It’s certainly been an eventful few days for the New York Rangers.
On Monday, they took on the Washington Capitals, which was eventful enough before the game was even played: Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson would be game-time decisions, the Rangers’ playoff implications were on the line, at the brink of elimination, and more. The magnitude of the game would have been enough in itself.
Then the game happened.
It was a 6-3 Rangers loss, but what emerged from it was much more significant. In the second period, a post-whistle scrum led to a Tom Wilson temper tantrum that resulted in two Rangers, Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin, being aggressively handled by Wilson. Panarin will miss the remainder of the season as a result of the scrum.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 4, 2021
First, he cross-checks and vulnerable Buchnevich in the neck. Then, he rips Panarin down to the ice by the hair and repeatedly slams him into the ground, just barely avoiding a head collision. What originated as a typical scrum of pushing and shoving turned violent and completely out of control.
Many expected a multiple game for Wilson; justifiable considering the culmination of repeat offenses as well as the blatant violence inflicted on Buchnevich and Panarin. Instead, the NHL Department of Player Safety determined one fine of $5,000 was enough for Wilson’s actions.
The Rangers responded, and harshly. In a statement released Tuesday, the Rangers stated their disappointment with the Department of Player Safety and even called for the head of NHL DoPS, George Parros’, job. The statement sparked both praise and criticism across the league – it’s the first time any NHL team has openly called out the league and DoPS.
The best part? The Rangers are right back at it against the Caps tonight.
Here are some questions (and answers) short term and long term concerning this chaotic couple of days.
How will the Rangers retalliate against Wilson and the Capitals?
It’s hard to say. The Rangers lack any true physical force like Wilson – they aren’t built for that style of play. There will without a doubt be more scrums and possibly fights tonight; with a player as talented as Panarin out, the team will be angry. They will want to get even. How they do it? Well, there’s the possibility of a callup. With the Rangers pushing back media availability today, we won’t have any updates on the lineup until later. David Quinn has not ruled out the idea as of yet.
So will the Rangers call up anyone? Who could they call up?
It wouldn’t be a terrible to call up and more physically-minded player for the rematch against the Caps. Many people have thrown the name Mason Geertsen around, the 6’4″, 220 pound defenseman who plays with a physical edge. Additionally, pro rookie Austin Rueschoff has been considered, who stands at 6’7″ 230. But with both players lacking any sort of NHL experience, we could also look out for someone like Tim Gettinger (6’6″, 218) who has some NHL experience (6 games) and could perform a similar type of role.
If someone from Hartford is called up, don’t expect David Quinn to admit that it’s to address the lack of physicality on the team already – with Panarin, Trouba, Lindgren, and possibly Kreider out, they’ll need to fill up some spots.
What we can expect is physicality from the bottom-six and back end – guys like Kevin Rooney, Brendan Smith, even Colin Blackwell could step up to be difference makers physically.
Will Wilson be penalized further?
I doubt it. If anything, the Rangers could be penalized with a fine for outwardly speaking in opposition to the league. It’s not right, but at this point, 2 days removed from the incident, it would take more pushback to generate a further response.
How can the Rangers become more physical?
This is tough – the Rangers, at this stage in their rebuild, lineup full of youth, are not built to be physical in the way that Wilson is. You can’t prevent something like this from happening again by simply putting a physical vetern on your 4th line. What I predict, is that as these younger players grow – especially the young defensemen – they will learn to defend themselves further. They will grow stronger, physically and mentally. And, in the end, their skill and talent will rise above any cheap and uneccesary violence by players like Wilson.