Matt Rempe bruising his way toward folk-hero status with Rangers

Matt Rempe Rangers
New York Rangers’ Matt Rempe (73) celebrates after scoring past Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Samuel Ersson (33) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Matt Rempe’s game is as straightforward as they come: Hit anything that moves and drop the gloves when necessary. But the New York Rangers rookie forward was hit with something that was even peculiar to him during the third period of their Saturday tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers. 

The puck. 

At the 6:31 mark of the third period in a 1-1 game, the 6-foot-7 forward got his big body to the front of the net and unknowingly sent a Braden Schneider shot that was deflected by Barclay Goodrow through the legs of Flyers netminder Samuel Ersson off his shin.

“I felt something hit my shinpad pretty hard,” Rempe said (h/t New York Rangers). “I didn’t know if it was a stick, I didn’t know if it was the puck, but I’ll take it.”

The 21-year-old’s first NHL goal proved to be the game-winner, lifting the Rangers to a franchise-record-tying 10th consecutive victory.

“He did what he was supposed to do,” Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette began, “which was go in front of the net and stand in front of the goaltender, give him a screen, and it ends up redirecting off of him and getting his first NHL goal… It’s awesome.”

Rempe now has half the amount of goals as he does fights through his first four NHL games — a bout with Flyers tough guy Nicolas Deslauriers on Saturday afternoon stealing the show in the game’s opening minutes. 

After a pregame challenge from Deslauriers and nine seconds into his first shift of the game just three minutes into the first period, Rempe dropped the gloves — and the two proceeded to throw haymaker after haymaker for 37 seconds. That might not seem long on paper, but it’s an eternity in today’s game, especially considering the ferocity of the scrap.

“You don’t see a lot of that, just standing back and throwing like that for a minute,” Laviolette said. “It was a good one, for sure.”

While Deslauriers threw Rempe to the ground to end it, the Rangers’ tough guy managed to cut the forehead of Philadelphia’s 6-foot-1 gladiator. 

“It was a great fight, we were just throwing bombs,” Rempe recounted. “It got the juices flowing.”

Rempe’s opening stats in the pros are one of the more peculiar lines you’ll see in today’s NHL. Across his first four games, he’s recorded a total of just 15 minutes of ice time — an average of 3:46 per game — with three shots, 27 penalty minutes, two fights, an ejection, and now a game-winning goal. 

Rempe Martin Islanders Rangers
New York Rangers’ Matt Rempe, top, fights with New York Islanders’ Matt Martin during the first period of an NHL Stadium Series hockey game in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Before the clock even started on his first-ever NHL shift during the Stadium Series on Feb. 18 against the crosstown-rival Islanders at MetLife Stadium, he dropped the gloves with veteran bruiser Matt Martin. After posting seven hits in just five minutes of action in his second game against the Dallas Stars, Rempe was ejected after just 13 seconds on the ice for a high hit on New Jersey Devils forward Nathan Bastian on Thursday night.

“He’s been great since he’s been here,” Laviolette said. “You could just tell the players in the locker room just really like having him here. He’s smiling, he loves what he does, he loves to hit and be physical.”

It is not the most glamorous job in sports and it is not for everyone, but Rempe appears to be carving out a niche on Broadway as a guy to add some much-needed sandpaper to a highly-skilled team that appears to be positioning itself for a Stanley Cup run.

“Words can’t describe it. I’m just honored to be here,” Rempe said. “I’m going to try and make the most of this opportunity. Every time I throw on the New York Rangers jersey, I’m going to give it my all… I’m happy how it’s going, but there’s a lot more work to do.”

For more on Matt Rempe and the Rangers, visit AMNY.com