Regarding the New York Rangers, listing at 4-2-2 their last eight with one more coming up Friday before the bye period/All-Star break that runs through Feb. 5:
1. There is a simple fix to the Rangers’ ongoing power-play problems and that is moving Filip Chytil onto the first unit in place of Vincent Trocheck.
That Chytil is a lefty and Trocheck a righty represents more than a footnote but it is not the sole reason that head coach Gerard Gallant, perhaps loyal to a fault, should make this move immediately for Friday’s match at the Garden against Vegas.
Chytil has become his team’s second most dangerous offensive weapon behind Mika Zibanejad. He is a shooter. He is a finisher. His 17.24 shooting percentage at all strengths leads the Rangers and is 28th in the NHL among forwards with at least 500 minutes of ice time. His 1.57 goals-per-60 minutes leads the Rangers and is 26th in the league, tucked in a tick below Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk.
More to the point, Chytil has the quick twitch skills and fast hands that Trocheck lacks. He would be fresh on a first power-play unit that has gone stale like bread from a bakery after 24 hours.
The Rangers have underachieved with the man advantage pretty much all season. A PP1 that features Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider has no business being in the middle of the NHL pack. Actually, that flatters the team’s current standing.
After the latest stretch in which the Blueshirts have gone 2-for-22 in the last eight games (with the first unit on for one goal in the last 10 contests), they woke up Thursday morning ranked 17th in the 32-team league at 21.9 percent.
There is no rational reason to remain married to this four-righty approach with which the Rangers have gone since early in the 2019-20 season. When it worked, it worked. But it worked with Ryan Strome just the way Panarin worked with Strome at even-strength.
2. Trocheck has not been able to replicate the chemistry that seemed innate between Panarin and Strome, both on and off the ice. It is not fair to expect that of Trocheck. So maybe the Rangers should stop trying to shoehorn the new No. 16 into the old No. 16’s spot.
Want to have the option — finally — of that off-wing, one-timer on the opposite side from Zibanejad? Bang! It’s there with Chytil, just the way he scored his second goal in Toronto on Wednesday off that nifty relay from Kaapo Kakko.
The time for a power-play fix is now.
3. Gallant has become somewhat sensitive over critiques of his constant line shuffling. That is understandable. Every coach craves stability. This one is no different.
But Gallant is dealing with mismatched pieces resulting from the fallout of the failure of Panarin and Trocheck to mesh. It’s as if the coach is working with a jigsaw puzzle that does not have enough corner pieces.
The last three seasons, the Rangers had a pair of power combinations up top in Kreider and Zibanejad on one unit and Panarin and Strome on the other. That — and the power play — became the club’s offensive signature.
Those from the peanut gallery attempting to devalue Strome’s contributions by claiming that anyone could play with Panarin appear to have been mistaken.
Moving Panarin away from Trocheck creates all sorts of ripple effects. No alternative has quite taken hold. If Panarin were to skate with Chytil — which is what I would like to see — that would displace Alexis Lafreniere, who seems downright ebullient over this reunion with Chytil and Kakko.
Keeping the Kids together, though, means that the right wing who best complements Kreider and Zibanejad — that would be Kakko — is unavailable.
(Hey, maybe Patrick Kane can play with them, and not Panarin.)
4. It is as if Kreider sold his soul to Mr. Applegate in exchange for his 52 goals last season and now it is payback. Last year he was Joe Hardy. Now he is old Joe Boyd.
The chances are there in abundance for Kreider, whose inability to finish has seeped into his overall game. No goals on the power play since Nov. 13 on 17 shots and 31 attempts and with an almost impossible 9.52 shooting percentage following last year’s 39.39.
His body language is as bad as I’ve seen in years. The Rangers need No. 20 to snap out of it.
5. Not to belabor the point, because when have I ever done that before, but I’m not sure at all how Chytil wound up with nearly 3:00 less of even-strength time than Trocheck received in Toronto (16:23 to 13:49).
6. The Rangers have no functional (or functioning) fourth line. The reason for the exchange between Jonny Brodzinski and Jake Leschyshyn escapes me. How is it that Gustav Rydahl has become just another one of the organization’s pro free-agent signings out of Europe that never even makes it to Broadway?
I’m still waiting for Ville Meskanen.
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