As for the Rangers, their organizational sanity was preserved by the third period of Monday’s much-needed win at the Garden against St. Louis. The days get shorter in December and so does the time in the NHL.
1. Gerard Gallant trusted his instincts and was rewarded for it. Instead of benching Alexis Lafreniere after committing his third penalty in the last six games, he moved both the number 13 and his twin Kaapo Kakko up top with Mika Zibanejad. second period.
The new line combination came together to score two goals in the first 8:16 of the third as a surging Lafrenier turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead to send the team into the final. 6-4. The taste of honey proved to be the perfect elixir for what ailed the winger and team.
It hasn’t hurt Zibanejad, who hasn’t had an elite 5-5 performance this season, if anyone has noticed.
2. Facing Ottawa and Chicago 24 hours apart at the Garden on Friday and Saturday, I found Gallant oddly passive. One after another, the same cadres played the power in a pitiful manner. There are no benches. There is no emotion.
As one of the NHL’s most powerful wings in the late 80s, a coach who was never passive on the ice seemed as defeated as the demoralized athletes. The team didn’t look like itself, and neither did the glassy-eyed coach.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the clock is ticking on Gallant less than half a season after unexpectedly leading the Blueshirts to the conference finals in his first year off the bench, but not quite.
It doesn’t taste like it, but there aren’t many organizational alternatives to a midseason overhaul for a team stuck with no-movement contracts above.
It’s not just that the Rangers have won just 12 of 27 games (12-10-5). This team almost never plays with authority. The fact is that the team has not established its identity. Almost every young lad has bounced back… and that’s when the club needed them the most.
3. Let’s recap the storylines entering the season: 1. The Rangers need Igor Shesterkin to repeat their Vezina victory from a year ago; 2. The Rangers will need kids, especially replacements for Lafreniere, Kakko and Vitaly Kravtsov, to skillfully fill the six holes left by the free agent departures of Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano; 3. The Rangers need Vincent Trocheck to face Artemi Panarin like Ryan Strome; 4. The power play had to continue.
Well, none of the four are particularly good.
4. Heredity or environment? That’s the essence of what we’re all interested in about Lafreniere and Cacco, isn’t it? How much is the Rangers’ fault and how much is the players themselves responsible for the abnormally slow growth from first in 2020 and second in 2019? From Lias Andersson to Kravtsov to Kakko to Lafreniere, what is this series of top 10s all about? Rangers – from one administration to another – what’s wrong?
It’s about possibility, isn’t it, at least as far as Lafreniere and Cacco are concerned? Or that’s the hope, because if not, there’s a much more serious issue. The wing midfielders averaged six trophies each last year and at the start of this season, but they haven’t had the chance to twin with Zibanejad before. In fact, the trio were together for a combined 14:52, including 4:40 on Monday.
5. They’ll get their shot now as the Rangers head into a particularly tough stretch with Wednesday in Vegas and Friday in Colorado before returning home to face the Devils on Dec. 12 and the Maple Leafs on Dec. 15.
But the overall time allocation to PP1 forwards Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Panarin and Trocheck won’t change unless Gallant shifts his personnel to his special teams or changes his approach to allow the first power play unit to stay indefinitely. .
The fact is that among forwards, Lafrener and Kakko ranked third and fourth, respectively, behind only Panarin and Trocheck. But that doesn’t mean much when they’re nailed to the bench once the game turns into a special teams celebration.
If the Rangers are truly willing to showcase Lafreniere and Cacco, that will have to change. Yes, the team has scored in two of its last three power-play opportunities, just 0:06 into Monday’s 1-on-1, but the pursuit of a PP1 has been anyone’s guess over the past nine games. began to prevail. the end
Otherwise, the excitement and benefit of playing Zibanejad — who also gets minutes on the key penalty block with Kreider — will fade very quickly.