What was originally considered the Rangers’ weakness before the playoffs eventually became their greatest strength.
It was, of course, the group of young players who took on key roles in their training. From the Kid Line of Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko to youngsters K’Andre Miller and Braden Schneider in the defensive corps, some of Rangers’ best and most consistent performances came from players who experienced their first playoffs without bubble. .
Adam Fox, who many often forget is only 24 and also in his first legitimate playoff series, said it best earlier in the playoffs. The fact that everything was so new to the majority of this Rangers squad probably helped them at times. Fox said the moment never felt too big for them and they all performed as such.
“We have young kids who are getting older,” Rangers manager Gerard Gallant said during the club’s parting day on Monday at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown. “We have a great window here that opens if everyone continues to develop and play well. I don’t think we should do any of this any differently.
Lafrenière, Chytil and Kakko totaled 11 goals and 12 assists in the playoffs, with Chytil leading with seven goals. The Kid Line found a rhythm early in the playoffs and just had a knack for pinning opponents in their own zone as they battled along the walls and relentlessly pushed the puck forward.
Gallant split the trio for the Rangers’ eventual season-ending Game 6 loss to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, scraping Kakko in the process, but the coach never seemed to like it. this combination from the start. But Gallant said he particularly sees Lafrenière and Kakko as players who could one day make the top six.
“We’d be pretty disappointed if they weren’t,” he said.
In a way, the future of Rangers hinges on transforming these three young forwards into dominant contributors to the front nine. With tighter caps ahead of them, getting the production of Lafrenière and Kakko in the top six roles will be crucial for the Rangers. It may not be next season, but it will eventually happen.
“I think it’s just confidence, building confidence,” Gallant said. “They want to be star players. I think Laffy has taken a big step physically. He was playing a lot more physically, he was finishing tougher checks. He felt he could do it in his game. He’s a skilled player. Have they had the chance to spend as much time on the power play and special teams as the young players wanted? No, they didn’t. Neither did. I’m not going to blame myself because we had one of the best power plays in the NHL. So you’re not going to interrupt the power play to play young children.
“We try to win games every night. This is what we do. Will these children have a better chance next year and in subsequent years? Yes. They will continue to develop, they are young players, they have both taken great steps towards me.
Lafrenière said his goal is to play in the top six, but he recognizes how much he can learn from Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, who are the two left wingers ahead of him on the depth chart. He plans to work on his skating in the offseason after stepping away from hockey.
Schneider said he still sees himself as someone who needs to prove himself even though he’s only been out two games since being called up from the AHL Hartford in mid-January.
Children know where they are. And it looks like they also know what they need to do to get where they want to go.
New York Post