Discover how the New York Rangers’ special teams took center stage in a thrilling season opener led by Alexis Lafrenière and Artemi Panarin.
Before the puck dropped in Buffalo for the New York Rangers season opener, K’Andre Miller told Hockey News’s Jonny Lazarus the team was “excited to get it going.” And boy, did they get it going!
On Thursday night, the Rangers gave their fans a great first impression. They might have won just one of six exhibition games, but their start to the 2023-24 regular season was thrilling.
Alexis Lafrenière Sparks the Blaze:
The KeyBank Center of 19,070 was buzzing as their Sabres took the ice. They finally had a roster they could rally around, an upstart team with a good chance of snapping the franchise’s twelve-year playoff drought.
Yet, just 3:47 into the contest, Alexis Lafrenière silenced them. Back in the same building where he scored his first NHL goal in 2021, an overtime winner, he torched the Sabres again.
After Filip Chytil couldn’t convert on a great backdoor pass from Lafreniere, who picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, he lit the lamp. Artemi Panarin followed up his shot and found his new linemate across the slot for the Blueshirts’ first tally.
After enduring a summer of criticism, that goal must have been incredibly satisfying for the Rangers’ former number-one pick. Oh, and it happened on Lafrenière’s 22nd birthday. He joked about the guys getting him a cake, but his on-ice performance was the real icing.
He showed confidence, reminding everyone why he was the first-draft pick. However, he’s not resting on his laurels, saying, “I can always be better.”
In particular, the Panarin- Chytil-Lafreniere line looked electric, outshooting Buffalo 10-1 with a 91.32 XGF%, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Lafrenière showcased his skills, finishing with three shots on goal, a hit, a takeaway, and a surprising 4-for-5 in faceoff attempts.
He didn’t get credit for it but played a significant role in Artemi Panarin’s muffin past Devon Levi, which made it 3-0 Rangers in the second period.
Lafreniere forced a Rasmus Dahlin turnover before the puck left Kyle Okposo and right to Panarin for the snipe.
Coach Laviolette saw the potential during practice, which continued into the game. He commented, “His last few practices have probably been his best.”