Matt Hunwick Must Raise Level Of Play In Game 1 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


New York Rangers defenseman, Matt Hunwick, must raise his level of play in Game 1 of the 1st round vs. Pittsburgh Penguins with Kevin Klein being ruled out.

New York Rangers
New York Rangers /

New York Rangers

Ever since New York Rangers‘ right-handed defenseman, Kevin Klein, went down with a broken arm, or an “upper body injury,” 7th defenseman,
Matt Hunwick, has done an exceptional job filling in for Klein in the Rangers’ starting lineup.  However, that was just the regular season.  With Klein being ruled out of Game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, as the Rangers take on the
Pittsburgh Penguins, everyone is expected to raise their level of play and Hunwick is no exception.  The question is though…can Hunwick take his game to another level this postseason, like Klein did last postseason?

Last season, Klein was very good in the regular season for the Rangers, after the team acquired him mid-season via trade from the Nashville Predators, but it wasn’t until the postseason where Klein’s defensive play went to whole other level, which contributed to the Rangers going to the Stanley Cup Final last season, and instantly made him a fan favorite.  Can Hunwick do something similar starting tomorrow?

The answer to that, I feel, is both yes and no.  Yes, I do believe Hunwick will raise his game in the postseason but no, because it would be unrealistic to expect Hunwick to raise his game up to the level of Klein’s last postseason.  When Klein is healthy and in the Rangers’ starting lineup, as compared to when Hunwick is in the Rangers’ starting lineup, Klein plays more minutes than Hunwick 5 on 5 and on the penalty kill for a reason.  That is because Klein is just a better defenseman.  While Klein is a 3rd/2nd pair defenseman, Hunwick is only an extra/3rd pair defenseman.

More from Editorials

But while it may be unfair to compare the two, Hunwick will still need to up his game in the playoffs if the Rangers are to advance.  We saw last season in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Rangers defeated the
Montreal Canadiens in 6 games, how the Canadiens’ defense wore down as the series progressed because their 3rd defensive pair was not trustworthy enough to play regular shifts, causing their head coach to give their 1st and 2nd defensive pairs more minutes than they could handle.

So with that being said, even though most just look at Hunwick as a 3rd pair defenseman, if he does not play well in the playoffs, it effects the Rangers’ top two defensive pairs and ultimately effects the entire team in a negative way.

Next: Five Playoff Questions Facing The New York Rangers

More from Blue Line Station