This was a direct reaction to David Quinn moving Buchnevich from the top line to the fourth during play against the Blue Jackets and playing Brendan Lemieux in his slot.
This dry spell for Buchnevich and subsequent demotion certainly generated some talk, and with good reason. Prior to the game Tuesday night, Buchnevich had recorded seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in his 47 games played and just one goal and four points in his last 13.
I know I was waiting all day to see where Quinn was going to play Buchnevich, and while things ended up relatively normal for him, it was not under ideal circumstances. Artemiy Panarin was out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. While Buchnevich stepped in to fill his spot on the second line, the Rangers were out their top point producer against a team they faced three times in the last nine days.
After going pointless in the last three contests, Buchnevich finally scored a goal off a shot from the point off the stick of Adam Fox, which he deflected into the net.
While calls for Buchnevich’s head may subside until the next time something like this happens, there there are many relevant points that have been made (many made by our very own staff in the first episode of Blue Seat Blog’s new and improved podcast) and some are very much worth putting into writing.
A look at Pavel Buchnevich
I think one of the biggest — not issues — but limiting factors when it comes to a full assessment of Buchnevich thus far is it is only over the last season and a half have that we have really gotten to see what he has to offer.
Between Alain Vigneault cratering him on the fourth line in his first full season and only seeing him for nine minutes a night — if we’re really getting technical, his ATOI was 15:01 in 2017-18 according to Hockey Reference, but there was one game where he played 7:41 and I felt that most — and seeing Buchnevich try trying to play his game on a line where there was no player skilled enough to reciprocate his efforts felt like a waste.
And this has led to some assumptions about Buchnevich. Most notably, it is what led to the “over-hype” of Buchnevich. The non-blog world criticizes the blog world of this — people seeing what Buchnevich had quietly offered and took a look at his KHL numbers and wishing that this would turn into him becoming an elite 60+ point player.
We saw the underlying talent, we saw the misuse that was occurring, and despite it all, he was still managing to put up solid numbers — that doesn’t always happen.
People were begging for him to be in the top six, for him to see more ice time and now that he’s there and we aren’t seeing the points it means he’s a lost cause, right?
Making things click is what’s most important, and in this regard, the Rangers are on the right track.
Creating chemistry is among the most predominant features of any successful hockey team. And players can create this chemistry in many ways.
Some are physical and use their bodies to generate turnovers. Some use their skating ability and puck work to outsmart defensemen and create room for themselves while others do the same by relying on their speed and brunt force. These are more likely the players you see in the point column, but there is a need for players who add value in other areas of the ice.
The most important thing when it comes to Pavel Buchnevich — now that we are really getting a good look at him in a role that suits him — is to see what he brings to the table as what it is.
He is a glue guy. He is a possession driver. He is one of the reasons why the top line has been as successful as it has. He is the guy who makes smart plays to enter the zone, create offense and help his team get into a set up that ends up becoming a chance on net.
I’d argue he’s a Jesper Fast with a bit more finesse. He may not reap the benefits in assists or points, but these plays are vital to the offense.
And it is not as if Buchnevich hasn’t been logging attempts. Currently, he is on pace to surpass his shot attempts from last season by 30+ — notably, he logged a season-high six in the Rangers loss to Nashville in December. However, the percentage of chances that have gone in the net have dropped. With a shift in luck, this can easily change.
And as we know, hockey really can be all about luck sometimes.
Before I go, I just want to recognize that when these underlying numbers that get put into charts (as much as Tony D hates them) are displayed on the ice, what it really boils down to the chemistry that ends up being seen.
Obviously, you cannot base the success of a player entirely on these numbers, but you cannot completely poo-poo them either.
When it comes to Buchnevich, valuing him as the player he is — rather than what we thought he might be — is what is most important to his future with the franchise.
Seeing him come back after the demotion — and subsequent discord on Rangers Twitter — and log a goal after a three-game pointless and seven-game goalless streak. There will be another day down the road where he goes on an equivalent point streak.
Finally, for what his value is, and what he brings to the table, the Rangers are lucky to have him. Continuing to give him the opportunity to be a playmaker will only make him better.