After the Rangers loss in Game 1, the hot takes were plentiful and the panic was real. For the first time these playoffs, the Rangers trail in a series. It’s not over yet, despite the doomsdayers, and in fact there’s a strong argument that the Rangers are going to be just fine despite the loss. No matter how you feel on the topic, one question that seems to be popular is whether Matt Rempe is going to be an option for the Rangers tonight.

There are strong arguments both for and against playing Rempe tonight, and there is no wrong answer to the question. He can bring a lot to a Rangers lineup that might need a spark. But the depth wasn’t really the issue in Game 1, as the Rangers were never really out of the game. They were never really in it either, but they were never out of it.

To Rempe

Matt Rempe, despite what the national narrative may say, is a solid hockey player. Raw and in need of fine tuning for sure, but the skill set is clearly there. He moves well for a big guy, has a nose for the net, and good offensive instincts. That was all on display in Game 1 against Washington when he scored the opening goal.

In that goal, Rempe leads the rush, cuts to the net, and circles to open ice for the tap in. One-dimensional goons simply don’t do that. The kid brings a lot more to the ice than “big guy punch grrr.”

Rempe also adds a physical element that was admittedly lacking in Game 1. Again, the Rangers were never really out of the game and the effort was there, it was execution and poor puck movement that was their downfall. But they lacked that spark to get them going and to find the next gear. Rempe, even in limited minutes, has shown he can do that.

Assuming Rempe is used in a normal manner, allowed to play his game, and not pigeon-holed into a puncher role, then he brings a lot to the lineup. Not just to the Rangers, mind you. His presence may stick in the back of the Panthers’ minds. Emphasis on “may,” but it’s certainly worth a try.

Also worth noting that Florida is the most penalized team in the NHL. Rempe may just get them off their game a bit. One extra powerplay goes a long way.

To Not Rempe

The concern with dressing Rempe is, as mentioned above, many seem to want him in the lineup so he can be that one-dimensional goon. That’s not his game and it’s not what he is on the ice, and to force him into that role is a disservice to the kid. It is also something that isn’t needed at all. Rempe doesn’t prevent that hit on Filip Chytil at the end of the game.

There is no such thing as a deterrent in the NHL anymore. It’s a 30-40 year old strategy that doesn’t work in today’s faster NHL. So if the only argument made is that he’s a deterrent, then find a new argument. There are a bunch listed above.

Rempe also doesn’t solve the issue with the Rangers blue liners being jumpy and unable to move the puck out of their own zone in Game 1. With or without a Florida forecheck, they made several unforced errors and they were a key reason why the Rangers simply couldn’t get anything sustained on offense. If they can’t move the puck out of the zone, then the offense dies there. Rempe doesn’t solve that issue.

Aside: Adam Fox’s injury is becoming a problem. More on that later.

The Rangers didn’t get bullied or bodied or steamrolled by Florida. It was a boring Game 1 where Florida got their 2 goals off a bad turnover by Artemi Panarin (and a bad goal by Igor Shesterkin on the ensuing shot) and then a horribl e read by Shesterkin and a miscommunication with Erik Gustafsson.

The Blueshirts were jumpy because of Florida’s forecheck, which is not going to be magically resolved because Rempe is in the lineup.

There’s also the ref factor, as it’s been clear they are targeting Rempe from the start. Even clean hits are being called as penalties, to the point where even Bruins fans were calling it out. He’s getting “reputation” calls, which is funny since there far more dirtier players than Rempe, but since he’s a big dude he gets everything called on him.

One extra powerplay goes a long way for the Rangers. It also goes a long way for the Panthers.

No wrong decision

There’s no wrong decision on whether Peter Laviolette plays Matt Rempe tonight. There are certainly pros and cons that can’t be ignored by either side of the discussion.

The only thing we know for sure is the Rangers need to find a way to move the puck better and get more sustained offense, or this series is going to be over before it even started.

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