Rangers youngster Alexis Lafrenière says “I have to be better,” he’s not the only one

alexis lafreniere
Jan 16, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) skates against the New York Islanders during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett /POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafreniére had a rough game against the Calgary Flames. He wasn’t alone, not by a long shot.

“For sure, I have to be better,” Lafrenière said. “Last game wasn’t a good game for me. It was a physical game and you’ve got to be able to win your battles one on one.”

Odd that Alexis would be singled out. In a contest that featured 20 giveaways by the Rangers, he committed a grand total of zero. In contrast, Julien Gauthier who was praised by Gerard Gallant for his efforts coughed it up a team leading three times.

I guess it must be those little things that Gallant wants to see more from his young star.

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Gerard Gallant wants more from Lafrenière

Head coach Gerard Gallant held a video session, which he doesn’t like to do often. “If you do it everyday it’s not going to be effective,” he said. The veteran bench boss likes to keep it positive but felt it was important to highlight the team’s loose play.

After the first period where the Rangers were having a turnover party, Lafrenière was moved off the top line to play with Filip Chytil and Barclay Goodrow on the third line.

When it was mentioned that Lafrenière received the message that he needed to better, Gallant wanted it made clear that he wasn’t the only one.

“I’m glad Laffy took a little responsibility,” Gallant said. “He’s not alone. I coached against the Rangers for a few years. You come in here and you say that’s a good team on paper but you’ve got to grittier. You’ve got to respond in those big games. We responded in Nashville, but last night…we’ve got to play harder.”

This was of course not just a Lafrenière issue. Gritty defenseman Jacob Trouba also called out his teammates after the loss, citing their “sexy East to West” play for all the turnovers.

“I like Laffy a lot,” Gallant clarified. “He’s got skill, talent but you’ve got to grow and keep getting better. It’s those little plays. We want to make those skilled plays all the time but it’s a fine line. It’s not Laffy alone, we’ve got a lot of those younger kids making those mistakes.”

I assure the coach, it’s not just a younger kids issue with the mistakes.

Lafrenière won’t use age as an excuse

alexis lafreniere
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to forget that the Rangers selected Lafrenière with the #1 pick just over a year ago. The 20 year-old from the town of Saint-Eustache, Quebec played his rookie season in the middle of a pandemic. He did not see his family outside of a video chat for a year.

Remember, this was a 19 year-old kid. I don’t care if he’s a professional hockey player. No one should lose sight of that. Still, Alexis refused to use that as any kind of excuse, and that’s why he is destined for eventual stardom.

“There’s no excuses of being young,” he said. “I know what I have to do to play good. I just have to do it every night. It’s hard for sure, but you’ve got to bring it and work hard.”

Last season, Lafrenière picked up 21 points in 56 contests. That’s a .375 points clip per game. He didn’t score his first goal until his 7th game of the year and then didn’t register his second goal until the 16th contests.

This season, he’s picked up 3 points in 7 games, which is an improved .428 points per game average. He picked up his first goal in the 3rd game of the year and then followed it up with another in his 5th. Both were clutch game-winning goals registered in the third period of tie games on the road.

So can Lafrenière be better? The answer is yes, but he isn’t the player that should be carrying this team, even if he is on the first line. Artemi Panarin has one more point than Laffy on the season and makes $10 million dollars more. He is without a doubt one of those other players that needs to be better.

Panarin also leads all Rangers forwards with 8 giveaways on the season, including two last night against the Flames. He needs to carry the team, as does Ryan Strome and Mika Zibanejad.

That being said, Lafrenière accepting responsibility and owning his poor play is a great sign. Not only for himself but the Rangers organization as a whole.

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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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