No one questions the Rangers’ skill. The popular question, however, is whether the club will thrive in the playoff crucible when will often overrides skill.
To Vincent Trocheck, a guy whose bite is made for the playoff grind — and don’t we know it off their seven-game series last year against the Hurricanes, when he was one of the bad guys — it is not much of a question at all.
“Our so-called, ‘skill guys’ aren’t going to back down or be pushed around,” Trocheck told The Post. ‘[Patrick] Kane can certainly take the grind, he won three Cups. No one is shoving around [Vladimir] Tarasenko. Mika [Zibanejad], he’s built for the playoffs. Our fourth line is one of the best in the league. Our back end plays heavy.
“I don’t see any problem in that area.”
The Rangers host the Penguins at the Garden both Thursday and Saturday in what will be Pittsburgh’s last realistic chance to overtake the Blueshirts for third place in the division. The gap is eight points with 15 games to go. If the chippy overtime match in Pittsburgh last Sunday is any indication, the upcoming pair of games will have a playoff feel to them.
That suits Trocheck, who had a noteworthy physical exchange with Evgeni Malkin on Sunday. Trocheck emerged on top by setting up Chris Kreider’s third-period tying goal after he bounced Malkin to the ice from behind.
“When the space gets tighter and the physicality ramps up, I think that’s more my game,” said Trocheck, a Pittsburgh native. “I would never say that, ‘I’m built for the playoffs,’ but I become more mentally engaged, it helps with my energy level. I have more jump.
“It’s not something that I necessarily plan before a game. It develops during the game depending on the flow and the style. If it gets chippy, if there’s more hitting, that’s fine with me.”
Unless something unforeseen develops, the Rangers will face either the Devils or Hurricanes in the first round, and, if form holds, the other team in the second round — if the Blueshirts can get there. Neither of those teams will be able to bully the Rangers.
Of course, it is not necessarily about being bullied. It’s about being able to get to the inside and win the 50-50s that often determine the outcome of a series. To that extent, head coach Gerard Gallant said he has no qualms about his team’s lineup or makeup.
“I don’t see any issue with that, honestly,” Gallant said. “Our team was different last year. We all know we had Ryan Reaves and those type of players. It was a different team.
“This year’s team plays a different game. We don’t play the same game. We’re more [about] puck management, puck possession. We’re not as aggressive on the forecheck as we were in the past but we’re still a real good team.
“You look at the teams that won, the teams that have been good. Colorado, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been a real good team and we’re have the same type elements of those teams,” he said. “I’m not worried about going out there and fighting.
“Did we have that in the past? Yes, we did. Do we still have some of it now? Some of it but not as much but I like our team. I think we did a real good job at the deadline getting the people we got.
“It’s a different makeup. But I think we have a real good chance to win.”
Barclay Goodrow can be an agitator. A mean one, too, Same for Tyler Motte. Jimmy Vesey is an aggravating opponent. Again, though, there is a question about whether the Rangers have enough pains-in-the-butt to play against.
“Are you talking about ‘ratty guys?’ ” Trocheck asked. “In my experience, those guys kind of go away when the stakes get that high.
“I don’t think guys get under your skin by yapping and doing that kind of stuff. The way you get under a guy’s skin is by being relentless, by not giving up on plays, by battling in front.
“That’s the way. And we have that.”
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