Much of the Rangers’ success this season has always hinged on the young core’s ability to step forward.
Not just any step, but an assumption of reliability on both sides of the puck, a total commitment to the little details that win games, and the realization that they have to make an impact every night. Most of them are in their second, third or fourth seasons in the NHL, and it’s time for all of them to start contributing on a game-by-game basis.
There were fingerprints on the young core “Rangers” won 6-4 over Blues snapped a two-game losing streak Monday night at Madison Square Garden and gave the locker room a positive vibe ahead of a big road trip to Vegas and Colorado.
There was Braden Schneider, who set a new career high with his third goal of the season to put the Rangers ahead in the first period. And Adam Fox, whose heavy workload and invaluable role make it easy to forget it’s only his fourth year, scored on the power play with seconds left in the opening frame to regain the lead.
K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere scored to tie the game when the Blues scored three goals in the second half on a goal by Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck to propel his team to a 20-run victory. minute.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a young guy or a vet, it’s huge to see the puck come in when you hit the posts and have a chance,” said Chris Kreider, who was shorthanded in the third game. victory. “I have confidence in Kaapo [Kakko] next game. Because he was doing all the little things, rubbing his hands, having all kinds of opportunities and appearances. The next game finds a way out of his butt or something.
“He will get a reward. He’s doing a lot of little things and his game has come a long way – and so has Laf’s.”
Gerard Gallant changed the game in the second half. This is what the Rangers manager usually does when he wants to light a fire under his team. Lafreniere and Kakko switched to Mika Zibanejad’s flank and both players made something of the opportunity. Make no mistake, the main part of the Rangers’ problem this season is that the team hasn’t gotten enough from those two.
Another aspect of the problem is that the organization does not want to give these two all the opportunities to do so. More five-on-five minutes, more power play time and a longer look with Zibanejad on the top line seems like a great place to start for a team with a lot of floor space to fill.
“I didn’t like what I saw during the second period and I wanted to spark something again,” Gallant said. “Both boys deserve some chances and I thought they played really well. For me it made the three lines better. I hope we can continue to do that.”
It seems that Kakko is on the verge of collapse. There are only so many posts, so many misses in open nets, and so many great moves that slide inches off the goal line that a player can make before clicking. He did all that and more on Monday night, including making a beautiful move to the net on a short pass that he deflected past Blues goalkeeper Jordan Binnington and fired a shot over the goal line.
An energy shift occurred in Kakko and Lafrenier, who were suddenly skating next to Zibanejad. Building that confidence must now be at the top of Rangers’ list of priorities.
“We still have a really young team with a lot of skill,” Miller said. “I think it has to be found and managed. As young players in the team, a lot is expected of us. Just bringing our game and doing everything we can to help the team win is the biggest thing.”
In the offseason, training camp, and so far, the simple fact hasn’t changed. The Rangers need the entire lineup to pull in the same direction, but the kids are different.