Rangers Roundup: Alexis Lafrenière happy at LW, plus Pens’ Mike Sullivan says he was outcoached, and more

alexis lafreniere
Feb 8, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers sits on the bench prior to warm-ups before the game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on February 08, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers made a statement on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gerard Gallant made a statement that this is his team and he will do what’s best for winning, regardless of what fans or the press thinks.

Igor Shesterkin made a statement that bad starts don’t faze him. He’s 11-1 after a regulation or OT loss this season.

Chris Kreider made a statement that this team can learn from their mistakes and put together a dominant bounce back performance.

Alexis Lafrenière made a statement that being moved back to LW on the third line suits him just fine.

Alexis Lafrenière happy at left wing

There was a lot of talk about Alexis Lafrenière being benched for the third period in New Jersey (myself included). There was even more talk after practice on Thursday when he was dropped down to the third line.

A member of the French-Canadian media, where there’s plenty of interest about the first Quebec native #1 overall pick in the draft since Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003, asked Gallant about Alexis’ development. Specifically what the coach wants to see Lafrenière do to stay on the top line.

“Laffy’s played pretty good hockey for us,” Gallant said prior to Friday’s game. “He’s not going from the first line to the third line in my mind. He’s going to play left wing where he’s most comfortable. I’m not going to switch Chris Kreider to right wing, he’s having a career year and Panarin likes to play left wing. We’re strong on the left side.”

Gallant then addressed the fact everything is magnified because he is the first overall pick by noting that Jack Hughes in New Jersey took about three years to take off.

As for Lafrenière, who opened the scoring with a beautiful goal on his first shift back at left wing, he’s thrilled.

“It was good to come back to my natural side,” Lafrenière said via the team’s YouTube channel. “I can play both sides, and we have so many options in our forward group. I think we’re really deep. So wherever I need to play, I’ll be ready, so it was a good game for everybody.

“I feel like it’s more natural for me coming back into my own zone. It’s things like that where you always a little late (in the d-zone) when you aren’t used to it.”

Penguins admit they were outclassed

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Mar 25, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan coaches his team against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers put together one of their most dominant performances of the season against the Penguins.

“Tonight was probably our most complete game,” Gallant said.

It’s always nice to hear the head coach say things like that, but when the opposition reinforces the statement in emphatic fashion, you can’t dismiss it as “coach talk”.

“We got outplayed in every facet of the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said via NHL.com. “We got outcoached in every facet of the game. There’s no excuses for it. They were just way better than us in every area.”

The Penguins captain also didn’t mince words about what took place on Garden on ice.

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Sidney Crosby said. “They played well. They dominated every area and we didn’t have a lot of pushback. You can look at all the reasons, but that’s reality.”

Gerard Gallant’s team

New York Rangers head coach, Gerard Gallant has guided this team to a 41-19-5 record, yet was being second-guessed for his handling of Lafrenière and his line combos.

Once again, he continues to shut any criticism down almost immediately.

Frankie Vatrano, who was placed on the first line scored a huge goal. Andrew Copp, who started on the third line in New Jersey was bumped up to the second and scored his first goal as a Blueshirt. And Braden Schneider, who was scratched for Justin Braun was right back in the lineup.

Maybe Gallant has earned the benefit of the doubt going forward. Just saying.

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