Braden Schneider is giving the Rangers the spark they crave

The boredom hadn’t quite set in yet, as it loomed in the final 40 minutes of Tuesday’s low-event Battle of the Hudson in Newark.

So it was just after halftime of the first period that the Devils held a 1-0 lead through Yegor Sharongovich’s lovely breakaway goal after a Jacob Trouba boo-boo at 6:56 when Jesper Boqvist got a feed in his skates line accepted for himself and launched the ice along the left side as he went… SPLAT.

Boqvist went to the chest for SPLAT in a classic shoulder check delivered by Braden Schneider. Sharangovich decided to challenge Schneider more head-on as PK subban Oliver Wahlstrom jumped Sunday after Islanders winger Jack Hughes delivered a legal hit.

Sharangovich was knee-jerkly praised by his coach Lindy Ruff, the guy who was a racquet coach in Buffalo, even after New Jersey’s No. 17 was knocked out by the freshman. Was praised despite being unable to return to the game, was praised despite catching an instigator penalty that put Rangers on the power play in which they would equalize en route to a 3-1 triumph.

The Blueshirts, meanwhile, praised Schneider for initiating the sequence that energized his teammates early enough, even when the team only managed four shots at the net – count them, one, two, three, four in the last 40 minutes.

“When you see a young guy step up like that and play like that you can feel the energy on the bench, that definitely set the tone,” said Chris Kreider, whose franchise record is the 25th power play goal of the season and who 47th overall would give the club a 2-1 lead late in the first period after Ryan Strome equalized. “The boys called him ‘Baby’ [Jacob] Troubah.’

“But that’s how he plays. He’s a damn good boy, it’s a pleasure to be around. He brings it every day. He’s a great addition to our team and will be playing for a very, very long time.”

Rangers are using these past few weeks as a testing ground as they head towards their first playoff spot since 2017. The magic number for clinching was reduced to four after the Islanders lost to Dallas. Head coach Gerard Gallant tries out a few combinations up front. On defense, where the Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox, Trouba-K’Andre Miller tandems are sacrosanct, a decision must be made on the third pair, where Schneider, Patrik Nemeth and recently acquired Justin Braun are fighting for places.

Schneider, 20, and Braun, 35, are both right-handed, while Nemeth shoots left-handed. Braun, who has 100 playoff games to his credit, had rarely played at left during his 12-year career with San Jose and Philadelphia, during which he was mostly paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brenden Dillion, Ivan Provorov or Travis Sanheim .

Braden Schneider raises his fist
Braden Schneider is lining up for his first NHL fight.
Robert Sabo

But here Braun stepped up for this one as Schneider came back into the lineup on his natural side after serving as a healthy scratch on Sunday for the second time in 33 games since rising from the Wolf Pack on Jan. 11. The pair seemed solid in 12:59 of five-a-side work, with Braun sneaking one through from the left for the final goal.

“I haven’t [focus] a lot on them, but they looked good to me,” Gallant said. “If I watch it again, I’ll watch it [more closely] But I thought they were solid and Schneids comes in there and sure is a big part of the win tonight. Everything went really well but I didn’t pay attention to the small details.”

Rangers haven’t had a rookie defenseman show so much composure so quickly since… well, that would have been K’Andre Miller last year. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Fox a year earlier. These baby blueshirts are in a hurry, even if they seem like they’ve been here for a decade. That is certainly the impression that Schneider creates.

“He’s been great all year, for a young kid he’s so professional. You never have to worry about him,” said Strome, whose return after four games was instrumental in the win. “I skated with him a few times when he was scratched and the way he carries himself is well beyond his years.

“It’s good to see a young man with that attitude. He’s going to have a really long career. Plays like tonight and the big hit, and the way he plays he’s mature beyond his years on and off the ice. He did a great job staying ready, staying focused and being a big part of our dressing room. He loves to have fun and he really joined our group. He’s a great kid and we’re lucky to have him.” Braden Schneider is giving the Rangers the spark they crave


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