It’s time to break the kid line
The New York RangersThe frustrating season continues, even after a 2-1 road win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. In a close representation of their season as a whole, the Rangers outshot the Sharks 43-23, but struggled to score and thus made the road to victory much more difficult than it should have been to have been
There are many reasons for Rangers’ lack of goals. Bad luck despite a solid underlying process is probably the biggest. There may also be something to the specific types of opportunities they create and howOpposing goalkeepers are unlikely to adjust with too many low-danger shots. But another factor that has hurt the Rangers’ offensive prowess of late is the deployment of their lineup, particularly head coach Gerard Gallant assembling the Kid Line of Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko at the expense of some two more powerful first lines.
First, let’s get level: Jimmy Vesey has been an excellent addition to the Rangers in his second stint on Broadway. Barclay Goodrow is a quality depth player, albeit overpaid. However, neither should sniff the first six minutes as they have been over the past few games, as they lack the offensive ability needed to make the Rangers a truly dangerous offensive team. The way to do it? Break the Kid Line once again, as Gallant had earlier in the season.
Kakko is a natural fit on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. He’s a puck hound and possession driver, complementing the speed of Zibanejad and Kreider and setting them up for more shooting opportunities. Lafrenière should move back up to the second line as a right wing with Vincent Trocheck and Artemiy Panarin, giving that line two patient players along with a more direct shooter in Trocheck. Although right wing is not Lafrenière’s natural position, he has looked very comfortable playing there.
Also, moving Kakko and Lafrenière back to the top two lines would allow Vesey and Goodrow to slide down into deep roles where they can be more effective. If Gallant could give Vitali Kravtsov another chance (and if Kravtsov could stay healthy), the bottom six could feature a third line of Vesey, Chytil, Kravtsov and a fourth line of Goodrow centering Sammy Blais and Julien Gauthier. Suddenly that depth looks pretty good, and the top six looks a lot more powerful.
As mentioned, bad luck has been a major cause of the Rangers’ lack of consistency in results, but since the Kid Line came together, the club’s underlying numbers have also taken a slight hit.
Top 14 GP: 2.85 xGF/60 (10th), 44.67 Fenwick/60 (10th)
Last 5 GP: 2.57 xGF/60 (16th), 41.94 FF/60 (15th)
Top 6 Goodrow + the Kids don’t generate as much as the previous combos.
— Rob Luker (@RLuker12) November 20, 2022
So the Rangers would be wise to split the kids once again; it’s much more likely that the team can overcome bad luck in the long run with an optimized process rather than having two depth players playing in the top six. Yes, the Kid Line was fun last postseason, but it worked for the Rangers as a whole because they were better suited to top six trade deadline rentals Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp. For now, by adding Kakko and Lafrenière, both can help the development of two of their most promising young players. i create a more threatening overall formation.
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