As the playoffs draw closer Alain Vigneault is going to have to sort out his ideal lineup. In all likelihood, this lineup will more than likely contain Tanner Glass to be a physical deterrent to Montreal.
Glass may be part of the present, but he will not be part of the Rangers’ future as he completes his three-year, $4.35 million contract prior to unrestricted free agency. Buchnevich, of course, is projected as a significant part of the franchise’s future as he completes his first season in North America with an upside still as high as the sky.
But the Russian rookie’s time probably is not now with Round 1 approaching. Even as Vigneault — who has prematurely gone into his playoff mum-mode, revealing nothing of his thoughts about or plans for the rematch of the 2014 conference final won in six by the Rangers — likes to jam as many skilled players into the lineup as possible, the tournament represents the time for jam.
I bolded what I thought was important. I also bolded what I thought was funny. Vigneault “jamming as many skilled players into the lineup as possible” is something his twin Analytic Vigneault might do, sure. But the current coach of the Rangers looked at one of the most talented forward groups in the NHL and still managed to get grit in. He’s routinely benched rookies in favor of under preforming veterans. Don’t even get me started on the defense.
Sitting Buchnevich is the most likely outcome here, and it’s sad because it’s exactly the opposite of what the Rangers need.
Let me show you the Rangers opponent: Montreal, a team with spectacular possession, scoring chance differential and expected goal metrics. Montreal, a team with one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Price has a stellar 2.20 GAA to go along with his 92.4 SV% so far this year. His past two years in the postseason (24 total games played) Price is sporting a 2.29 GAA with a 91.9 SV%. With Montreal’s scoring chance and possession advantage added to Price’s presence, the Rangers are going to need all the goals they can come by. They’re going to need all the offense they can come by. And they’re going to need players who can generate that offense.
Buchnevich has a 2.34 P/60, good for fifth on the team. Only J.T. Miller (2.56), Chris Kreider (2.48), Mats Zuccarello (2.38) and Kevin Hayes (2.36) have higher P/60’s. And none of them needed to deal with being thrown on the fourth line for a fair stretch of the season.
Jimmy Vesey, for the record, has a 1.47 P/60 with mostly top-nine minutes. This isn’t mean to disparage Vesey (who is a fine player). Nor is this meant to be a comparison between the two. Both are part of the team’s future (Buchnevich more so, although the media will tell you otherwise) and both should be playing. But the conversation to get Glass in the lineup comes between Vesey and Buchnevich in the coach’s mind. Buchnevich has 20 points in 39 games, by the way. Vesey has 26 in 78.
Glass has 69 points in 509 career NHL games. He has TWO playoff points in 60 career games.
I can already hear the defenders talking about how Glass isn’t here to bring offense. They also can’t tell you what it is exactly he is here to bring. Grit? Toughness? A hand in the face? A guy to fight another team’s enforcer? You tell me how that makes a difference. In the nine games Glass has been in the lineup, team’s have taken liberties against the Rangers even with him on the ice. It doesn’t stop anything. It doesn’t send a message. It doesn’t do anything tangible. Stop it.
This isn’t about Glass, though. It’s never been about Glass. He’s a great guy and a better teammate. I can’t imagine having him around the locker room would be a bad thing at all. His inclusion will be a major problem, but it’s not his fault. It’s the coaches fault.
The defense is going to be an issue. Dan Girardi is still going to be a top pairing defenseman. Brendan Smith is going to be on the third pairing. The Rangers need all the help they can get.
Sitting Buchnevich is not the answer. Especially because there’s a thought he’s not a “now piece.”
If he isn’t a now piece, no one is.