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Vincent Trocheck Is Reaping

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 07: Vincent Trocheck #16 of the New York Rangers celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 07, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images)
Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

For my money, the biggest difference in these New York Rangers and the Rangers who hit a wall in the conference final two years ago isn't a more self-assured Igor Shesterkin in net, or Artemi Panarin deciding to see what he can do as a shoot-first forward, or a more seasoned Alexis Lafrenière, and it's certainly not Matt Rempe. It's Vincent Trocheck, do-it-all centerman, who in his second year with the Rangers has made them a better, more rounded team from top to bottom, without it necessarily reflecting on his own statsheet. But the postseason is a time for individual glories, and there was Trocheck in the right place at the right time, to put back a loose puck 7:24 into double overtime to give the Rangers the 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead over Carolina. Released from the hellish tension of playoff OT, the home fans might've called him Vincent Coat Check.

Trocheck, in his years with the Panthers and Hurricanes, was a model of consistency when healthy. You knew what you'd get from him: 20 or 25 goals, 30 or 40 assists. Never a star, really. But when your team would play his, you'd hear his name mentioned an awful lot. Usually something unflashy: a tape-to-tape pass, or digging a puck out of the corner, or mucking up an opponent's zone exit. After a typically useful 2022 postseason—six goals, four helpers, including goals in three straight games against the Rangers—Trocheck became a free agent, and Canes were ready to move on, so he pulled an if-you-can't-beat-'em and committed to New York for seven years.

I remember distinctly being whelmed by the signing. Was he really that much of an upgrade over the departing Ryan Strome, who would've come cheaper? Were the Rangers, with little cap space to play with, really going to commit the vast majority of it to a second-line center best described as "dependable"? Well, I got Vincent Factchecked. That frustrating experience as an opponent, where Trocheck was always involved somehow, is delightful when he's on your side.

And he really does do everything. He's coaxed career-best seasons from Panarin and Lafrenière. He skates on PP1 and PK1. He grinds out faceoffs, even if he had a rough night in the circle on Tuesday. He double-shifts, and regularly leads the team in minutes, as he did with 35:21 last night. He is the quintessential center who makes everyone else better, and his is the sort of game that benefits from daily observation, because his numbers are never going to knock your socks off.

So when the puck bounced his way for a double-OT winner and the rare headlines for Trocheck, his coach was still going to praise the dirty work first.

“It’s in playoffs and it gets pushed into games that have an overtime or multiple overtimes, and yet his role doesn’t change,” Peter Laviolette said. “He’s part of the game. I’m double shifting him just for backing up faceoffs or just getting two centermen on the ice and that’s more time on the ice. That’s extended time. The power play, the penalty kill, the five-on-five play, his line’s production. The end of a game either way, and he just keeps answering the bell."

That's goals in five straight games for Trocheck, who leads the 6-0 Rangers in postseason scoring, to go with five assists. It's sexier stuff than the stereotypical "forecheck, backcheck, Trocheck" meme, but if the Rangers are winning and he's still doing the small stuff, he's more than capable of cashing in a hard-fought shift with a goal. Call him Vincent Paycheck.

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