There was a reason that the Rangers prioritized Vladimir Tarasenko when seeking to fill a top-six hole on the right side and were willing to sacrifice a first-rounder in order to acquire the wing from St. Louis by jumping the market three weeks before the trade deadline.
The problem is, you wouldn’t know it by reviewing the way the club has utilized the 31-year-old through the first five games of the Battle of the Hudson. It is as if, upon the acquisition of Patrick Kane 18 days later, Tarasenko became kind of an afterthought.
Get this: Tarasenko, a prime force in the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup championship, is seventh among Rangers forwards in both overall ice time and power-play ice time. The 11:46 he got in Game 1 represented the second-lowest ice time he has had in 95 career playoff games, getting less only in his NHL postseason debut as a rookie in 2013.
Games 1, 2 and 5 were three of the eight playoff games in which Tarasenko has gotten the least amount of ice time over his career. It is impossible to believe that was the plan when general manager Chris Drury acquired him.
Now, with the Rangers facing first-round extinction Saturday in Game 6 against a ravenous Devils squad that is bursting with confidence, it is imperative that head coach Gerard Gallant find a way to get Tarasenko more ice time, both at five-on-five and on the power play.
“I’ve been saying that to the [assistant coaches] the whole time,” Gallant said following a brisk practice Friday. “The power play, he’s played the second unit …
“I’d like to see him play more but I also want guys to take it, you know what I mean? When you get the opportunities, make me play you more, and I’m not trying to jab [Tarasenko] because he’s been good, but I want guys who go out there and say, ‘Make me play 18 minutes, make me play 20 minutes.’ ”
Tarasenko is averaging 15:04 per game overall and 2:02 with the man advantage, the latter just under half of what Kane has commanded on the first power-play unit. The 15:04 is 3:04 under Tarasenko’s playoff career average with St. Louis.
“I have to find a way to score goals and create goals. I don’t think I’ve been good enough,” he told The Post. “But that is the past. There’s no need to talk about that.
“All that matters is how we play going forward. Our season is on the line. We have to be at our best. That’s what counts.”
There is an indication that Tarasenko will be awarded a greater role for Game 6. Gallant has shuffled his top three lines, moving him up the right side with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider…
Read More: Vladimir Tarasenko’s ice time at crux of necessary Rangers changes 2023-04-29 04:31:00