It was garbage time. So Tanner Glass was on the ice.
He did as he does, getting into a wrestling match with Chris Wideman and Kyle Turris in the corner. The whistles blew, but it didn’t matter: Glass threw his gloves several feet in the air, and started pounding on Turris, rag-dolling him on the ice.
Order was restored. Glass skated off the ice to an enormous ovation from the fans at MSG. In the upper deck, they chanted “TANNER! TANNER!” as Glass left for the dressing room, high-fiving fans on his way out, his night of work complete: Two assists, five minutes for fighting, seven hits to lead all skaters and as much impact as he could fit into just 10:16 of ice time with the Rangers’ productive fourth line.
Not bad for a guy who played more games with AHL Hartford (57) than with the Rangers (11) in the regular season. Not bad for a guy whose reputation with the advanced stats community is that of a liability, and whose presence in the Rangers’ lineup is usually met with an eye roll in unison from fans on social media and message boards.
Not bad for Tanner Glass, who would like to demonstrate to the haters that he’s really not bad.
“My game’s not one that’s easy to like at times. People who know hockey. Your coaches. Your teammates. Those are the important people and they’re supportive,” he said.
“You know what? The people who do say those things don’t know much about the game, or being part of a team. Part of a locker room. Especially in a game like hockey. It’s a physical game. There’s so much that goes on, that the average fan doesn’t understand. To me, when I hear that stuff, it seems to be uneducated people.”
Does he use this as motivation?
“It was at one time. But not anymore.”
The motivation for Glass comes from the trust placed in him by coach Alain Vigneault.
Glass, 33, has been with the Rangers since 2014-15, ping-ponging back and forth from the AHL to the NHL. He’s played 134 games with the team, second only to his stint with the Vancouver Canucks (140 games) for longevity. He was in Vancouver from 2009-11. Vigneault was his coach.
Glass played the first three games of the postseason against the Montreal Canadiens, was scratched for the next three in that six-game series win for the Rangers. Glass then rejoined the lineup after the Rangers lost the first two games against the Senators.
He has three points in his last two games, and four points overall in five playoff games. This is after scoring two points in his first 60 NHL playoff games.
“Tanner is just playing good, disciplined, smart hockey. That’s what he needs to do,” said Vigneault.
Even if he was, comically and briefly, a first-line player to start the game.
You see, the Rangers take turns reading the starting lineup before the game in the locker room. It was Glass’s turn before Game 4. He read Derek Stepan’s name. He read Rick Nash’s name. “And then I read ‘starting on left wing … MYSELF!’ And the boys were like ‘ohhhhhh!’ So, yeah, it’s not something you expect, but something that’s nice,” he said of the Game 4 start.
Glass said he’s in the Rangers’ lineup because he’s a known quantity to his coach.
“AV knows what to expect when I’m out there. The message is clear, he wants me to be physical,” he said. “Straight line, north south. It’s forechecking. Reading the play. I’m trying to be tough to play against.”
Including doing the thing you expect from Tanner Glass, when necessary. Like at the end of Game 4, when the Senators were looking to send messages, and Glass was responding to each message with his fists.
“You mess with the bull, you get the horns,” he said.
There are those who argued against putting Glass in the lineup, but Glass argues that the playoffs are when his style of hockey can excel. “It’s a fun time of year. There’s not much time and space. Sometimes I’m better when there’s not time and space,” he said.
Four points in five games is more offense than anyone expected from Tanner Glass, but then five games might be more games than anyone expected from Tanner Glass, too.
“I’m just trying to stay in the moment. Prepare for each game, day to day. Try to bring that consistent effort that’s been my thing, throughout my career,” he said.
Was Game 4 his most memorable playoff game ever?
“I remember it really well right now, because it just happened,” he said, with a laugh. “But we haven’t done anything yet. We’re 2-2. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and we’re 10 wins away from that.”
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