The New York Rangers trade deadline acquisitions had done some great work since coming over in late March. Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte and Frank Vatrano have helped anchor the Blueshirts’ bottom six and taken the pressure off goalie Igor Shesterkin. However, the Tyler Motte injury comes at a terrible time.
Motte suffered a “significant injury” to his upper-body in the April 7th 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The former University of Michigan player took a hit from Anthony Angello while in an awkward position. This happened in the third period and Motte did not return.
New York did get by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, but it’s going to miss the new acquisition terribly.
Tyler Motte Injury Hinders Rangers
Motte, the Penalty Killer
The 27-year-old came over from the Vancouver Canucks in a deadline-day trade. LWOH Canucks writer Erin Butler noted that Motte’s play was more than just numbers. Butler noted. “he’s got very good speed, first off. That makes him a threat shorthanded as well as giving the defence a target for outlet passes.”
Motte played a lot on the penalty kill and he created “chaos” on the defensive end. Other teams do have to worry about the St. Clair, Mich. native breaking out and scoring if they’re careless with the puck.
He also loved throwing the body around, which is something not many Vancouver players do. That style has translated over to his new team and he’s fit in nicely with new coach Gerrard Gallant. He had over 550 hits in fewer than 200 games – and that’s in just 14 minutes of ice time.
Motte still managed some points while having less than stellar offensive partners on the ice. His speed was a big part of that and getting production for him was a bonus.
How Much is Motte Missed?
The eye test showed that Motte did plenty of work for the Canucks and Rangers this season. However, let’s take a look at the analytics of everything. The website Hockey Viz shows a detailed breakdown of what Motte did with the Blueshirts.
It is a small sample size as Motte has only played nine games with the Rangers before his injury. However, he, Copp and Vatrano helped stabilize a Rangers team that got by thanks to the Vezina and possibly Hart Trophy form of Shesterkin.
The Blueshirts’ 5-on-5 defence is in a much better place with Motte on the ice. The middle of the ice has become very Ranger-friendly since the trade deadline. New York is able to clamp down on defence and not have to rely on Shesterkin to keep pulling out 40-save performances. Ranger fans are all too familiar with future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist having to do that on several occasions.
Now let’s look at the Rangers without Motte to help on the defensive end.
“Yikes” would be a great way to describe how the Blueshirts are without the former Wolverine. The expected goals against number jumps off the page with it almost going a full goal a game higher. Shesterkin’s heroics have helped the Rangers get to a point where they can contend for the Metropolitan Division title.
The silver lining is Copp and Vatrano are still there and can share some of the defensive load. It’s completely going to be an issue like earlier in the season, but Motte will still be missed on his own end.
What it Means
The good news is Kaapo Kakko should be on his way back into the lineup fairly soon. He’s been a much-improved player in his own end of the ice after a statistically ghastly rookie season. The Finn can help out and make the Rangers win those close one or tw0-goal games without having to score five or six goals a night.
A deep Stanley Cup Playoff run could help Motte return with meaningful hockey starting in late April and early May. If the Rangers have any designs on hoisting their first Cup since 1994, Motte has to be back and ready to play.