technically, that speculation was right, it just wasn’t the right player. When the playoffs ended, it was revealed that Panarin’s center, Ryan Strome was dealing with a linger lower-body injury that impacted his groin and abdomen.

“During the second half of the year, I was dealing with the same thing and missed a couple of games,” Strome said. “The playoffs it got worse the last two rounds. I was dealing with a pelvis injury that effects both groins and your abs. It felt like I was playing with a knife in my stomach.”

There’s still no word if Strome has had surgery to repair the issue.

Strome, finished this postseason with just 2 goals on a whopping 49 shots. That’s a ridiculously low 4.1 shooting percentage, a far cry from his 13% during the regular-season. Just how many more points would Panarin have had if his center was healthy in the playoffs.

That’s why I find it hard to criticize Panarin. Taking these factors into consideration, I’m even impressed with his overall performance.

As to Chris Drury being “vocally unhappy” with Panarin, I take that with a grain of salt.

One can read that and picture Drury tossing tables while breaking drinking glasses in anger. Another way to read it is Drury identifying Panarin’s low output at even strength and looking to find a way to rectify it next season’s playoffs.

At the end of the day, everyone is going to have a different opinion on Panarin’s postseason performance. On which side of the coin you land is likely dependent on how you see things.

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