Filip Chytil, Cap(s) or No Cap(s)?

The looming potential of Filip Chytil returning to the Rangers lineup has been an extremely exciting thought to what’s been an uplifting week or two for the fan base. Given the severity of Chytil’s injury and how much time he’s missed as a result, it’s been quite encouraging to know that he’s back with the team and returned to practice as a full participant. On top of that, per Larry Brooks of the NY Post on the eve of Game 1, Round 1, it was noted that Chytil was a standout in those Rangers skates. 

With how valuable a player Filip Chytil is, it’s so easy from a fan perspective to beg for his instant return to the Rangers lineup. However, the severity and history of his injury bear constant reminder that the organization needs to be extremely careful in their decision to put him in a playoff game day lineup. As fantastic as he may look in practice, it all goes to waste if one big hit from an opposing heavyweight sets him back to square one. This isn’t just about hockey, this is about the well-being of Chytil’s long term physical health.  

That being said, the Washington Capitals may not be the right opponent for Filip Chytil to make his return to hockey. We talked about how challenging it can be making a return after so much time in the playoffs in general; But after seeing how Game 1 went, it’s only further proven that patience may be of the most importance. Through sixty minutes of play, the Capitals registered 20 hits and while he was only credited for two of them, Tom Wilson had a couple of significant collisions with Mika Zibanejad. 

As far as the 82 game season went, the Washington Capitals averaged just under 23 hits per game (22.93) for a total of 1,880 across the year. Excluding the Rangers, the only other team in the division with a higher hit tally currently in the playoffs is the New York Islanders. The conference as a whole on the other hand, is a very different story seeing as the Panthers, Maple Leafs and Bruins finished top three in the league in that category. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here, but saving Chytil’s return for a more favorable match-up, ideally later on in the postseason may be the right move. For what it’s worth, Carolina finished dead last in the league with a total of 1,384 hits, averaging 16.88 a game. Although, it was Jesper Fast that caught Chytil with the hit that kept him out for the season. 

Furthermore, this series is far from over and there is still plenty of work to be done before this team should even consider looking ahead. Regardless of the situation, there’s going to be risk with getting Chytil back in action but given the opponent, the success the fourth line had in Game 1 and the hopes for a long playoff run, the Rangers should look to go business as usual as long as it’s working. It’s not a secret that this is among the more lopsided Round 1 match-ups and as such, the Rangers shouldn’t feel the need to rush Chytil into it. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a saying that gets tossed around a ton this time of year but the Rangers are no exception to that with all things considered. 

Surely it would be Matt Rempe, or perhaps Jack Roslovic that comes out of the mix to get Chytil in and after what we saw in Game 1, I just don’t see that happening. As Rempe told the reporters after the game yesterday, “I’m built for the playoffs.” 

Half the goals yesterday came from the fourth line with Rempe scoring the big one to get things started. They were the big story for the Rangers to kick off the playoffs which doesn’t justify any thoughts of breaking up that line. From what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to take Roslovic out either seeing as he picked up a secondary assist on the Kreider goal to put the Caps to bed. Of course it’s easy to say all this after a win but with Brodzinski and now Edström as additional options, there isn’t any pressure to give Chytil the green light until they either need him, or are confident in the situation they put him in. 

Best case scenario, if the Rangers continue to win and can establish a significant lead in the series, perhaps use a Game 4 or 5 as an opportunity to ease Chytil in with a lightened workload before fully deploying him in a higher stakes situation. Just another reason why depth is such a good problem to have especially this time of year.