Rangers’ ‘Kids’ line gives team hope heading into Game 6

The New York Rangers live to play another day thanks to the fearless play of Alexi Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kappo Kakko, A.K.A. the “Kids” Line.

With the New York Rangers down 2-1 late in the second period, head coach Garrard Gallant put out the line that has been the heartbeat in an otherwise disappointing playoff.

The Kid’s line grinded and battled in the corners, forechecking and refusing to get pushed off of the puck. It resulted in a magnificent pass from kakko to Lafreniere who buried the pass.  The crowd went crazy, the game was tied thanks to the three former first-round picks who have found the chemistry the Blueshirts were missing.

“We believe in our group,” Lafreniere said. ” We were down 3-1 (in the series) but I think we weren’t playing that bad. Played a really good one tonight when we needed it the most, so it was a really good team effort.”

A. late 2-0 deficit turned into a 3-3 2nd intermission tie.  The Ranger knew that has to win the third period in order to get to a game six in Pittsburgh.  The “Kid’s” attitude to play hard against whomever the Penguins put out there at that time was infectious throughout the lineup.

In the third period, Filip Chytil scored his first NHL Playoff goal with the man advanatge.

“It was just some bounce there,” Chytil said. “I don’t even know how it gets to me but probably the whole season I didn’t score many goals (eight in 67 regular-season games), so not thinking too much with the chances, and now I just close my eyes and just shoot and score a goal finally. I was so happy to help the team.”

The Rangers took a 4-3 lead eventually winning the game 5-3. Most importantly they take some momentum with them for Friday’s must-win game.

The Kids Doing Their Job

In five games this postseason, Alexis Lafrenière (2G-2A), Filip Chytil (1G-1A), and Kaapo Kakko (1G-1A) have combined for eight points. Lafreniere scored his second goal of the playoffs, before adding an assist. Lafrenière became the fourth different player in Rangers history to score in consecutive playoff games at age 20 or younger. The others: Don Maloney (3 GP & 2 GP in 1979), Steven Rice (2 GP in 1991), and Mike Allison (2 GP in 1981). Lafrenière has two goals and two assists for four points in five games.

Chyti’sl goal was his fifth career power-play goal and sixth career game-winning tally.

Kakko collected his second career playoff point with an assist, giving him a goal and an assist in his past three games.

Lafreniere played 16:20 on Wednesday night thanks to the team going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.  Lafreniere double shifted in the fourth line alongside Ryan Reaves and Kevin Rooney.

Gallant stood stand fest on not changing his line combinations last night. For last night he was correct n that decision. The Kids finished their checks, drove to the net to cause confusion on the Penguin’s end of the ice, and at the end of it all found a way to give the Rangers another hockey game with a chance for a game seven at MSG on Sunday.

 

Rangers F Kaapo Kakko now “week-to-week” with upper-body injury

Kakko missed the Rangers’ Saturday tilt with Arizona and appears to be out for at least the immediate future.

The New York Rangers will apparently be missing one of their young skaters as they embark on the second half of their regular season schedule. Per Arthur Staple of The Athletic, the Rangers have placed Kaapo Kakko on injured reserve with head coach Gerard Gallant projecting the third-year forward to be evaluated on a “week-to-week” basis.

Kakko was originally a late scratch from the Rangers’ Saturday game against the Arizona Coyotes at Madison Square Garden. The 20-year-old was said to have an upper-body injury that Gallant described as “going on for a little while” after the Rangers (27-11-4) earned a 7-3 win. He was originally labeled “day-to-day” by Gallant but now figures to be destined for a lengthier absence.

The second overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Kakko has earned 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 37 games this season. He had played only 27 minutes over the last two games, including 14:02 in the Rangers’ loss in Carolina on Friday.

In immediate response to the Kakko departure, Gallant hinted that he could go with an 11-forward set-up when the Rangers take on the Los Angeles Kings at MSG on Monday night (7 p.m. ET, MSG+), dressing seven defensemen. Vince Z. Mercogliano of the USA Today network hinted at such a strategy, as Gallant was pleased with the way Kevin Rooney rotated on the bottom lines after Filip Chytil (whom Gallant labeled day-to-day) was forced to leave with an injury.

Monday’s rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final will be the first of four Ranger games this week, all but one staged at MSG. They’ll face the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road on Thursday before celebrating Henrik Lundqvist Night when the Minnesota Wild visit the day after. The week concludes with the Seattle Kraken’s first visit to Manhattan on Sunday afternoon.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Rangers continue to win on strength of the young guns

The New York Rangers are having a fantastic road trip as their winning streak hits three consecutive games following Thursday’s 3-1 victory over Nashville.

Winning hockey games can help teams bond. For the New York Rangers, winning hockey has now earned the team three straight wins and points in their last four games (3-0-1).

Head coach Gerard Gallant has been able to find the right line combinations, despite some injuries, the red hot play of goalie Igor Shesterkin has given the Rangers their best start to begin a season (7 points) through five games since the 2009-10 season (8 points).

Thursday night’s lineup was constructed differently. With Ryan Strome and Kappo Kakko still unable to play, Gallant decided to put his two top stars together again.

Mika Zibanejad centered Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider. The trio didn’t record any points but played a strong game driving to the net and causing chaos in the Predator’s end.

The Young Guns

The night belonged to the kids.

Gallant put together a second line of Filip Chytil (22 yrs. old) centering Alexis Lafreniere ( 20 yrs. old) and Sammy Blais (25 yrs. old). The three seemed to hit the ice flying and were in the mix for the first two goals. The first-period backhander by Chytil gave the team a 1-0 lead.

The Rangers’ second goal, scored by Lafreniere, was a small glimpse of the potential these kids have. Norris trophy winner Adam Fox intercepted a pass, skated down the right side of the ice, and threaded a needle pass to Blais.

Not to be outdone by his defenseman, Blais then toe dragged the puck as he split two Predator players just in front of the Nashville goaltender, then chipped a pass to his left onto the stick of Lafreniere who proceeded to put the puck into the net.

Shesterkin Wall

Igor Shesterkin had found his groove early on this season. During this three-game winning streak, (wins over Montreal, Toronto, and Nashville) he has stopped 99 of the 102 shot’s he has faced which is good for a .971 save percentage. 

Three goals against made him pretty unbeatable and is another display of how well things are going on this road trip.

Adam Fox

Adam Fox has points in four of five games this season (1G-3A). Since the beginning of last season, Fox’s 51 points are tied with Victor Hedman for the most in the NHL among defensemen.

The kid, just 23-years-old, does everything on the ice for his team. His great speed along with vision across the whole sheet of ice directly lead to the game-winning goal on Thursday night. 

Head coach Gallant has been trying to limit Fox’s minutes, yet he is still averaging 25:25 minutes on ice per game. Gallant will ride this horse until he’s forced to slow down. 

A balance of veteran players and fearless kids is slowly transforming into a winning combination. They play hard in all three zones, for an entire game. No one player is more important than the other, but all know their responsibilities during games.

Now if they can only find an answer to the power-play. 

New York Rangers, Filip Chytil agree to terms on a 2-year contract

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

New York Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent forward Filip Chytil on a two-year contract.

The New York Rangers had a pretty quiet first day of free agency on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon the team announced they have agreed to a new two-year contract with restricted free agent center Filip Chytil.

The deal has an AAV of $2.3 million per season.

Chytil, 21, skated in 42 games with the Rangers this past season, registering eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points, along with a plus-nine rating and 10 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in several categories in 2020-21, including assists, points per game (0.52), assists per game (0.33), and plus/minus rating (plus-nine). Chytil registered all of his 22 points this past season at even strength/5-on-5. He ranked sixth among NHL centers (min. 20 games played) in points per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 (2.60; only trailing Connor McDavid, Jason Spezza, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, and Leon Draisaitl), as well as sixth among NHL centers (min. 20 games played) in assists per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 (1.65; only trailing McDavid, MacKinnon, Spezza, Evgeni Malkin, and Draisaitl) this past season. The Rangers posted a 14-3-3 record in games which Chytil tallied a point in 2020-21.

The 6-2, 206-pounder has skated in 186 career NHL games over parts of four seasons (2017-18 – 2020-21), all with the Rangers, registering 34 goals and 37 assists for 71 points, along with 32 penalty minutes. Among players who were selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Chytil ranks third in goals, ranks fourth in games played, and ranks eighth in points. He is the only player who has worn jersey No. 72 in a regular-season or playoff game with the Rangers in franchise history. Over the last two seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21), the Blueshirts have posted a 28-7-5 record in the 40 games in which Chytil has registered a point. He has skated in three career postseason games with the Rangers.

The Kromeriz, Czech Republic native was selected by the Rangers in the first round, 21st overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. (Per NYR PR Department)

Leading to a bigger deal

It is unclear if this signing is a prelude to a bigger trade in the upcoming days or if it is a seal to fortify the club at the center position for the next two seasons.

The rumors of the club trying to make a trade for Buffalos’ Jack Eichel continue to run rampant. Time will tell where things shake out and what the true meaning of this signing is.

New York Rangers continue to find ways to win during playoff push

The New York Rangers continue to win hockey games, looking for a playoff miracle, as the NHL season concludes on May 8.

The New York Rangers have been on the outside looking in for a playoff spot for most of this abbreviated NHL season.  A slow start by some of its stars, a nine-game absence due to an absurd accusation against Artemi Panarin, and plenty of inconsistency between veteran scoring and the development of the “kids” is why the team sits in fifth place, four points behind the Boston Bruins who have two games in hand.

Up And Down

The Blueshirts have been unable to put a winning streak together, instead of settling for a win-lose, win-lose format for much of the 2021 campaign.

The month of April began the same way with the Rangers splitting all three-game series against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Islanders.

Then a crucial four-game set began against the struggling New Jersey Devils. The Rangers needed every one of the eight points available and surprisingly to some, the team completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon at the Rock.

The win didn’t come without some poor play with the club blowing big leads in each of the last two games. Yet at the end of the day, a win is a win as head coach David Quinn eluded to during Sunday’s post-game zoom conference call.

 

“When you come up with four wins I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care how many leads you blew, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t if you find ways to win and that’s what we did.

Now, that being said, we certainly understand that if we’re going to have success, we’ve got to play better. And we know that that’s not lost on us. It’s not lost on the coaches, and I don’t think it’s lost on any of the players.”

Tough Road Ahead

Playing better needs to begin immediately with the schedule the team has standing in front of them.

The math may not seem to make sense, but the Rangers have a better chance of chasing down the second-place New York Islanders rather than the fourth-place Boston Bruins.

What the heck am I talking about?  Let’s break it down and maybe clarify some of the doubt people may have in this theory.

The Rangers and Islanders have played 45 games each.  The Rangers have 52 points with the Islanders being eight points better at 60. The two teams play each other three more times this season beginning with a game Tuesday night in Long Island.

As much as a long shot as it is, should the Rangers win those three contests, and get a little help (which has not happened all month) the Blueshirts could have a good shot to overtake the Islanders.

The Long Island rivals play three consecutive games against Washington following Tuesday’s nights game against the Blueshirts. Then a two-game set against the Rangers. Then they have two against Buffalo, two against New Jersey and their final game is at Boston on May 11.

The Bruins are harder to catch because of the number of games they have left In the season. Currently, they have two games in hand over the Rangers and also are on a four-game winning streak.

The Bruins have 13 games remaining, five of which are against the Buffalo Sabres. They also play the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Rangers twice and completed their extended schedule with a game in Long Island and at home against the Caps on May 11.

They are scheduled to play two more games after the game against the Rangers on May 8.

Mathematically the Rangers can catch either teams, but this late in the season chasing down the Islanders may be the best way to get into the postseason.

Valuable Experience

Regardless of how things end up for the Rangers this year, the young kids are gaining so much experience from this simulated NHL playoff scenario.

Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin have all found the score sheet and continue to grow into hockey players that fear no situation or opponent.

For one of the rare times this season the veterans and the kids have been able to play their best hockey at the same time.

When this team plays on all cylinders, as five-man units on the ice, they can compete with any other team in the NHL. Their speed on the ice has caused plenty of chaos for opposing teams, just ask the Devils who had to deal with the Ranger Roadrunners four times in the past week.

Wherever the team ends up on thelast day of the season doesn’t really matter.  What should raise the teams and the fan base’s optimism is a renewed energy on the ice that will get better and better with every game.

This club is learning how to win hockey games instead of trying not to lose games.

Follow Frank on Twitter at @RangerProud

Mika Zibanejad Helps the New York Rangers from Looking Foolish in Buffalo

Mika Zibanejad saved the New York Rangers from a really bad April Fools prank. Zibanejad scored off an Artemi Panarin pass to lead the Blueshirts to a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers appeared to be destined for a regulation win until Buffalo scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.

The goal and the win spared the Rangers from a loss against the team with the worst record in the NHL. On Wednesday, the Sabres ended a shootout-era record of 18 games without a win by beating the Flyers 6-1.

In his post-game interview, Zibanejad talked about his overtime goal. “It’s a little bit of different game 3 on 3. We got a 2-on-1 and we took advantage of it. We took the two points and we move on.”

Zibanejad tallied his sixth overtime goal with the Rangers, which is the fourth-most in franchise history.

After giving up a first-period goal to Sabres Rasmus Asplund, Colin Blackwell tied the game with a goal in the second period. Blackwell has registered three goals/points in the last three games, according to NYR Stats&Info. He currently ranks fourth on the Rangers in even-strength goals and is tied for fifth on the team in goals his season with nine.

Ryan Strome assisted on Blackwell’s goal. Strome now has an 11-game point streak, which is the longest active point streak in the NHL. It is also tied for the third-longest point streak in the league this season.

The New York Rangers controlled the action in the last two periods

Filip Chytil scored at the 6:14 mark of the third period. His goal gave the Rangers the lead which held up until Buffalo’s Tage Thompson scored with 3.6 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

The Rangers controlled most of the action in the last two periods. The Blueshirts outshot the Sabres by a margin of 47-23, including a 37-11 margin in the final two periods and overtime.

Even though the Rangers had 47 shots on goal, head coach David Quinn still feels that the Rangers still need to shoot more often. After describing how the Sabres overtime goal gave them a kick in the butt, Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference that “we still have to have more of a shooting mentality.”

Igor Shesterkin stopped 21 of the 23 Sabres shots on goal. He appeared to have been hurt when form Ranger Steven Fogarty was called for interference after sliding into Shesterkin. Shesterkin told the media after the game that he feels fine.

The two teams meet again in Buffalo on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. puck drop.

 

 

 

 

 

How will Vitali Kravtsov fit in the New York Rangers lineup?

One team’s loss is the New York Ranger’s gain.

Now that the KHL’s Traktor team has been eliminated from the playoffs, Vitali Kravtsov is expected to join the Rangers very soon. The ninth overall pick in 2018 NHL will have to go through a few pandemic and non-pandemic hurdles before playing in games. Kravtsov will have to go through the visa process in traveling from Russia to the states. He will have to satisfy the proper COVID-19 protocols, which should take roughly 10-to-14 days.

Kravtsov’s appearance in a Rangers jersey is eagerly anticipated, especially after having a fine season in the KHL. He finished the KHL season with 16 goals and 24 points in 49 games. Even though his Traktor team was eliminated in 5 games, Kravtsov did score two goals and have two assists in that round.

Now he brings his skills to broadway, but the big question will be on how the Rangers will use him in their lineup.

The New York Rangers should bring Kravtsov along somewhat slowly

Even though Kravtsov has been playing hockey, and playing well, he will unlikely jump right into the first two lines. The KHL is not the NHL. Having him jump into even a third line, along with possible young teammates of Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, is not likely.

Depending on how things shake out after satisfying protocols, Kravtsov could spend time on the taxi squad. The Rangers may decide to give him time to skate with and get acclimated with his new teammates. If ends up looking ready for NHL play, he will probably start on the fourth line. Many need to remember that he struggled to adapt to the North American game after signing his entry-level contract in May 2019.

After a tough 2019-20 season, Kravtsov did return for the summer restart, which seemed to reinforce his commitment. It was also reported that he participated in the summer session with an improved attitude. It was also reported from scouts and sources from the Rangers that noted his improved physicality, defensive-zone coverage, and willingness to work in dangerous areas of the ice.

Whether it is sometime later this year or at the beginning of next, Kravtsov will end up spending a lot of time in the top nine for the Blueshirts.

Head coach David Quinn believes that your line placement will be based on merit. However, at some point, the Rangers will want to see their young forward will more skilled players versus the fourth-line grinders.

Much of that will depend on how well Kravtsov has taken to heart the lessons he learned from last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers have another strong offensive game in defeating the Devils

New York Rangers, Ryan Strome

The New York Rangers scored six goals in a game for the second time in two games against the New Jersey Devils. On Saturday, this resulted in a 6-3 victory over the Devils. The Rangers have tallied at least six goals in two consecutive road games against the Devils for the first time since they moved to New Jersey prior to the start of the 1982-83 season.

Ryan Strome scored twice while Adam Fox, Kevin Rooney Libor Hajek, and Filip Chytil also scored for the Blueshirts.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped 24 shots and also picked up an assist on Fox‘s coast-to-coast power-play goal. It was his fourth career NHL assist.

Julien Gauthier had two assists, posting a multi-assist game, and a multi-point game for the first time in his NHL career.

Not only was it the second straight game with six goals, but the Rangers have also had many players contribute to the effort. Five different Blueshirts have tallied a goal and 11 different NYR have recorded at least one point. The Rangers have tallied 9 goals over the last 4 periods, and 9 different players have tallied a goal over the span (Kreider, Buchnevich, Smith, Lafrenière, Fox, Strome, Rooney, Hajek, Chytil), per NYR Stats&Info.

