As Pavel Buchnevich prepares for a career year at St. Louis this season, it’s fair to wonder what might have happened if president and general manager Chris Drury had managed to keep the Russian winger on the Rangers’ front row. .
The focus is on one way or another because realistically Buchnevich would never get the long-term deal he wanted with star goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin, Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and top-flight center Mika Zibanejad still in line for new contracts at the time – all of which materialized.
But speaking of guesses, if Buchnevich had agreed to a one-year deal this past offseason, Rangers would have locked down their front line. Instead, Rangers spent much of the season in a period of trial and error with this. right wing spot next to Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
While Drury probably wished he could keep Buchnevich, trading him opened the door for a young Ranger to grab a top-six role. The hope was always that it would be Alexis Lafrenière, who filled Buchnevich’s old spot on Wednesday, as he had in the last nine games.
With the player who left the huge void he’s supposed to fill at the other end of the rink, Lafrenière has shown he’s more than capable. As well as scoring the game’s first goal in Rangers’ 5-3 win, in which he grabbed a rebound off a long shot from Adam Fox, Lafrenière had two shots on goal and two takeaways in another dynamic performance.
“He’s really focused on the little things, he really cares about improving his game and growing as a player,” Kreider said of Lafrenière. “He often goes to the net. I mean, he scores some pretty ones but he goes around the crease and he plays incredibly hard. So young still, you forget how young he is. It’s fun to see, fun to be apart.
The goal counted as Lafrenière’s 13th goal of the season, marking a new career high. He has now scored five goals in the last nine games, including three in the last four. Kreider, Zibanejad and Lafrenière have combined 12 goals and allowed just four since reuniting on January 28 after a brief spell at the start of this season.
Should Lafreniere blossom into the perfect addition to Rangers’ top line, the sting of Buchnevich’s loss may well fade.
Goaltender Igor Shesterkin stopped 29 of 32 shots he faced to improve his record to 26-6-3 this season.
Filip Chytil fell back into the Rangers lineup on Wednesday night against the Blues, centering the third line between Greg McKegg and Julien Gauthier.
After missing the previous three games, Chytil played in his first game since the Rangers beat the Senators 2-1 on Feb. 20 in Ottawa. Gerard Gallant says the 22-year-old missed the next game against the Capitals because he was under bad weather but the Rangers head coach opted to keep Chytil out of the next two clashes despite the fact that he was in good health.
With Chytil back, striker Morgan Barron was taken out. Defender Patrik Nemeth also returned to Rangers’ third pairing alongside Braden Schneider and scored his first goal of the season.
New York Post