At this point, all New York Rangers fans can do is hope for the future and watch the new wave of young players—like Neal Pionk—who are going to take us there. So take a step back and let these players play hockey.
Look, mistakes happen, even in the NHL. Even by players on the New York Rangers. It’s the game of hockey at it’s highest level in the world. Have any of us ever played there? Do we know how fast things happen out there? My guess is no.
Listen, Neal Pionk played higher-level hockey by the time he was 16 than most of us ever have, combined. He knows how to play hockey, and he knows how to play hockey well. Pionk has, quite frankly, been the most pleasant surprise of this rebuild and has all the makings of a future top-six defender.
In a recent game against the Washington Capitals, a top team in the Eastern Conference, Pionk, who made play after play against players like Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, made one mistake that cost the Rangers the game.
These mistakes are going to happen! This is a 22-year-old who’s barely played 20 games at this level! So take a deep breath. If Pionk can learn from this situation and move forward, he will be fine.
Lars Eller's game-tying goal with less than 6 minutes to play means that tomorrow everyone gets a Free @Subway 6-inch Sub with purchase of 30 oz. Drink and Chips! Coupon: https://t.co/ScMu5sIniv #CapsRangers #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/DuOJqgmRxN
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 29, 2018
Pionk made the decision to attempt to block a backdoor pass from getting through to Alexander Ovechkin. Who wouldn’t? That’s an incredibly tough spot, he’s attempting to guard two bodies by himself, and as the video will show, yes, he got caught cheating to Ovechkin.
But Neal Pionk and any other NHL defenseman get a split-second to make this decision. We get 20 minutes to watch the film and complain about the decision made. So all of you couch coaches need to give the kid a break. In a season that’s now lost, in a game where a rookie kid made one mistake in an otherwise very strong game, back off.