February 8, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Alexis Lafreniere # 13 of the New York Rangers sits on the bench prior to the warm-up before the game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on February 8, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett / Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
I’m just coming out and saying it, Alexis Lafrenière is not ready to play on the team’s top two lines.
No, it’s not because he’s not good enough. In fact, at least for these eyes, he might be shooting too often for players like Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. As a result, it seems to diminish his own game.
The 20-year-old sophomore has four points on the season in eight games (3G, 1A) all on equal strength. Aside from his battle-winning goal in Montreal, where Mika Zibanejad picked up the primary assist, the other three-point matches in line with Filip Chytil and Sammy Blais.
It just seems that when he plays on that line, he raises his game and becomes the well-known “go-to-guy”. His linemates are looking for him, and so is Adam Fox, who has assisted on all three of his goals (one a primary helper).
Alexis Lafrenière reacts to pressure
After Rangers embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Flames on Monday, head coach Gerard Gallant called Lafrenière for losing too many one-on-one matches. During the course of the game, he was demoted from first line to third line, which became a longer topic of discussion for the week.
“I definitely need to get better,” Lafrenière said. “Last match (against Flames) was not a good match for me. It was a physical game and you have to be able to win your matches one on one.”
When he told about the young player’s reaction to being appointed, Gallant was glad he took responsibility. The experienced bench boss also wanted to make it clear that he was not the only player who needed to step up.
“I’m glad Laffy took some responsibility,” Gallant said. “He’s not alone. I trained against Rangers for a couple of years. You come in here and you say it’s a good team on paper, but you have to get more ugly. You have to answer in the We played in Nashville, but last night… we have to play harder. ”
Last night, Lafrenière played a strong and smart game. He fought hard and was rewarded when he worked long hours with Fox.
The game developed in the neutral zone, where Laffy hit Fox stroking down the right wall. He then followed the smart defender to the net, received an incredible feed and buried it with authority past Columbus goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins.
Press. Answer given.
Lafrenière looks more confident on the third line
Oddly enough, he played a season low 11:29 against the Jackets. It had more to do with 12 minutes dedicated to special team play than anything else.
Last night, Gallant let the first PP unit get over 5 minutes of the available 6 minutes on the man advantage. It worked since they scored twice, and because Laffy does not kill penalties, his TOI was down from the usual 15 minutes per game. night.
Either way, he replied, which was a good sign only 64 games inside his NHL career. When he plays on the third line with Chytil and Blais, it looks like he is taking command over the ice. A good example came in the second period. That was when he got into a two-on-one with Chytil, and despite a free pass path, Lafrenière took the shot and almost hit Merzlikin’s high short side.
“Laffy, Blaiser and Fil they play well together,” Gallant said. “They had a pretty good match tonight. So I think the lineup tonight was pretty good.”
There is no doubt that he is more productive when he plays with them and that is something we should see more of this season.
“I think he’s comfortable playing with Blaiser, he enjoys it down there,” Gallant admitted. ‘Whether he plays a little up and back, I think he likes it. As long as he scores every night like he did tonight, he will be happy. ”
Alexis Lafrenière is a fantastic combination of skill and willpower. One day, maybe soon, he will do it on Rangers first line. For the time being, let us not correct what is not broken. Even better, do not fiddle with what absolutely works.
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