Popular Rangers rookie appearing to be odd man out to start playoffs

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

More and more, it appears like Matt Rempe will be in street clothes when the New York Rangers open the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two weeks.

The popular rookie is expected to be a healthy scratch again when the Rangers visit the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. Rempe was among three players taking part in an extended on-ice workout after the morning skate, along with defensemen Zac Jones and Chad Ruhwedel, at Little Caesars Arena.

If he doesn’t play, that make it four times in the past five games Rempe has been scratched. And he played only one, two-second shift in the lone contest he dressed for, against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

That doesn’t seem like someone who’s going to be among the 18 skaters dressing for the Rangers when the playoffs begin.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Rempe won’t be needed at some point in the postseason. He’s big, tough, strong on the forecheck, doesn’t back down and can be a tone setter. All that, plus his teammates genuinely love this kid, as does the Garden Faithful.

“He’s living his best life, right?” coach Peter Laviolette asked reporters rhetorically on Thursday.

Related: Rangers unsung hero had funny thought after Rangers brawl with Devils

Rangers recent lineup decisions could mean Matt Rempe odd man out in playoffs

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Laviolette genuinely likes Rempe and believes the 21-year-old brings more to the Rangers than fighting skills. In fact, he’s encouraged the 6-foot-8 forward to fight less and focus on being an effective, physical player.

It’s a simple message. We’re better off with you on the ice than in the penalty box or getting kicked out of games.

Rempe received his third game misconduct in 14 games this season when he was tossed from the Devils game Wednesday. In fact, each of his ejections have come against the Devils. As did his four-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler on March 11.

On Wednesday, he was reinserted into the lineup to answer the bell for that Siegenthaler hit. Rempe understood and went toe-to-toe in a rousing, marathon Main Event with Kurtis MacDermid that left each man exhausted.

It also set off a chain of events that saw each of the 10 skaters receive fighting majors and eight (four from each team) ejected. Reportedly, Rempe was so fired up, he was bouncing around the locker room during the game, providing hilarious entertainment for Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller and Barclay Goodrow, who were also kicked out of the game.

It’s worth noting that’s his only game appearance since March 26. Laviolette has promised to rotate his 13 forwards down the stretch, but has stuck primarily with Jonny Brodzinski and Will Cuylle ahead of Rempe in the rotation.

From Laviolette’s view, that makes sense with the playoffs in mind.

Brodzinski is a trusted two-way player in the bottom six. He brings speed, maturity and a bit of offense to the mix when he plays. He can also play center or on the wing, an important dose of versatility. And, if needed, he can move up the lineup, as well.

Cuylle would appear to be a no-brainer to stay in the lineup. The rookie has played every game but one this season, has scored 12 goals and leads the Rangers and all first-year NHL players with 239 hits. Laviolette has also praised Cuylle for his defensive play. Simply, he’s a really good fit on either the third or fourth line.

Each of those players has more experience than Rempe, even if Cuylle is also a rookie. And each is trusted more by Laviolette, who rarely uses Rempe for more than 5-6 minutes a game, even when he’s not spending time in the penalty box.

So, starting the playoffs with Brodzinski and Cuylle in the lineup and Rempe as a healthy scratch appears to be the path the Rangers will follow. But Laviolette is a savvy, veteran coach, one who owns a Stanley Cup ring. He’ll know when it’s time for Rempe to provide an emotional lift to the lineup.

And there very likely will be a time he is needed in the postseason. Even if not at the start.

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

Mentioned in this article:

More About: