New York Rangers began resting players with Alexis Lafreniere taking the first seat

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Jan 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafrenire (13) celebrates his goal New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (16) against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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As expected, when Alexis Lafreniere was scratched from the lineup in favor of Filip Chytil there was the usual uproar. However, this marked the first time the New York Rangers opted to rest a healthy player after clinching a playoff spot on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

The resting of players shouldn’t be a surprise as head coach Gerard Gallant hinted at the possibility earlier this week.

“We’ll play it one game at a time and if someone needs a rest, we’ve got no issues putting someone else in,” he said on Tuesday. “We’ve got lots of good players here.”

Alexis Lafreniere was given a rest

It really is a difficult balancing act for Gallant with Lafreniere, simply because of the scrutiny that comes with him being first overall pick from the 2020 draft.

Lafreniere’s minutes are constantly analyzed and because he isn’t scoring off the wall numbers, which is an unfair expectation even for players that goes first overall, the blame always falls on the coach for how he’s used.

However, last night’s scratch against a horrendous Flyers team was a logical one with Gallant laying out his reasoning.

“It’s day-to-day,” Gallant responded to question about resting more players down the stretch. “Fil (Chytil) was ready to come in and we didn’t want him sitting there for three games in a row. That’s what you do.”

Gallant then addressed Lafreniere specifically to end any consternation as to why he was the chosen scratch.

“Alexis (scratch) was not from bad play,” he explained. “He’s a young guy and he looks a little bit tired lately. He hasn’t played an 82 game NHL schedule before so it’s nothing to jump the ship about. He’ll be back in the next game.”

More hockey to be played

alexis lafreniere
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Lafreniere, 20, has recorded 15 goals and 25 points in 72 games this year to date.

The most hockey he’s played in a single hockey season was 2017-18 where he suited up in 61 regular season games and added 14 more in the playoffs in the QMJHL for the Rimouski Oceanic. He then added another 5 international games for a grand total of 79.

And let’s be honest, the toll on the body for Alexis playing against big seasoned veterans in the NHL is a lot different than junior hockey.

With the Rangers hoping to make a long playoff run, giving him a rest makes sense.

He will be back in the lineup when the Rangers take on a lottery team, the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. The next question is, who will Gallant rest next?

New York Rangers take down Flyers

Kaapo Kakko scored twice and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev recorded the shutout as visiting New York claimed a victory over free-falling and injury-riddled Philadelphia by a 4-0 score.

The 21 year-old had missed 31 straight games with an injury before returning on Saturday in a playoff clinching win over the Ottawa Senators. Playing in his third game since returning, his goal midway through the first period was his first in 15 games dating by to December 15 in Arizona.

“Tonight we traded chances a little too much,” Gallant said. “But overall we’re getting ready for it (playoffs) and hopefully we keep playing well down the stretch.”

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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