The New York Rangers have only played five games under new head coach Peter Laviolette this season. While the season is still fresh, and there is a full 77 games to be played, Laviolette has most of his players playing a more aggressive style of hockey than in their previous years. Three players in particular are benefiting from Laviolette the most.
Artemi Panarin: Bald is Better
While it’s not an issue for Artemi Panarin to produce during the regular season, the star left winger has seemed to add defense into his arsenal. In the season opener against the Buffalo Sabres, Panarin made sure he was forechecking early.
At 19:17 in the first period, the winger stripped Owen Power along the right corner boards and then set up Ryan Lindgren for a scoring chance. In game two, Panarin stripped the puck from winger Mathieu Olivier in the offensive zone. He then drew a hooking penalty giving the Rangers a powerplay.
Not only has he been aggressively checking, but Panarin has accounted for 15 individual scoring chances at 5v5. The superstar has once again taken a shot-first mentality he’s been missing the last two seasons.
In the two years Panarin played under Gerard Gallant, he was known for not going into the corners which drew criticism from fans. While it is still early in the season, Panarin aggressively forechecking is a good sign for the Rangers going forward.
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Alexis Lafrenière is rising to the occasion
The 2023-24 season is Alexis Lafrenière’s biggest in his young NHL career with the Rangers. The former first-overall pick is playing in his fourth season, and the previous three have been less than ideal. His start to this season has been much better than any other.
The 22-year-old got off to a hot start against the Sabres, scoring a goal and forcing the turnover leading to Panarin’s goal (deserved a point as he created the play).
Against the Kraken, he found the score sheet again scoring the Rangers’ second goal. He has also started to hone into his defensive game as he’s one of three Rangers to have four takeaways on the young season.
Head coach Peter Laviolette doesn’t seem to be worried about the fourth-year winger, continuing to keep him on the second line with Panarin and Chytil. Last night, Laviolette’s patience paid off as Lafrenière found the twine.
The Rangers are getting a breakout campaign from Filip Chytil
The Panarin-Chytil-Lafreniere line has been the Rangers’ best line in two of their three wins. Last season, Chytil had his breakout year, setting career highs in goals (22), assists (23), and points (45) which Drury rewarded with a 4 year, $4.437M extension. Many fans were clamoring to make him the 2C, and that is exactly what Peter Laviolette did.
Through his first four games, Chytil’s only point (assist on Lafrenière’s goal) came during the season opener against Buffalo. Game five against Seattle was his breakthrough game.
At 7:45 in the first period, Chytil made a nifty cross-ice pass to Artemi Panarin who scored to even the score at one. Then at 2:01, Chytil did it again finding Lafrenière to take a 2-1 lead. Along the right boards, Chytil stick handled through Matty Beniers and Justin Schultz before giving Lafrenière a backhand pass in front of the net.
He would also go on to assist on Panarin’s second goal. While Chytil had a slow start to his season, Laviolette’s patience with the 22-year-old center paid off.
“When you shoot, it’s always creating so many other opportunities after,” he said. “That’s my style almost my whole life.”Via Vince Z. Mercogliano of Lohud.com
Chytil has also made it known he is trying to adopt a shoot-first mentality, and that is exactly what he is doing this season. While he hasn’t found the back of the net, Chytil has been peppering shots on goal. His 13 shots on goal this season rank third on the Rangers only behind Panarin (21) and Zibanejad (13).