Rangers dominant win validates Kids ‘belong on the ice’
This is what it often looks like when a Peewee AA team from Westchester somehow winds up in the same tournament bracket as a AAA team from Massachusetts.
Carnage on Ice.
So it was at the Garden on Sunday when Rangers-Predators immediately devolved into the kind of mismatch that might have given Barry Trotz pause about accepting the invitation to replace David Poile as Nashville’s general manager as he watched from a press box suite.
The Rangers took six shots between 2:37 and 13:36 of the first period. They all went in, starting netminder Kevin Lankinen allowing four goals before long-man Juuse Saros failed to stop the first two shots he faced.
In the newspaper business, “30” symbolizes the end of a story. In the hockey business on Broadway, “6” sufficed.
“It was not in our heads to get to double digits or anything like that,” Mika Zibanejad said after the 7-0 victory that extended the club’s shutout streak to 150:51 and its winning streak to four. “It’s a tough situation, I’m not sure anyone has a really good answer on how it feels to play a game like this, but I think the focus is to maintain good habits and not get lazy.
“You might try something a little bit different if you want to work on something, but you want to continue to play the right way so you can bring that into the next game.”
The Predators, on their way to a playoff miss, were decimated by injury. Ryan McDonagh and Roman Josi were sidelined on the back end. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen were among the missing up front. At least Trotz was able to get an up-close-and-personal look at a number of kids in the system.
In addition to the victory, which gave the Rangers an 8-2-1 record in their last 11 games, there was actually tangible reward in this one. It was not just an exercise in running it out. Indeed, to hear Filip Chytil tell it, this one was a significant one for him and linemates Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko to reaffirm their value to this loaded lineup.
“Our top-six has top-top players, so our ice time as a line has gone down the last number of games,” No. 72 told The Post. “This game, with the score, we just rolled our lines so that gave us more time.
“That’s very huge for our confidence and our calmness with the puck.”
Chytil opened the goal-scoring parade by splitting the defense before flicking a forehand past Lankinen at 2:37, 15 seconds after the netminder would make his only save of the night against Braden Schneider. The goal not only ignited a deluge, but it was the first in 19 games for Chytil, who hadn’t scored since Feb. 8.
“I have been staying on and working after almost all the practices,” Chytil said. “This is a confidence boost.”
The Kids’ ice time has taken a hit with the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to the top-six and the subsequent construction of the Jimmy Vesey-Barclay Goodrow-Tyler Motte fourth line that has a spot in head coach Gerard Gallant’s rotation.
But in this one, Chytil was on for 15:16, Lafreniere — who has not scored in his last six games — for 14:40 and Kakko — 0 for his last 11 — for 14:10. That included a power-play spin as a unit. The lads did not score again, but they made the most of their opportunity by impressing Gallant.
“They deserved it tonight,” the head coach said. “I like to see them take it. It’s not about me giving it to them, it’s about them taking it.
“They really played [well]. It was their best game in a while.”Gallant’s words should be music to Chytil’s ears. For the 23-year-old center had said just about the same thing from a player’s perspective just a few minutes earlier. The Kids aren’t looking for a handout.
“You have to understand, of course, the kind of players we brought in. They are here to help us win the Cup,” said Chytil, who had scored 11 goals in the 13 games immediately preceding the extended drought. “But we want to show that we belong on the ice. We want to prove that we can contribute to the team.
“We want to keep working as hard as we did before when we had a little more time. We want to help the team win. We want to show we deserve to be on the ice.
“That gives us motivation to earn ice time.”