Rangers Gerard Gallant needs to stop benching Alexis Lafrenière

alexis lafreniere
Apr 11, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13). Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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So it happened again.

New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant decided to cut Alexis Lafrenière’s ice time in a game where he was the least of the team’s problems.

In the third period of a 5-2 game in New Jersey’s favor, Gallant basically rotated three lines causing Lafrenière to see only four shits for 2:16 of ice time. For the game, he finished with just 10:26 which was his lowest total since January 24, That was a 3-2 win over the Kings where Lafrenière played just 9:59 in that contest.

Gerard Gallant benches Alexis Lafrenière again

“Everything was okay,” Gallant explained about Lafrenière’s benching. “It was me wanting to go three lines and that’s what I chose to do. It wasn’t just Laffy.”

While it wasn’t just Lafreniere, he seems to be the first person Gallant likes to park on the bench when things aren’t going well for the team as a whole.

That was exactly the case last night in the eventual 7-4 loss to the Devils, as all the top players aside from Mika Zibanejad, plus newcomers Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte played admittedly bad hockey.

“We had a great first (period), everyone was in a good mindset, and I think it was just mental errors, some stupid hockey by everyone,” Ryan Strome said. “Especially guys that usually don’t make mistakes, myself included. Just mistakes that cost us. Weak hockey and soft hockey. We know what it takes to be successful…we’ll learn and move on.”

Chris Kreider, who recorded his 42nd goal of the season concurred with his fellow alternate captain.

“Like Ryan said, a lot of uncharacteristic things tonight from guys who don’t normally do that. I certainly made some boneheaded plays,” Kreider stated.

The team’s leading goal scorer pointed out a 2 on 1 shorthanded play that could’ve cut to lead to 5-4 in the third period in particular.

“I always shoot that, every practice whenever he gives me that, so no idea why I tried to give it back to him,” Kreider said. “They come down and it ends up in the back of our net. That could be the difference between a one-goal game and a three-goal game. They jumped on our turnovers and we gave them a lot of them.”

Neither of these players missed a single shift for their own admitted transgressions.

Both players have earned the right this season not to be benched, but what message are you sending a kid like Lafrenière?

Did Lafrenière deserve the benching?

alexis lafreniere
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There have been many times this season where Lafrenière warranted being stapled to the pine. Earlier this season, Gallant was trying to get him to bring it every shift and find that compete level you need to play 60 minutes in the NHL.

That certainly seemed to sink in as Lafrenière has become a fixture on a first line with Zibanejad and Kreider. The promotion has seen him average over 14 minutes a game on most nights, and he’s riding a 4-game points streak with an assist in each contest.

Matter of fact, it was his smart play to get the puck on net that led to Zibanejad’s goal to open the scoring against the Devils.

So why is Lafrenière the first one to get the hook when things go bad? Anyone who watched last night’s game saw a myriad of mistakes and turnovers from many veterans. It’s hard not to notice that Gallant, like many coaches gives more leeway to experienced players.

How else can anyone explain Patrik Nemeth continuously holding a spot in the lineup despite his inability to consistently cover his man in his own zone or helping get the puck out? He and new defense partner Justin Braun were abysmal after the first period when the Devils decided to skate.

The pairing combined for a -4 and per Natural Stat Trick they gave up two high danger chances, allowed two goals against, and a CorsiFor of just 37.5%. Yet, they took their regular shifts throughout the game. Makes you wonder why Braden Schneider was scratched too.

Alexis Lafrenière may not have been great last night, but he was by far not the Rangers biggest problem. And I’m sure the next time he speaks, he’ll tell the media all the right things about being getting better and being more consistent.

Maybe it’s time he was shown a little more respect for his hard work. It’s time for Gallant to stop giving him the quick hook– especially when he doesn’t deserve it.

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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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