Rangers' Kid Line bringing dynamic element to team
Jimmy Vesey watched the playoffs last season and saw what the Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko did for the Rangers. The way those three played Wednesday night in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss in Toronto was enough to get Vesey excited.
“I mean, it certainly makes us a more dynamic team,’’ he said of the youngsters, who comprised the Rangers’ best line Wednesday. “I watched those guys on TV last year in the playoffs, and [Wednesday night] I thought it really came out in their chemistry and skill. So it’s definitely a weapon for us.’’
Chytil had two goals in the second period as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead they ultimately couldn’t protect. That gave him three goals in the last two games and gave the line four in the last two — Lafreniere had the other — since Gerard Gallant reunited them before Monday night’s game against Florida.
Against the Maple Leafs, the Kids — Lafreniere and Kakko are 21 and Chytil is 23 — played 12 minutes together in five-on-five situations. They outscored their opponents 2-0, outshot them 7-4, had eight scoring chances and allowed two, according to the analytics website Natural Stat Trick.
“Yeah, we felt good,’’ said Chytil, who has a career-high 15 goals this season. “Since the first shift, we were making plays. We were skating with the puck, we had a lot of possession, we were going to the net a lot, and that’s what is our playing style.
“That’s what we can do, and what we have to do every game. And we know each other very well. So it’s a great game from us, I think, but it’s still something to improve and we need to get two points next time.’’
For all of his line-juggling, Gallant knows he can always come back to the Kid Line as a trio he can count on. Because of their ages, he generally uses them as a third line. His top two forwards, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, played on the first line the last two games. Vincent Trocheck centers the second line.
Chytil’s 15 goals and 28 points (also a career high) in 40 games project to 31 goals and 57 points over a full season. Kakko, who has matched his career high of 23 points (nine goals, career-best 14 assists), is the team’s top right wing and looks more willing to shoot on the Kid Line. He doesn’t have to worry about deferring to more veteran linemates. Lafreniere (six goals, 16 assists) has struggled to make an impact much of the season but seems to have come alive in the last two games.
As a line, the trio has been together for 190:01 in five-on-five situations this season, outshot their opponents 88-77 and outchanced them 90-82, according to Natural Stat Trick. They’ve outscored their opponents 13-5.
Notes & quotes: The Rangers signed D Ben Harpur to a two-year contract extension that runs through 2024-25. The deal carries an average annual value of $787,500, according to CapFriendly.