A star-studded top-6 forward group, one of the NHL’s top group of defensemen, and arguably the league’s best goaltender take the ice for a hockey game…
Is that the beginning of a really bad joke, or is it the New York Rangers’ current outlook moving forward?
The club looks like they are rolling once again. The Rangers have won eight of their last 10 games, going 8-1-1 in that span.
Other than the putrid power play (which has gone scoreless in their last 3 contests and just 6-for-30 in the last 10 games), the team appears to be clicking.
Yet, after the Rangers finished their brief two-game road trip through the southeastern United States with a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers, none of the aforementioned crew of Rangers’ players are the focal point.
Patrick Kane was the only member of the top-6 who scored against Florida. His tally on Saturday evening gave him the 1,233rd point of his career, passing Phil Housley for 2nd most points by a U.S.-born player in NHL history.
It’s pretty impressive
Instead, it was the kids. The third line consisted of Alexis Lafreniere on the left, Filip Chytil in the middle, and Kaapo Kakko on the right which dragged this Rangers group to victory.
Much like last postseason, when the “Kid Line” seemingly gelled fully, the trio played with aggression.
They were assertive with the puck, making the right plays and getting the puck into the offensive zone every chance they got.
Their ability to work the puck down low in the offensive zone was on display all night long, which Kane alluded to in his post-game interview:
“It’s pretty impressive. All three of them are so good at holding onto the puck and making plays.”
That performance led to every member of the Kid Line collecting two points, each with a goal and an assist on Saturday.
It was the first time the trio all scored in the same game when playing on the same line. They had all scored in a match against the Vegas Golden Knights on December 7th, 2022, but they were on separate lines in that contest.
Of the trio, Chytil looks to be the furthest along in development. This season, his 1.19 goals per 60 minutes lead the team (min. 20 games), while his 2.30 points per 60 minutes are third on the team (min. 20 games).
Lafreniere ended a streak of eight games without a point. Kakko got just his second goal and fifth point in his last 13 games. Chytil got his second goal in his last 4 games after going 18 straight without finding the back of the net.
Despite those shockingly low point totals for each of them, they have played well. They have kept that same style of play that worked so well for them in the playoffs last season.
This brings us to the bottom line. Even if the point totals aren’t there, the combination of Lafreniere, Chytil, and Kakko has proven once again that they are up to the challenge.
There have been instances where the Rangers’ top six seem to go through rough spurts.
Games where they don’t seem to have the energy. Games where the opposing team is able to shut them down.
That is where the Kid Line must really spread their wings and contribute as they did against the Panthers on Saturday.
When the games get intense and the pace gets fast, it’s the so-called third line that appears to rise to the occasion more often than not.
If this Rangers team hopes to have success come postseason time, it is the youngsters that need to use that youthful energy to get them there.