It doesn’t take long to notice when the New York Rangers send out their fourth line of forwards.
Usually within seconds you’ll notice Mike Rupp’s colossal 6’5’’ figure chugging alongside Brandon Prust, motoring viciously around the ice, looking for the next opponent to throw their bodies into.
Even John Mitchell, who was largely unknown to the hockey world prior to finding a role in New York, has been the Rangers most reliable faceoff man throughout the postseason.
Following every New York Rangers game, the postgame recap shows how the ice time was distributed between the four lines.
It seems like every time, I am surprised to learn just how few minutes the fourth line of the Rangers actually played despite their immense contributions throughout the game.
Typically the fourth line of a hockey team consists of the least skilled players, but some teams are deep enough to employ an “energy line” as their fourth rotation of forwards. It is vital to have a solid fourth line of forwards, especially in the postseason, as it gives the primary forwards time to rest.
In Monday night’s opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals, none of the three forwards cracked 10 minutes of even-strength playing time, however they still managed to impact the contest in a big way.
Depth is an imperative factor for a team with aspirations of making a run deep in the playoffs and the Rangers have really gotten a boost from their last line’s production.
Their physically oriented play provides a spark for their teammates and the fans. New York’s head coach John Tortorella has shown increasing bouts of confidence in his fourth line throughout the playoffs, playing them more and more in critical situations.
Mike Rupp, John Mitchell, and Brandon Prust epitomize what a fourth line can bring to a team in the playoffs, regardless of the zeroes next to their names on the score sheet.