Rangers legend believes Blueshirts need Matt Rempe spark in Game 2 vs. Panthers

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

After being shut out in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final by the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers legend Mark Messier believes the Blueshirts might need a jolt to their lineup. Not just a spark, but a big one, both literally and figuratively.

Messier thinks it might be time to reinsert Matt Rempe, the 6-foot-8 rookie forward, into the Rangers lineup for Game 2 on Friday at Madison Square Garden.

“Maybe they should think about getting Rempe in the lineup,” Messier said on the ESPN broadcast Wednesday after New York’s 3-0 loss.

“I’m not questioning the coach right now, but I am saying he does get in on the forecheck, he does ground and pound, he does get the crowd involved and the players do seem to follow that mindset. But right now they’re just playing, in my opinion, a little too careful.”

If Rangers coach Peter Laviolette has any notion of reinserting Rempe into the lineup, it’d likely happen at The Garden, where Rempe fires up the crowd like no other. Rempe is adored by the MSG Faithful, who go insane for his every shift.

Rempe has played seven of the 11 playoff games this spring, five of those on home ice. He’s only played twice on the road, in Games 3 and 4 at the Washington Capitals in Round 1. He was only used at home — three times — in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Not only does Rempe whip the Garden crowd into a frenzy, but Laviolette has the last change and can carefully deploy when and how it best suits the Blueshirts. Laviolette has been very careful how Rempe is used, his minutes are sheltered and he’s averaging 6:18 in ice time per game.

Related: Why Rangers ‘need more of everything’ in Game 2 against Panthers

Can Matt Rempe provide boost for Rangers if he plays in Game 2 vs. Panthers?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As Messier pointed out, Rempe gets in on the forecheck, is a massive net-front presence and could help the Rangers initiate physical play against the rugged Panthers. So, there’s substance to bringing the rookie back.

But if Rempe does play in Game 2, someone has to come out of the lineup. Filip Chytil was largely ineffective in nine-plus minutes on the third line Wednesday. Of course, Chytil was playing only his second game in more than six months following an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion and is the better threat to boost offensive production in the bottom six.

Will Cuylle moved from the third line down to the fourth in Game 1 and played fewer than eight minutes. However, he was effective with four hits, including a huge one against Aleksander Barkov late in the first period, and a breakaway scoring opportunity early in the second.

It’s unlikely Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow, Kaapo Kakko nor Alex Wennberg are coming out of the bottom six. So, it’s a dilemma for Laviolette.

The Rangers, though, were blanketed by the Panthers in Game 1 and need to win more battles and generate more offense.

“Let’s get the emotional level up,” Messier said. “It seems to be they’re playing a little too careful, a little too conservative. They’ve got to get themselves a little more emotional.”

We know where The Captain stands. It’s your move coach.

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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