Many of the young Rangers contributed to the effort in the win. Per NYR Stats&Info, six Ranger players 23 years old or younger have tallied a point in the win (Fox, Kakko, Chytil, Gauthier, Hajek, Miller). At least one player 23 years old or younger has recorded a point on each of the team’s four goals thus far in the game.

Head coach David Quinn praised his young players during his post-game Zoom conference. “Look how quickly they have adapted,” Quinn said. “I give these kids a lot of credit, it is not easy to develop in the National Hockey League. This isn’t a league where you develop. It’s a dramatic change in their hockey life.”

Filip Chytil makes a welcome return for the New York Rangers

Chytil had a goal and an assist, playing in only his ninth game this season after suffering an injury. After the game, he talked about returning to play after not playing in five weeks in his post-game Zoom conference. “Today it felt like a good game from my side, but it could have been better. Of course, I am playing wing now instead of center, but I am happy for the two points for the team.”

Quinn also talked about the return of Chytil to the team. “There was certainly more flashes of his speed, the things he can do for us offensively, pushing people back and generate offense. He is still finding his way with the injury he had.”

Hockey Day in America takes place this Sunday, March 7 with a quadruple-header on NBC and NBCSN. The Rangers will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in the finale of the four games, with a puck drop at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers lose Filip Chytil for 4-6 weeks

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have announced that forward Filip Chytil will be out four-to-six weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained in Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. The incident happened in the second period when Chytil collided with the Pens Evan Rodrigues. Chytil attempted to continue but left the game for good after one shift.

The exact injury has not been revealed as the NHL does not reveal details about injuries, something that they r started last summer when the league announced that teams will be barred from disclosing injuries or cases of the coronavirus beginning with the move to Phase 3 of the coronavirus protocols after an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association.

The injury was also costly for the Pens as head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters that Rodrigues would be out “longer-term with a lower-body injury.” Rodrigues appeared to injure his knee in the collision.

It is unclear who will replace Chytil on his line but his loss hurts a team that has started slow out of the gate. Chytil’s play has been one of the bright spots for the Rangers in the first five games of the season. After Tuesday’s skate around, Brett Howden told the media via Zoom that the Rangers are not sure what the lines will look like as a few things need to be worked out.

 

 

 

The New York Rangers face a crucial series against the Buffalo Sabres

It is definitely not the start that the New York Rangers were hoping for when the 2020-21 season started. After five games, the Blueshirts sit at just three points, in last place in the East Division, behind the Buffalo Sabres. Now the Rangers head to Buffalo for two games with the Sabres, which has made these games crucial to win some points during this 56 game sprint of a season.

The Sabres are coming home on a little bit of a high note, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shootout. The Sabres also faced a tough schedule to start the season, Buffalo six straight games to open the season against Philadelphia and Washington, with four of them on the road.

The Rangers will also be without Filip Chytil, who collided with the Penguins Evan Rodrigues in the second period.  He appeared to have hurt his left arm but played another shift, before leaving for the night. It was later revealed that Chytil has returned to New York to be evaluated by team doctors and will not be available for Tuesday night’s game.

As the media was unable to view Monday’s practice, it was unclear how the Rangers would replace Chytil on his line. However, the leading candidates for this daunting task appear to be Brett Howden, Kevin Rooney, and Colin Blackwell. A tough task indeed as the third line of Phil Di Giuseppe, Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko has been the Rangers’ most consistent so far in this young season.

The other task that the Rangers must overcome is the ability to hold on to leads and get the win, something that head coach David Quinn addressed in his post-game Zoom conference Sunday night.

“Really, you’ve got to find ways to win,” Quinn said. “We can sit here and talk about some of the good things we did and the chances we had in the third period. But you’ve got to win hockey games.”

Artemi Panarin also addressed this issue after Monday’s practice when he told the media via Zoom that “each player on this team has to get better.”

Panarin also talked about how things were working with his linemates, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome. “At the beginning of the season, we did not have that much confidence. We have had many chances and to get many chances you have to be doing a lot of things right. And when the bad luck passes, we will be scoring 5 goals a game.”

The Rangers need to have all of this happen quickly because, after the two-game set in Buffalo, the Rangers return home to face the Penguins for two games. The same Penguins who they just blew two third period leads.

Puck drop for the Rangers-Sabres tilt is at 7 P.M. and will be broadcast on MSG 2. Alexandar Georgiev is scheduled to be in the net for the Blueshirts.