New York Rangers need a Mark Messier game from Artemi Panarin

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers takes the ice prior to Game One against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on June 01, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 01: Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers takes the ice prior to Game One against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on June 01, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Playoff hockey is all about heroes emerging and Artemi Panarin would be wise to channel a New York Rangers great prior to Game Five.

This has been an epic postseason run by the Rangers, especially because this team was not meant to be this good this year.

There’s hope that the Blueshirts can reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2014, although they have to find a way to get past a juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning team in what is now a three-game series.

In some ways, this series draws parallels to the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Down 3-2 in the series against the New Jersey Devils, Rangers Captain Mark Messier came out and gave his team the boost they needed by publicly guaranteeing a win in Game Six.

As we all well know, Messier not only talked a good game but he delivered in actions too by scoring a hat-trick to help erase a 2-0 deficit in the game and even the series back up at two apiece.

And, the rest as they say is history.

Heading into a critical Game Five where defeat on home ice could spell the beginning of the end, the Rangers need someone to step up and deliver a Mark Messier performance.

And that individual should be Panarin.

While much of the talk has revolved around Mika Zibanejad and his quiet past two games, the center has been outstanding on home ice in these playoffs. He’s been great at MSG in this series with two points (one goal, one assist) in Game One and the game-winner in Game Two.

He’s also been one of his team’s better players throughout the postseason with 24 points (10 G, 14 A) in 18 games, with 11 of those points coming on the power play.

Panarin, on the other hand, has been largely disappointing in the playoffs and he’s yet to deliver the kind of game-changing performance you come to expect from a player boasting his obvious talents. Not to mention someone who is being paid nearly $12 million a year to be a big-time player.

The Rangers gave Panarin the big-ticket deal for moments like these, to be able to be the difference in the postseason and give his team the edge in any given playoff series.

Sadly, that hasn’t proved to be the case so far with the wing a -3 in 18 games, recording 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) with nine of those points coming on the power play. At five-on-five, Panarin has largely been ineffective.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers looks on during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 16: Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers looks on during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The two-time All-Star did convert on the power play in Game Four, but he’s been frustrating at best at even-strength and his lack of hustle in his own zone, especially on Tuesday, was alarming.

He also hasn’t made full use of that wicked release of his, he fails to get to the slot area on a consistent basis and he looks lost and sometimes uninterested when his outside perimeter game doesn’t work, which has often been the case.

Perhaps the biggest cause for concern, though, is Panarin’s inability to prevent turnovers during these playoffs. Heading into Game Five, he has committed 39 giveaways with Game Four laden with turnovers.

If the Rangers are to benefit from home ice advantage the rest of the way in this series, Panarin has to simplify his game and cut out the turnovers, while also getting to the slot in order to open up the ice for his teammates.

That last point takes on even more importance if Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil aren’t good to go for Game Five. In that case, Panarin will need to step up and put this team on his back and deliver the kind of offensive production that is expected from him.

That’s exactly what Messier did way back in 1994, and that’s exactly what big-time players are meant to do.

They deliver in the heat of the moment when the pressure is on and the stakes have never been higher.

new york rangers
Rangers Mark Messier (11) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Rangers defeated Vancouver 3-2 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994.Rangers Win Stanley Cup /

Tonight is the time for Panarin to really step up and play and deliver like the big-time player we know he’s capable of being. It is time for him to step out of the shadows and prove why he was worth that $81,500,00, seven-year contract back in 2019.

It has been a while since we’ve seen the Russian stud produce the type of mouthwatering performance that made him one of the most unplayable playmakers in the NHL, and it is about time that player returns.

He doesn’t need to deliver any bold statements prior to puck drop like Messier did but, like the Rangers great did when his team needed him the most, Panarin has to dig deep and give the Rangers a statement game to remember in Game Five.

Every elite player needs such a game in order to cement their legacy among the game’s true greats, and the stage is set for Panarin to wow Madison Square Garden and start to rewrite his postseason narrative.

It is over to you, Artemi.

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