Well, at least Game 1 of the New York Rangers second-round series didn’t take three overtimes to decide a winner. But even in another tough opening game defeat, the Blue Shirts should be encouraged by how well its “Kid Line” has continued to play in the postseason.
Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko accounted for New York’s only goal on Wednesday night in Raleigh and outplayed the Carolina Hurricanes just about every time they had been on the ice.
“They were outstanding,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “That goal they scored and then they had four or five other great chances. It would have been great if they could have finished another one, but they played real good hockey. I’m real happy with them.”
It has been the story of the playoffs for the Rangers, aside from their never quit attitude of course, but New York’s young guns have answered the call. In round one, Pittsburgh focused on trying to shut down the Rangers’ top lines and now Carolina is trying to do the same.
While the trio only converted on one of their scoring chances on Wednesday night, they had plenty throughout the 60-plus minute affair. As a line Lafreniere, Chytil and Kakko had 11 scoring chances five-on-five in Game 1 and four of them were high danger, according to Natural Stat Trick.
And in 9:43 of five-on-five work, the three finished the game with an xGF% of 81.94.
“We just play our game,” Chytil said. “Move our feet. Just whole first period and it worked. We had a lot of good chances. We scored only one, but we can take a lot of positives out of the game. And build on this game.”
It was Chytil who scored the only goal for New York in the first period off a feed from Lafreniere. The goal was Chytil’s second of the playoffs and Lafreniere recorded his fifth point of the postseason.
Where the Rangers would have liked to see their youngsters convert the most would have been in the third period when two chances went by the waist side. Kakko wasn’t able to connect on a breakaway midway through the period and then he missed a wide-open net moments later.
The Blue Shirts trail the series 0-1, which should be a familiar situation for New York which rallied back in their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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“We’ve been in this position,” Chytil said. “We just have to keep our heads up. We have a day off tomorrow, good practice, good meetings and just get ready for Friday’s game. I think we can take a lot of positives from this game. I think two and a half periods we play what we want to play and we dictated the tempo of the game. Unfortunately, they scored a goal.
“We have to build on this game and take all the positives.”