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Regarding the Rangers, who are sure a lot more interesting now that their two marquee forwards are back in the saddle again.
1. And interesting it was to see Kris Knoblauch double down and go Full Quinn from behind the bench by sitting kids and heaping time on the big guns down the stretch of Saturday’s victory in Washington.
Of course, when David Quinn, the head guy who is expected to be in COVID protocol through at least Friday, pulls a stunt like that, he should be dismissed immediately. But when the acting guy, Knoblauch, does it, that proves that he has the pulse of the team and should be hired to replace the other one forthwith.
2. So the question posed in this space a week ago — whether it would be a bigger risk for the Rangers to trade Pavel Buchnevich at the deadline or pay him the big bucks when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer one year away from unrestricted free agency — has pretty much been answered by No. 89 himself, hasn’t it?
Buchnevich has become an essential part of the formula by evolving not only into a productive top-sixer but by becoming a complete player with a worthy work ethic at both ends of the ice.
The question now becomes how much and for how long? Is four or five years at $5.5 million per a reasonable opening bid for the winger who has 16 points (7-9) in his last 12 games and leads the club in scoring with 28 points (11-17)?
And if you’re looking for an Exhibit A to present into evidence of how Quinn’s tough love can pay dividends, Buchnevich is not a bad place to start.
3. There is nothing not to admire about Adam Fox, who is 16th in the NHL with an average ice time of 24:30 following his 28:00 night in D.C. on Saturday that featured a 10:17 third period. At 23, he has become Saint Adam.
But are we allowed to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Tony DeAngelo was more effective at running the power play?
4. And maybe the power play’s first unit should stop being given authorization to stay on the ice for 1:30 and more? “They’re in the zone the whole time!” isn’t especially meaningful when the puck is passed around the perimeter for minutes on end and the PP is sixth worst in the league at 14.7 percent.
5. And in the rush for folks to anoint Fox as the best Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch, there are many short memories about just how dominant Ryan McDonagh was through a five-year stretch last decade.
6. The first 25 games of the season, the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Buchnevich line was on the ice for three goals scored at five-on-five in 107:39. The last four games, the unit has been on for seven Rangers goals in 42:11.
7. Seems as if indirectly exchanging penalty-killing stalwart Jesper Fast for penalty-killing coach Jacques Martin has worked out rather nicely for the boys from 212.
8. Filip Chytil hasn’t been the same player since returning to the lineup after missing more than a month with a broken hand. Hence, the latest NHL version of a “Kid Line” that includes Alexis Lafreniere on one flank and Kaapo Kakko on the other has gained no traction at all.
(Lafreniere, who was stuck in traffic pretty much through the entire 120 minutes of the Caps back-to-back, has not scored again in nine straight games. And Kakko has gone 19 straight without a goal, 10 before he went on the COVID list, nine after returning from a four-game absence.)
A large part of the teething unit’s issues has been created — or highlighted — by Chytil’s inability or reluctance to distribute the puck. So the question has again been raised whether the 21-year-old Czech is more suited to being a wing — and a power winger — rather than a center?
There is more responsibility for a center, but again, would this be the time to flip Chytil and either Kakko or Lafreniere and do some experimentation here? Or would that be asking too much of either of the two high-profile draftees at this point of the season?
9. So, the all-important column in the standings as the Rangers trail the Bruins by six points for the final playoff spot with Boston holding two games in hand, is not games played or regulation wins.
No, it is this: Games Remaining Against Buffalo.
And in that one, Advantage B’s, who have seven left against the Sabres while the Blueshirts have five, beginning with Monday’s match at the Garden.
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