New York Rangers’ forward Brendan Lemieux is a unique player, but his reputation might be helping him find the penalty box more often than not.
Let’s face it: the officiating in Monday night’s 5-2 New York Rangers’ loss to the Nashville Predators was brutal; there’s no denying it. But that isn’t the story Ranger fans need to take away from the rough night.
The biggest takeaway from this game is that Brendan Lemieux is always going to have the eye of the officials, and anything remotely close to a penalty will be called.
It’s not a secret how most players are more likely to get called for something or get away with something based on the type of player they are in any sport, so this take shouldn’t be a surprising one. But if we look at the penalty-ridden night for Lemieux on Monday, serious league-wide questions surface.
Before we look at the penalties, it’s important to remember the type of player Lemieux is. He is a guy whose game is designed to get under the skin of the opposition, one of those players falling under one of two categories: loved and adored as a teammate or hated as the enemy.
Simply put, he’s a pest. Looking for proof? Go no further than the matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and Max Domi.
Rewind back to the other night and the 12 minutes of penalties assessed to Lemieux, and it starts with a questionable call that might not happen if it was any other player.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) December 17, 2019
Lemieux received an interference call for the hit above, and while you could argue the hit didn’t warrant a penalty, you have to wonder how much of the player making the hit was involved in the decision making. For the record, the call was the right one, but it was one that gets missed more often than it gets called.
It’s easy to wonder if Lemieux wasn’t the nitty-gritty get-in-your face-type of player he is, would the referee just look the other way and let the play unfold? The timing of the penalty also makes you wonder considering it came at the tail end of back-to-back really strong offensive shifts from the Blueshirts.
They went on to kill the penalty that carried over in the next period, but it also cost Lemieux a few shifts after he was benched for taking the penalty.
Now for the second penalty when he was given a 10-minute game misconduct.
Brendan Lemieux got 10-minutes for this?! ? ? pic.twitter.com/3GKKBvQpGL
— Rangers on MSG (@RangersMSGN) December 17, 2019
Full disclosure here, I was at the Garden for this game with a decent few of center ice and when heard Lemieux was given the 10-minute misconduct, I was a bit confused. Nobody in the building knew what Lemieux did to warrant the time.
The only answer I could come up with was the two bumps with Roman Josi and Kyle Turris. Now, it is important to remember the scrum that ensued before the misconduct was given out, and we obviously don’t know what was said during the scrum; but, how on Earth does that warrant misconduct?
A lot of this does sound like Rangers bias, but I think it’s fair to wonder how the Rangers lost a player for 12 minutes on two relatively harmless plays and Nashville only suffered four minutes of penalty time on more dangerous/serious separate incidents?
Obviously, we’ll never know because the referees in any league don’t have to answer for missed calls, and that is a discussion for another day. But the point remains the same: Brendan Lemieux’s style is going to bring a closer eye to him and he has to be smart enough to realize that.
This is where the developmental skills head coach David Quinn possess will play a major role. He won’t want to completely change the way Lemieux plays the game because he is a unique type of player. Instead, Quinn will have to focus his efforts on getting Lemieux to pick his spots to get involved physically.
New York is starting to think about the playoffs and one thing that constantly kills teams in the playoffs is avoidable penalties. We saw the Philadelphia Flyers get in trouble during their first-round playoff matchup with New York in 2014 after they couldn’t keep their composure. It will happen for this Rangers team, but it shouldn’t be for any other reason other than their youth.
Brendan Lemieux brings plenty of positives to the ice and he will have a positive impact in the future. He just needs to be aware of what he’s doing on the ice at all times because he cannot afford not to.