Rangers Recall: Vincent Trocheck heating up, Alexis Lafreniere happy, and more
The New York Rangers are rolling along despite a number of obstacles thrown in their path.
Adam Fox (Lower-Body/LTIR), Filip Chytil (Upper-Body/IR), Igor Shesterkin (Lower-Body/Day-to-Day) were joined by Jonathan Quick (Upper-Body/Day-to-Day) on Thursday. This thrusted journeyman third-string goalie Louis Domingue into the starter’s net, who proceeded to thwart 25 of 26 shots en route to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
After Garden on win, the Blueshirts point streak has reached 9 games (8-0-1). They comfortably sit atop the Metro Division with 21 points (10-2-1), 5 points better than the second-place Carolina Hurricanes.
Let’s look at some key takeaways from last night’s action against Minnesota.
Rangers Recall: Another big win with key players out
There was a lot of scrutiny coming into this season as to whether or not the first overall pick from 2020 was a bust.
After three years of sitting behind Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin on the left wing depth chart, the Rangers committed to making him a right wing. Through 13 games, the 22 year-old Lafreniere has 5 goals and 9 points. That puts him on pace for a 30 goals and potentially 60 points season.
In last night’s win over the Wild, Lafreniere posted a career-high 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), including the game-winner in the third period off a beautiful feed from his opposite winger, Panarin.
“Alexis thinks the game about making plays and how to create space and how to find areas to generate offense,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “When you get two guys who can read off each other and feed off each other, that can become dangerous.”
So what’s the change for Lafreniere this season? Confidence is the easy answer and probably the right one. But the confidence he’s feeling has been instilled by his head coach and the Rangers organization with increased ice time.
“It’s fun coming to the rink every day,” Lafreniere stated. “We’ve got a group here, so I come to the rink with a smile on my face and try to get better.”
In game 229 on Thursday, he finally reached 100 points in his career. There’s no doubt a happy Lafreniere is a confident Lafreniere, and a happy Lafreniere is a productive one too.
When Filip Chytil returns from his upper-body injury, Laviolette will be hard pressed to take Vincent Trocheck off the second.
Since taking over in between Panarin and Lafreniere, Trocheck has amassed 3 goals and 3 assists in the last 3 contests. On the season, the 30 year-old pivot has 10 points in 13 games.
“He’s been really good for us,” Lafreniere said of Trochek. “Two-way player and really good faceoffs. It gives us a lot of options, especially in the O zone when he can win that many faceoffs.”
Speaking of face-offs, Trocheck’s 62.9% on draws ranks third in the NHL for players that have taken at least 50 draws. That’s a crucial factor as to why he needs to remain on the second line, because you can’t score unless you have the puck. In contrast, Chytil is at just 43.3% and would likely benefit by playing with more bigger and physical wingers like Will Cuylle to help win those face-offs when the puck is up for grabs.
It’s all about systems
While Louis Domingue deserved being named the game’s second star, the Rangers system is what keeps this machine marching forward despite all their injuries.
New York outshot Minnesota by a 28 to 26 margin, which doesn’t sound impressive until you see the Blueshirts were demolished in the second period 15-3. Ergo why Domingue deserves his flowers as the second star.
However, the Rangers opened the game strong, outshooting the Wild 14-2, and returned to that with a clutch final frame, going 11-9. It was obvious in the middle stanza that the Rangers were skating in molasses and not forechecking or setting up in the neutral zone well.
According to reports, Laviolette had some things to say during the second intermission and the Rangers began executing what’ had made them successful to date to the tune of 3 unanswered goals for the win.