Rangers, Gerard Gallant call out Trocheck-Panarin line for defensive woes: “It better get better”

Rangers coach calls out second line struggles
New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck (16) fights for control of the puck with Boston Bruins’ Pavel Zacha (18) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AP Photos

Before the 2022-23 season began, the introduction of Vincent Trocheck to the Rangers brought excitement to a team coming off a deep playoff run. How the veteran would fit with a top offensive player like Artemi Panarin was one of the key questions before the season began as well. 

Three months in and while the offensive results have shown promise at times, the defensive side has left much to be desired. 

And it all came ahead in New York’s 3-1 loss to Boston Thursday night. After the game, the Rangers’ head coach held no punches regarding the second line’s productivity.

“I’ve talked about second line all year long, about playing better, harder defensively, not giving up the odd-man rushes and it continues to happen, so I have to put somebody over there.” Gerard Gallant said after the loss. “they got to be better than what they are.”

The second line of Panarin, Trocheck, and Vitali Kravtsov got plenty of offensive chances throughout the night. Panarin led the team with shots and the second line gave the team plenty of offensive chances that couldn’t be solved by Boston’s strong goaltending game. But the second line also gave up plenty of offensive chances and the combined -4 on-ice +/- was one of the lowest on the team. 

And the defensive woes on that line directly led to a line change late in the second period. Vitali Kravtsov switched places with Jimmy Vesey as a way to improve the line’s defensive prowess. While he did not solely blame Kravtsov for the struggles, Gallant felt that a shift was necessary for one of their more important lines. 

“It’s a good line, offensively. We need a lot more defensively. They’re our top players & you need them. That’s where it’s at. They should’ve scored 3/4 goals tonight, but they could’ve given up 4/5 just as easy.”

Simply put, the Panarin-Trocheck line hasn’t been as dominant as fans and analysts could have hoped. They both are at the top of the team in overall points, but their inability to finish key chances has hurt the Rangers at times when they really need their stars to produce. 

That’s what both Panarin and Trocheck are. Both are being paid over $5 million a year on their current deals. Chemistry was a big question between the two players and it continues to be a work in progress in their first year together. 

But as the season continues and the Rangers look to go on another deep playoff run, the importance of improvement has been made clear to one of New York’s best lines. 

Gerard Gallant has put Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck on blast. The question now will be how the two veterans respond. 

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