Everyday on Twitter, I see the beat writers giving answers to the same question: Did Brandon Dubinsky skate? The answer has been ‘no’, and the answer will likely be ‘no’ for the forseeable future. Dubinsky is still using his walking boot and has not skated since the Ottawa series. Prior to that, Dubinsky was alternating between second line duties and third line duties (following the injury to Brian Boyle), although this was before Chris Kreider was inserted into the top six.
With Boyle back, and Kreider showing he deserves his top six minutes, the question about the Rangers missing Dubinsky hasn’t been brought up too often. After all, why question something if the Rangers are winning? John Mitchell is doing just fine on the fourth line, and won a key face off that led to Marc Staal’s overtime winner in Game Five of the Washington series. Mike Rupp is playing very well. Ruslan Fedotenko is too.
So the question becomes: If Dubinsky comes back, who would sit? Does the team even miss him?
Dubinsky may not have been producing offensively, but he has definitely been a great asset to the club defensively and on the penalty kill. Let’s remember that the penalty kill really struggled in the Washington series, although the Caps have some tremendous talent. Was it just coincidence that the kill looked bad when Dubinsky was out? I’m inclined to think no, it was not a coincidence. The club definitely misses him on the kill.
While the Rangers as a whole may miss him in that particular scenario, is it enough to say that they miss him in every scenario? He certainly wasn’t scoring, so there’s no loss on offense. Defensively, the Rangers have done a magnificent job of shutting down the opposition’s best scorers. But the depth appears to be lacking, as it’s the secondary and tertiary scorers that have been breaking through against them (see: Chimera, Jason).
In the hypothetical situation that Dubinsky is to return, and let it be known that John Tortorella will play Dubi if he can go, it’s tough to see who he would really replace. Earlier in the postseason the target was on Fedotenko’s back, but he’s been great this postseason. Then it moved to Mitchell, who hasn’t exactly been playing poorly, but hasn’t been turning heads enough to keep Dubi out of the lineup.
At even strength, there really wouldn’t be too much of a difference between Dubi and Mitchell. Maybe Dubi can turn one of those fourth line grind shifts into a goal, but that’s a big maybe. It’s the added depth on the kill that would really help the Rangers. In the end, the team likely misses Dubi, but not as much as we might think.