Rangers will need to beef up against nasty Panthers squad

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The road to the Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers doesn’t get any easier as they will face a very nasty Florida Panthers team in the Eastern Conference Final.

In Florida’s last series, the Panthers flashed their claws against the Boston Bruins that included a massive brawl in Game 2 with 148 penalty minutes combined. It was so bad, the NHL had to have executives attend future games in the series to make sure things didn’t get out of hand again.

Thanks to that fight-filled contest, the Panthers’ 171 penalty minutes ranks second to only the Bruins’ 191 penalty minutes in the postseason. Florida’s eight misconducts are tops in the playoffs, which shouldn’t shock anyone since they led the League with 23 during the regular-season. For the 2023-24 campaign, the Panthers were the top penalized team with a grand total of 1,116 minutes.

In contrast, the Rangers only had 773 penalty minutes during the regular season and 102 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games to date.

Bottom line, the Rangers need to prepare for a rumble and beefing up their fourth line is an absolute must.

Related: What’s next for Rangers in Eastern Conference Final

Rangers need to beef up against Panthers

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

When the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night in Raleigh, Jonny Brodzinski was on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey. The veteran forward tips the scales at a generous 6 feet and 204 pounds, but isn’t a physical presence, relying more on his speed to disrupt plays on the forecheck.

Against a mean Panthers squad, deploying rookie Matt Rempe makes a world of sense. Especially since the Rangers have home ice advantage and will have last change for the first two games of this series.

Let’s quickly take a look at the average height and weight of each team’s lineups from their last playoff game.

FORWARDSRANGERSPANTHERSDIFF
AVG HT (inches)73.4173.080.33
AVG WT200.25196.833.42
DEFENSE
AVG HT (inches)73.6673.83-0.17
AVG WT199.5198.660.84
Rangers vs Panthers size chart (based last game lineup)

Overall, the Rangers have a sleight advantage in size. However, if you replace Brodzinski with Rempe’s imposing 6-foot-8 and 240 pound frame, the Rangers average size at forward goes to 74.08 inches (6-foot-2) and 203.16 pounds. That’s an extra inch and six pounds at the forward position, but more importantly they add a legit snarl to the lineup.

Of course, when the scene shifts to Florida, Rangers’ coach Peter Laviolette won’t be able to pick his line matchups. Enter in veteran winger Blake Wheeler, who was finally cleared to return to the lineup after a gruesome leg injury back on February 15.

“He’s full go at practice, but he’s just recently gotten to this point,” Laviolette told reporters Tuesday. “We want to make sure he’s in a position for success.”

The 37-year-old also has some decent size at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds that would help on the fourth line. Even more significant is the offense he could add to that trio with his 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in 54 games this past season. In 65 career postseason games, he’s potted 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists).

They say the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a war of attrition. Looking at the Florida Panthers roster, it will be that and a whole lot more. That’s why the Rangers need to make sure they have what it takes when the inevitable push comes to shove.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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