Jacob Trouba among Rangers unsung heroes in 1st-round sweep against Capitals

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There were major contributions up and down the New York Rangers lineup when they swept the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round. From stars to fourth-liners, and from the goalie on out, the Rangers showcased impressive depth in winning four straight against the underdog Capitals.

Certainly, the stars led the way. Though Igor Shesterkin contends he wasn’t at his best, the Rangers goalie was the backbone of this series win with a 1.75 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Mika Zibanejad had a series-high seven points (one goal, six assists). Vincent Trocheck scored a team-high three goals, had six points and won an incredible 71.2 percent of his face-offs. Artemi Panarin had two game-winning goals.

You get the idea. New York’s best players were its best players against Washington.

But who were some of the unsung heroes, perhaps flying a bit under the radar, for the Blueshirts in Round 1?

Related: Next Rangers opponent could decide Matt Rempe’s lineup fate moving forward

Unsung heroes for Rangers in opening-round playoff series win against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Matt Rempe — Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rempe

OK, Matt Rempe doesn’t exactly ever fly under the radar. Everything the 6-foot-8 rookie does is, well, big.

But has anyone in the Stanley Cup Playoffs who averages six minutes a game like Rempe does had more of an impact than the Rangers popular forward?

That answer would be: No.

Straight out of a Hollywood script, Rempe scored New York’s first goal this postseason, helping blow the roof off Madison Square Garden with how the sold-out crowd reacted to their hero’s huge Game 1 moment.

He didn’t need to score the rest of the series to make an impact. Rempe led the Rangers with 18 hits, and knocked Trevor van Riemsdyk out of the series with a massive hit in Game 3. Plus the 21-year-old was smart, distracting the Capitals tough guys, but never giving in to fight Tom Wilson nor Dylan McIlrath since the Rangers were firmly in control of the series.

Alexis Lafreniere

Alexis Lafreniere was one of eight skaters on the Rangers not to score a goal in the series. But Lafreniere’s fingerprints were all over this series sweep.

The 22-year-old led the Rangers with four assists and was tied for third with four points. He skated hard, was aggressive on the forecheck 5v5 and had three power-play points despite being on the second unit.

Lafreniere’s physicality played a big role in the series, too, though he somehow was credited with only eight hits. One of them was a game-changer. Lafreniere blew up Vincent Iorio in Game 1, creating a turnover which led directly to a Panarin goal. That hit also kayoed the Capitals defenseman for the rest of the series with an upper-body injury.

Barclay Goodrow

Highly respected in the Rangers dressing room and one of the true leaders of this team, Barclay Goodrow is often flying under the radar since his is not a sexy game. But those two Stanley Cup rings he earned mean something, and he’s led by example so far in these playoffs.

Goodrow played a massive part on the Rangers PK in Round 1 and was a pain in the neck with Jimmy Vesey and Rempe on the forecheck 5v5. He even had three points (one goal, two assists) in four games after recording 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 80 regular-season games.

Good on Goodrow for jumping into the spotlight with a game-winning shorthanded goal in Game 3, too.

Jacob Trouba

The Rangers captain was “demoted” late in the season to a third pairing with Erik Gustafsson, but never complained about the move. Instead, he played a terrific first-round series, blocking a team-high 21 shots in four games, ranking second with 17 hits and chipping in with two assists, while averaging just under 20 minutes in ice time per game.

Trouba was a big part of the Rangers’ penalty kill success, and also tied Adam Fox with a team-best plus-four plus/minus mark.

In Game 2, he and Ryan Lindgren helped the Rangers close out a 4-3 victory by playing the final 2:48 after the Capitals pulled goalie Charlie Lindgren for the extra attacker.

And with the Trouba decision, Braden Schneider moved up to play with K’Andre Miller, with two younger defensemen teaming to form an excellent second pairing. If anything, the Rangers appear even deeper with their defense pairings now.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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