Rangers are seeing Vitali Kravtsov’s importance before their eyes in latest 3-2 OT loss

Rangers miss Vitali Kravtsov
New York Rangers center Vincent Trocheck (16) skates between Seattle Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn (29) and center Yanni Gourde (37) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, in Seattle. The Kraken won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
AP Photos

The New York Rangers got the first game of their west coast trip on the wrong foot Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. 

There are many takeaways from a loss like on Thursday. Igor Shesterkin kept them in a game they were being thoroughly outplayed in, and the powerplay unit again was the lone offensive spark. Yet arguably the largest takeaway came from a player who didn’t even see the ice. 

Sometimes just a few games without a role player can really show how important he is to a team. For Vitali Kravtsov, his absence over the last couple of games has come for a myriad of reasons. 

The 22-year-old winger has missed the last three games. One of those has been because of a problem with his tooth that caused discomfort. The other two have been because the offense outside of Kravtsov has produced excellently without him. 

Yet in the latest absence, Kravtsov’s absence has been felt specifically within his usual linemates of Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. Without Kravtsov, the Rangers have used Barclay Goodrow with the second-line trio. While Goodrow has enjoyed a nice start to the season, his “keep it simple” play has meant fewer overall scoring chances for his line. 

When the second line isn’t producing offensively, it’s a major problem. 

Kravtsov’s offensive creativity has fit well with Panarin’s offensive wizardry to the point that early in the season, it appeared that the kid line would be able to play together again. However, with two games now under their belt and no points for the kids, the question of sustainability has been brought to the forefront again. 

“I think they’re a good line, they’re a solid line, but I expect more from them. I want them to do more. I want them to get more scoring chances. I want them to put more pucks in the net for us. They’re all good players, talented players.” Gerard Galant told Mollie Walker on Thursday. 

The kid line pairing together works when the Rangers have quality offensive players matching with their top two lines. The issue is when Kravtsov isn’t playing, the offensive capabilities are severely limited. 

Until Kravtsov goes back in, or until more offensive players are brought in, the kid line will be under heavy scrutiny to actually score. It’s something that has alluded good players like Kaapo Kakko and Alexis  Lafreniere. 

The old adage of never knowing what you have until is gone fits very well with the New York Rangers and Vitali Kravtsov. They let good offensive pieces like Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano walk in free agency because of their cap issues and gamble on younger talent producing. 

But the younger players aren’t scoring as well as people have hoped and the Rangers are now looking at different line combinations to get past that.

The result? A major need for Vitali Kravtsov to get back on the ice. 

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