Yesterday, the big news was Gerard Gallant blowing up the Rangers lines after the dismal performance against the Red Wings on Sunday. The new lines promoted Jimmy Vesey to the second line, moved Chris Kreider to the third line, and finally put together a fourth line with Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter, and Barclay Goodrow. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
#NYR lines based on jersey colors:
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) November 7, 2022
It was later noted that Vesey was on the right, with Alexis Lafreniere returning to LW. The defense pairs appeared to remain the same.
1. The reaction to Gallant blowing up the Rangers lines was met with the expected disappointment. It’s understandable, as the optics behind it make the timing questionable. Gallant put the lines in a blender in the third period against Detroit, moving Kreider to the fourth line and benching Zac Jones. Honestly, there are more issues with how Gallant managed the lines in the third period than with these new lines. We know the Rangers played down to Detroit, but Gallant didn’t really give them a chance to win.
2. The new lines were a bit more thought out, and on the surface look fine. Kreider and Mika Zibanejad haven’t scored an even strength goal in a long time, and Kaapo Kakko deserved to stay on the top line with his play. Putting Panarin there is a start, and hopefully draws some of the tougher matchups. That will open up ice for Lafreniere and Trocheck on the second line and the newly minted third line.
3. That third line, if deployed in offensive zone starts as a sheltered line, is one of the most dangerous third lines in hockey. That line is big, fast, skilled, and solid in all three zones. They don’t need the offensive zone starts –perhaps ceding those to the second line?– so that’s an assumption on my part based on NHL trends. Either way, that line can dominate the lesser competition it will likely face. If they can do that, then the second line can take the offensive zone starts and get the most out of Trocheck and Lafreniere.
4. The fourth line is the ideal fourth line right now. For starters, there’s no Ryan Reaves, which is a net-positive on the ice. Goodrow and Carpenter are shutdown players, and this is their ideal spot in the lineup. Carpenter without Reaves has been what you thought he would be, and while he’s not perfect, he should good enough in the right role. Let’s see what some extended time away from Reaves does for him.
As for Blais, well let’s hope he can put it together.
5. Onto the one thing I’m not overly fond of, and that is Jimmy Vesey in the top six. There is nothing behind this other than my own personal feeling though. This season, Vesey has an xGF/60 of 2.99 and an xGA/60 of 2.03 (per NST). He’s earned this chance in the top six. He hasn’t done much offensively in the last few seasons, but he’s been generating chances this year. Let’s see what he can do. I’m still skeptical, but my eyes appear to have deceived me here, at least through 13 games.
6. Gallant blowing up the Rangers lines was something that we should have seen coming, given how inconsistent the Rangers have been with finishing this year. He overreacted in the Detroit game, but this appears to be a nice settling point after letting things cool down. This is fine, do let’s see how this experiment goes.
7. A funny byproduct of Gallant blowing up the Rangers lines: There were a lot of people pessimistically stating Vesey would be in the top six at the expense of one of Kakko or Lafreniere. But now, all three are in the top six, Vitali Kravtsov is still on the third line, and it was Chris Kreider moved down the lineup. It’s funny how things play out. It’s also why living game by game and line change by line change over 82 games isn’t that healthy.