The Rangers had a tough road trip. Despite coming from behind to beat Dallas, there were warning signs with a shoddy defense that was overmatched by the Wild and Blues, leading to a barrage of shots at Igor Shesterkin. It was shocking to see him pulled from the game in St. Louis.
The game against the Blues was an eye opener. The Rangers played horribly and the use of Dryden Hunt on the second line came to the forefront. After scoring against Minnesota, Hunt then had another great chance and couldn’t score.
It was a crucial moment in the game right after the Rangers had killed three straight penalties including a two-man disadvantage. A Rangers goal at that point could have been a game changer.
Hunt on the second line is a product of Kaapo Kakko’s injury and with Kakko hurt for the foreseeable future why not change things up and put Morgan Barron with Panarin and Strome. It’s experimenting without getting too crazy. It keeps Barron in the lineup, and if it doesn’t work out Gallant can return to the old lineup, and the Rangers are likely acquiring a forward at the trade deadline anyway.
Yes, we know that Dryden Hunt had three assists (one on an empty net goal) on Saturday in Dallas, but it was more the result of Artemi Panarin’s fine play. While Hunt has helped bring some grit and physicality to a team that desperately needed it going into this season, the fact remains that he is not suited for second line duty. In the 25 games before Dallas, he had one goal and two assists and has four goals and 14 points on the season.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, Panarin, Strome and Hunt have played 265 minutes together. During that time the team has scored 11 goals with the opposition scoring 14 times and the Rangers have been outshot 145 to 129.
In a smaller sample size (160 minutes), when Kakko was with Strome and Panarin, the Rangers outshot and outscored the opposition.
The case for Barron
Morgan Barron has shown that he can do anything Hunt can in his limited play. The difference though, is that Morgan Barron is an offensive threat. Barron was a point per game player last year in his first season in the AHL and one of the reasons fans wanted to see Morgan Barron in the lineup is for his ability to add offense to the bottom six. And we saw that ability in the last game against Washington when he had four shots on goal and some good chances.
Barron doesn’t have a goal yet in 13 games but he also hasn’t had consistent playing time. Playing with better players makes a difference. Look at how much better Alexis Lafreniere is playing since getting top line minutes. Artemi Panarin has the ability to make other players better. Barron is someone who has ability already and when on a line with a player like Panarin that ability can be enhanced.
The counterargument to Barron is that he hasn’t been able to get into the lineup so why should he play in the top six. My answer would be that Gallant likes to go with players he’s had before. Hunt and McKegg were with Gallant in Florida.
Barron in the last two seasons has been considered a top 10 prospect for the Rangers and we know he has ability he just hasn’t been able to show it. Gallant when asked about it, he said “He’s developing. He hasn’t played many pro games. He’s worked hard. He’s in great shape. It’s an NHL game. When he’s in there, some shifts are real good. Other shifts, he looks like he’s a little in awe of it. He’s growing in the game, like all the young players do, and it takes time. He’ll get another opportunity sooner or later, and just keep playing. But we’re not disappointed in him just because he’s not playing games right now.”
The Rangers are also in a strange point of the season. The deadline is just a week away so any scoring problem have to be dealt with internally right now. I don’t think that moving Barron to the second line will solve all the Rangers goal scoring problems or that he should stay there for the rest of the season but I think he’s a better offensive player and option than Dryden Hunt. I think that it could be an offensive shake up that this team needs right now. A trade for a forward is coming but until that trade is made why not give Barron a real look while you still can. They’ve still got four games to try.