Matt Rempe must learn to keep reckless play in check for Rangers

Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rempe has become a cult hero for New York Ranger fans over the past few weeks. It’s hard to miss him on the ice. Or miss the “Rem-Pe!” chants in the stands. The 6-foot-8, 241-pound bruiser from Alberta has made a name for himself in just 10 NHL games.

Whether that is becoming the first NHL player to make his debut in an outdoor game, subsequently fighting heavyweight Matt Martin on his first shift, seemingly rejuvenating the NHL heavyweight belt, or scoring the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on national television.

But it has been his two games against the New Jersey Devils that have caused controversy around Rempe.

In his Hudson River Rivalry debut, Rempe was assessed a five-minute major and a match penalty for a hit to the head on Devils forward Nathan Bastian on his first shift. He was then challenged by Jonas Siegenthaler, who was promptly one-punched to the ice.

Bastian has not played another game since the hit.

Then on Monday, after the Rangers took a 2-0 lead against the Devils near the end of the second period, in part because Rempe’s big frame was screening goalie Kaapo Kähkönen, Rempe delivered a dangerous elbow to the head of Siegenthaler, who is expected to miss extended time with a concussion. Rempe received another five-minute major and match penalty. For those keeping score at home, that’s two games against the Devils and two ejections.

Though the Rangers have killed off both major penalties, there are concerns about Rempe’s reckless play. He is so much bigger than most of the other players on the ice, so the 21-year-old winger has to do a much better job checking opponents more safely and not putting his team in short-handed circumstances for an extended period.

The elbow against Siegenthaler led to Rempe’s first suspension, and it was hefty. Four games, including key ones against the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Related: Lightning coach is right, Rangers are ‘pain in ass’ to play against

Matt Rempe must learn to play under control for Rangers

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
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In each instance, Rempe seemed to be completely out of control when coming in to make the hit, causing dangerous plays. It’s expected that a young kid getting his first shot at making and staying on an NHL roster to play with adrenaline. But with how big a player Rempe is, this lesson has to be learned quickly before more players get injured.

“We talked to Matt before that hit,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said before the 1-0 win over the Hurricanes on Tuesday. “We talked to him about his game, on the ice, his physicality, what he brings to the team. It’s a young player and we look to always talk with him and teach him. It’s a learning process. He’ll serve the games (during his suspension) and move on.”

It doesn’t appear that Rempe set out to elbow Siegenthaler in the head when he lined the him up. But Rempe has a lot of maturing to do if he wants to continue to have a long NHL career.

Devils interim coach Travis Green said after the game that he believed Rempe had “intent there to injure” Siegenthaler. That’s debatable.

Fortunately for Rempe, he plays on the same team as Jacob Trouba, one of the best at delivering big hits in the League. While you will get various opinions on the Rangers captain depending on whom you ask, Trouba has learned how to toe the line and throw massive and clean hits in his NHL career.

The Rangers must hope that Rempe not only learns his lesson about reckless play during this four-game suspension, but that he doesn’t get gun shy from doing all the good things he brought to the Rangers in his first 10 games.

Rempe gives the Rangers an extra bit of bite that can help them come playoff time, especially if the road to the Stanley Cup has to go through Tampa, Carolina, the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers or Boston Bruins. But he has to learn how to control his body when throwing a hit, otherwise it can not only lead to his team being short-handed but another player suffering a serious injury.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

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