Power Puempel and Hero Holden, are they for real?
Last night the Rangers were powered to victory by two very unlikely candidates, Matt Puempel and Nick Holden. The question begs to be asked, is what they’re doing legitimate?
It was a little bit of skill and little bit of luck that netted 23 year old forward, Matt Puempel not only his first multiple point game, multiple goal game, and hat-trick in his young NHL career. His first came off a centering feed that was kicked in by a Coyotes’ defenseman. Puempel then deftly deflected the next two to complete the feat, all on the power play.
Watch all three goals courtesy of the NY Rangers twitter account below.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 30, 2016
For the former 2011 1st round pick, it was his 5th point in the last 4 games and easily the best stretch of his career. He now has 6 points with the Rangers, playing mostly 4th line minutes just under 10 a game. Of his 5 goals, 3 came in one night and all on the PP. His lone assist was an even strength helper.
Initially when the Rangers claimed Puempel off waivers, it occurred after Mike Zibanejad broke his leg. At the time, I called it a depth move at best. Most recently, I’ve been screaming to scratch or remove him off the PP… I’m looking pretty wrong right now.
Puempel is a natural goal scorer, thanks to his high-end shot and vision. He is also a good passer, and a quick skater. Although his defensive game needed quite a bit of work when he originally arrived in Binghamton back in 2012, he has put the time in to improve and is no longer as much of a liability. He has both the skill and drive required to have a good career as top-six NHL forward.
Now the question appears, can he continue to be a factor for the Rangers this season? The answer is yes, but we need to keep our expectations in check since he’s only playing 4th line minutes and PP time.
While Puempel seems to be solidifying his spot more than Marek Hrivik, Brandon Pirri, or Oscar Lindberg, he could still be a scratch once Zibanejad, Rick Nash, and Pavel Buchnevich return. The good news is, with the NHL trade deadline and expansion draft looming, Puempel could be a real factor for the Rangers sooner rather than later.
Seriously, did ANYONE see this coming? You’re lying if you said yes. Things started out ok for Nick Holden with assists in each of the Rangers first two games. He finished with 3 helpers in the first 10 contests, but his defense was leaving somethings to be desired.
In fairness, Holden was adjusting to a new team, system, and being bounced around with different partners. He eventually settled in with Marc Staal and is flourishing. In his last 28 games, he has 7 goals, 10 assists, for 17 points. His current hot streak has 3 goals and a helper in the last 2 games. Who is this guy?
When the Rangers acquired him, many fans, including myself didn’t think much of it. Adrian Dater who covered Holden extensively tweeted this out as well.
Avs dump Nick Holden to Rangers for 4th round pick. He’s their problem now
— Adrian Dater (@adater) June 25, 2016
Yet, here we are and Holden might easily be our 2nd best defenseman. Patrick Roy his former coach told Alain Vigneault, “You just got one of my better defensemen”. At one point I thought to myself, “no wonder Colorado is a mess.” Looking back, maybe Roy quit because the Avs don’t know how to evaluate defensemen.
I’ve reached out to Adrian Dater for his insights on why Holden is playing so well and here’s what he said:
I think a change of scenery jolted him in right way, like his first year here. But I think it’ll tail off some https://t.co/TQmHjHVu7R
— Adrian Dater (@adater) December 30, 2016
The bottom line is this…Holden is 29 years old and has one year left on his contract. The reality is that due to Girardi’s and Staal’s no move clauses, the Rangers will likely lose him to expansion.
Jeff Gorton has some work to do before the NHL trade deadline to acquire another top 4 blue liner, preferably one who is right handed. For now though, Hero Holden has stabilized at least one pairing on defense with Marc Staal. Without a doubt, Holden is the real deal for the Blueshirts…at least for the rest of this season.