Chris Drury must fix the New York Rangers third line via trade immediately
The New York Rangers are resilient bunch for sure. In completing a 5-3 victory after at late letdown in the second period that saw a 2-0 lead become a 3-2 deficit, they picked up their 18th comeback win of the season.
Victorious again on home ice, the Blueshirts ended a two game skid to avoid their first three game losing streak of the season. However, they needed all their stars going and a power play goal to get it done.
It’s not a longterm recipe for success, especially in the playoffs when things get much tighter. And while everyone believes the Rangers badly need a top six forward, a new effective third line is what Chris Drury should address immediately.
New York Rangers resilient
Chris Kreider scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 8:20 remaining as the New York Rangers blew a two-goal lead before rallying for a 5-3 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
The Rangers used their timeout to design a play and took the lead 30 seconds later. After Artemi Panarin missed the net, Adam Fox gained possession and ripped a slap shot from near the blue line and Kreider tipped the puck into the net after parking himself at the center of the crease.
Kreider’s 35th goal came 4:13 after Patrik Nemeth’s first goal as a Ranger banked off St. Louis forward Ivan Barbashev’s right skate while goalie Ville Husso was sprawled on the ice well outside of the crease.
“What was it about 10 minutes left to go in the game, so we figured it was a good time to use the timeout and keep those guys out there, give them another chance,” Gerard Gallant said. “It worked.”
Panarin finished off the comeback with an empty-net goal and New York avoided a third straight loss.
New York’s recovery occurred after St. Louis took the lead on three straight shots by Ryan O’Reilly, Barbashev and David Perron in a span of 2:14 late in the second.
“There are going to be certain nights when you don’t have it, but to be able to dig in and do whatever it takes to win hockey games, that’s certainly easier when you have the best goalie in the world,” Kreider said. “But at the same time, being able to find our game, being able to forget about a bad shift or a bad period, not letting it stack, not letting the frustration overcome, and not just going out there working to work, but starting to work hard and for each other and communicate, those are very important things and things we can build on.”NHL.com
Rangers third line is a glaring problem
The Rangers got four goals from four players on their top two lines. Patrik Nemeth’s goal came as a result of the second line’s down low work with Ryan Strome and Dryden Hunt picking up assists.
An undisclosed upper-body injury occurred to Kevin Rooney which disrupted the fourth line. Despite his absence, Filip Chytil played only 9:04 of what amounted to be very ineffectual minutes. Save for one shift late in the third, where he muscled his way in front for a shot on goal the Rangers third line center was invisible.
Julien Gauthier, for all his speed continues to be a non factor. He played 8:41 and registered a single shot. In 41 games this season, the 24 year-old has a total of six points. Gauthier also has no points in his last 11 games, with just one point (a goal) in his last 21 contests.
They both represent the heart of the Rangers third line and the root cause of the team’s scoring issues.
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Chris Drury needs to trade for help now
When Kaapo Kakko returns, he can slot on the second line with Strome and Panarin. Hunt can drop to the third or fourth line. Alexis Lafrenière, who now has 3 goals and 4 points in his last four games, looks comfortable as the top line right wing.
That just puts more emphasis on the Rangers need to upgrade the third line with a two-way center and winger. It’s time for GM Chris Drury to go out and get what Gerard Gallant needs for the stretch run and playoffs. He can also do this without gutting the team’s future and flexibility to make moves during the offseason.
So what can Drury do? Phil Kessel has been sitting in Arizona ripe for the taking and would be a great third line right wing. An even better but more expensive fit is pending RFA Artturi Lehkonen from the Montreal Canadiens. At center, Paul Stastny in Winnipeg would provide veteran leadership and some offensive punch.
Bottom line is there are options. However, with 9 more games to the trade deadline, that includes 7 games against playoff teams, Drury needs to act soon. The Rangers may have beaten the Blues last night, but looked tired offensively in losses against the Canucks and Penguins.
The top two lines need the occasional goal a good third line can provide. It’s the one thing the Rangers are seriously lacking and the one thing Drury MUST fix soon.
–Field Level Media contributed to this article