Rangers thoughts: Don't cherry pick your playoff opponents.

It was three years to the day of the debut of Alexis Lafrenière in New York, and he played probably his best game in his career yesterday. With a goal, 5 SOG, and 4 penalties drawn, he was a force in a much needed response game from the Rangers. It’s not even remotely a question anymore, Lafrenière is here.

The fact it took putting him next to the best free agent signing this organization has ever had is something as well. Artemi Panarin reached 400 points in 310 games with the Rangers with his goal. This line has been the only line keeping the Rangers afloat of late, and it was no different last night, contributing both goals in the 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals.

Igor Shesterkin also came up big, hopefully setting himself straight. Some soft defense unfortunately led to a goal, but he deserved the shutout in this one, he was locked in. Stopping 24 of 25, I beg that this is the start of dominant Igor again. In the last month, we’ve been waiting for that Vezina caliber Igor to emerge. They need it.

The win was not pretty, but the Rangers found a way to make it work. The entirety of the second period might have been one of the worst of the entire season. The Rangers looked like they were at an open skate as far as their coverages. A complete lack of respect for the Caps, who had 12 shots on goal in the period, many of them off of turnovers, put the Rangers in a dangerous spot.

This was the period where Shesterkin shined. He stopped all but one of the scoring chances, ensuring the Rangers held onto the 2-1 lead. Luckily, the team was able to respond in the third by controlling the majority of the play until the last couple of minutes when Washington pressed to tie the game.

Ebbs and flows of the game will happen, but it was good to see the Rangers really lock down the neutral zone and take care of business after that lackluster second period. When you’ve lost 4 straight, a win is a win and you hope the attention to details persist.

Coming full circle, Alexis Lafreniere has had many ups and downs in his career. At times under Gallant, it looked like he could break out, but he seemed to stagnate in his development. This year, it’s clear he came to be a difference maker each and every night. He rarely has amn off game. He’s not a passenger on the line either, he’s driving play and getting real scoring chances.

This was a big win, and with Kaapo Kakko providing some more balance in the lineup, hopefully this will get things moving again for the Rangers.


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