Braden Schneider knows that an impressive NHL debut doesn’t mean he made it to the NHL.
For that debut, he was seamlessly integrated into the Rangers’ blue line and competed as the main anchor of the NHL team for years – the 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Schneider, in his first NHL game, gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in their final shutout win in San Jose on Thursday, but they were effective overall. He struck out deliberately, scoring four shots to go along with two blocked shots and three shots in the ice at 14:49 – a team that was low on defense.
The 6-foot-2 Schneider became the seventh defenseman in Rangers history to score in his first NHL game, joining Thomas Pak, Steve Richmond, Mario Morois, Ralph Keller, Harry Howell and Joe Jerva.
“I don’t think you can say anything after a match,” 20-year-old Schneider said after the win. “I’m very happy with how I played. I want to show that I can perform physically and at this level. I couldn’t make it better. It’s a game and I can’t get too high on myself, but I’m very happy with how it went.”
The Rangers are experimenting with combinations for the third defensive pair, which was started due to personal reasons, Patrick Nemeth’s four-game absence and Jared Tinordi, who entered the COVID-19 protocol. The Rangers’ bottom pairing has been a weak point throughout the season, so Schneider can get an extended look there after his performance on Thursday.
If Schneider was unavailable, perhaps a couple weeks ago in the COVID-19 protocol, the Rangers would be the first defenseman recalled by Hartford to join the team’s taxi team. Instead, Zach Jones and Matthew Robertson were elected.
If Jones performs relatively well, except for a rough outing in Vegas, Schneider will play the style that general manager and president Chris Drury and head coach Gerard Gallant want.
“He’s a good defensive-defense player,” said acting coach Chris Noblach. “I hate to say that he provides the offense-scoring touch all the time, but I’m very proud of him and the way he plays. His first couple changes he was in a lot of play, he made really simple plays, pushed the puck forward.
“I don’t recall him being out defensively all night. It was his game. He was happy to be rewarded. Seeing him here in town with his parents and scoring that goal. He’s very happy.”
The Rangers returned Jones and forward Larry Pajunimi and Justin Richards to Hartford on Friday, opening the door for some Rangers to return from the COVID-19 protocol.
Julian Gauthier and Ryan Reeves both deserve to be active in Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.