GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Alexis Lafreniere wasn’t the only Ranger who didn’t play well in the 5-1 loss Monday night at the Garden to the Calgary Flames. But he was the only player called out by name by coach Gerard Gallant after the game.
"I want ‘Laffy’ doing more,’’ Gallant said Monday, after being asked why he had moved winger Julien Gauthier into Lafreniere’s spot on the first line late in the second period.
On Tuesday, Lafreniere acknowledged that he indeed did not have a good game Monday, and promised to be better.
"For sure, I have to be better,’’ Lafreniere said after the team’s practice at the MSG Training Center. "Last game wasn't a good game for me. It was a physical game, tough game, and you got to be able to win your battles one-on-one, so it wasn't good enough for me.’’
Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2020, said he had good games on the recently concluded road trip – he scored the game-winning goals in both Montreal and in Nashville – but needs to be more consistent. He refused to use his age (20) as an excuse for being inconsistent.
"There's no excuses of being young,’’ he said. "I know what I have to do to play to play good. I know what I can do. So I just have to do it every night. And it's hard, for sure. But there's no excuses.’’
Gallant was pleased to hear that Lafreniere took ownership of his performance.
"I'm glad Laffy took a little responsibility for that,’’ Gallant said. "But he’s not alone.’’
Lafreniere wasn’t actually that bad, according to the official NHL stat sheet. He played 15 minutes, 43 seconds, had three shots on goal, another shot blocked, and was officially a minus-1. He was on for the first goal against, by Christopher Tanev. He was outskated up the ice by Tanev, who was wide open to receive the pass for his shot.
Clearly, though, Gallant did not hold the one bad game against Lafreniere. At practice Tuesday, Lafreniere was back on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider (though Zibanejad had the day off and Greg McKegg stepped into his spot for the day). Gauthier, who’d taken Lafreniere’s spot Monday, was skating on the fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Dryden Hunt.
"I like Laffy a lot,’’ Gallant said. "I've liked him from day one, since we got here in training camp. He's got skill, he's got talent. But you’ve got to grow. You’ve got to keep getting better. And it's those little plays that – you could probably mark 10 of them in the first period last night, that we had the puck on our stick, and it went to their [Calgary] guys. And that can't happen.’’
Notes & quotes: Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren (who left Monday’s game briefly after blocking a shot), did not practice because of what the Rangers described as "maintenance.’’ Ryan Reaves, who left Monday’s game with a lower body injury, also did not practice because of the injury. He is listed as day-to-day… Kaapo Kakko, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, practiced fully, not wearing a non-contact jersey. He skated on a line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.