There was a decent amount of angst spent in the ice time given to the Rangers’ pingpong ball twins, Alexis Lafrenière and Kabu Kaku, both of whom settled into support roles without much power-play work during their junior careers.
But it’s largely a mystery that Filip Chytil, the former Kid Line component who’s made the greatest strides and produced most of the season, has been restricted to the third line slot as his ice time has been unfairly limited.
I understood the concept of competing interests, and that the job of this team and this coach is to make the playoffs and not act as a developmental program even when kids need room to grow. But playing youth can sometimes satisfy both agendas. This is one of those cases.
It gave Chytil — who went to the net to score the 3-3 game-tying goal at 13:35 of the third period in Tuesday’s delightful 4-3 shootout win at Garden over the Wild — more ice time and more responsibility fulfilling both agendas. It makes Rangers better today and allows for much better prospects for tomorrow.
Chytil got 16:43 off the ice in this one, opening up between Lafreniere and Jimmy Vesey, then skating units that included Kakko or Barclay Goodrow on various turnovers after the Blueshirts lost Chris Kreider to an upper body injury during the third period. He jumped. He made the plays.
And he was irrepressible in this game-tying turnaround as teammates Visey and Godreaux and defenders Adam Fox and Andre Miller kept the puck low, grinding, creating scoring opportunities, and finally capitalizing after Fox put the puck up instead of going. for cabbage.
It felt good, the No. 72 said. When you have the puck and you shoot, you create chances not only for yourself, you create rebounds for your teammates and that’s what we got the whole shift from.
“And then Foxy made a good play and I just jumped into the blue paint. I’m glad I got the goal.”
The goal was Chytil’s twelfth, two of his personal best goals achieved in 2019-20. Last year, he scored eight. Furthermore, Chytil’s 1.17 goals per 60:00 per minute 5 lead the Rangers among players by at least 300 minutes.
This was achieved by playing short most of the season by playing two minutes behind Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Troschek. Chytil only got six games to work with Artemi Panarin, with coach Gerard Gallant believing his “perfect lines” include a combination of Panarin and Trocheck.
At the start of the week, 400 strikers have played at least 20 matches. Trocheck is 37th in power doubles minutes, Zybanegad is 69th and Chytil is 191. Including special teams, Zibanejad is 10th in total minutes by power doubles, Trocheck is 27 and Chytil…247.
Two hundred and forty-seven out of 400 for the Rangers’ brightest young star up front who, by the way, is a restricted free agent pending due to a significant increase over AAV’s current $2.3 million and is only two seasons away from unrestricted free agency.
It’s hard to imagine the 23-year-old overall and 21st overall 2017 Entry Draft signing going long term if he’s stuck in a third-line role where he gets minimal playing time.
It’s impossible to agree to an approach whereby the Rangers might never find out what Chytil can do before it’s too late. The Blues have gone 12-2-2 over the last 16 games, so Gallant will probably hate to change things up, but now is just the right time to elevate Chytil into second place with Panarin on his left. If there are concerns about the defensive side of the puck, Goodrow or Vesey could play right flank while Trocheck and Vitali Kravtsov shift downfield to skate with Lafreniere.
Chytil continues to make progress. Yes, he’s 23, but he’s in his fifth full season. Or, as he told me after this entertaining game in which the Rangers shot 33 shot attempts in the second period, “This isn’t my first week in the NHL.”
The player from the Czech Republic recently had two matches from bottom where he suffered from a stomach virus. He is recovering well.
“It’s not like you can be any good after a day, but I did the hard work and had the right mindset,” he said. That means, even when things don’t go your way, stick with it and play the same game.
“I’m smarter now. I have to be. I have experience. And I’ve been watching Mika, talking to him and learning from him and our older players for six years.”
There are strides to take, strides Chytil can take. Rangers should accelerate growth by giving him a stretch look with Panarin in the second unit.
That will be good for today and maybe even better for tomorrow. A win for the victorious Rangers.