The New York Rangers are off to a red-hot start this season, sitting atop the Metropolitan division with a 10-2-1 record. LW Artemi Panarin has stolen the headlines as he has opened the season scoring at least one point in all 13 matchups.
Panarin has looked like one of the top players in the league this season, leading the Blueshirts’ second line to great success. But after an injury forced Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette to make a change to the second line, the trio somehow only improved after the alteration.
Laviolatte’s new second line featuring Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, and Alexis Lafreniere is a masterpiece that could lead the Rangers far this season.
The Rangers’ new second line is a dominant force
Filip Chytil opened the season as the second-line center, however, he has missed the Blueshirts’ last three games while on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. This has paved the way for Vincent Trocheck to ascend into the second line, leaving the bottom six behind and earning those top-six minutes.
The addition of Trocheck has turned the Rangers’ second line into a dominant force. He, Panarin, and Alexis Lafreniere all scored points in the team’s most recent win over the Minnesota Wild. Trocheck has three points (one goal, two assists), as did Lafreniere (one goal, two assists), and Panarin contributed two points (one goal, one assist).
In the team’s last five games, the second line has far out-produced the rest of the lineup. Panarin has ten points in the last five (four goals, six assists), Trocheck has six (three goals, three assists), and Lafreniere has five (one goal, four assists).
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The second line has increased production since Chytil’s injury
Trocheck’s last three games, however, have been particularly impressive. In those three games, he has been playing on the second line in place of Chytil, accumulating all six of those aforementioned points in that time span. His presence on the second line has correlated to increased production from his linemates.
All five of Lafreniere’s previously-mentioned last five points have come in the last three games. Six of Panarin’s ten points from his last five games have come in the last three games.
Not only is Trocheck capitalizing on his top-six role, but he is also elevating those around him to play better. The Rangers’ new second line has been elite across the past three games and it will be difficult for Laviolette to break this group up when Chytil returns from injury.
Is the second line better without Filip Chytil?
Trocheck’s strong performance on the Rangers’ second line has stirred controversy about whether or not he should maintain that role permanently, even when Chytil is healthy and ready to return to the ice.
While Chytil wasn’t having a bad season by any means prior to his injury, his point production did not compare to what Trocheck is currently accomplishing while centering the second line. Chytil had only two points in his last five games before his injury, both coming on October 24th, the first of the last five games (meaning he was on a four-game point drought).
This season, Chytil has played a career-high 15:56 average time on ice but has only six points (zero goals) to show for it. The second line has been excellent all season long because of the greatness of Panarin. But after witnessing the group’s performance improve over the last three games, it’s worth wondering whether or not the second line is better off without Chytil.
The Panarin-Trocheck-Lafreniere line has been dominant across the past three games. Laviolette should stick with that line, even when Chytil is healthy enough to return to the lineup.