It had been almost five months of Hartford’s next man rather than the next man in the organization. Indeed, once training camp opened in September, the Rangers stayed inside. -even when they needed reinforcements.
But the dynamic changed before the trade deadline. Frank Vatrano arrived first. Five days later, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte and Justin Braun followed. New faces in the lineup meant familiar faces in street clothes.
The roles refined for the first three quarters of the season change roughly a month before the playoffs. Athletes are asked to adapt. Just like head coach Gérard Gallant. It’s a laboratory on ice.
Rangers got away with a Sunday beating the Sabers 5-4 in overtime at the Garden after being held at neutral most of the time after Vatrano’s first two strikes in 18 seconds for a 2-0 lead just 4:17 into the game.
They looked for the easy way out. They have become lazy. They went 12:48 without a shot after Vatrano’s second goal, a period in which they only fabricated two attempts. They had to fall back after falling 3-2 down at the start of the second with Alexandra. Georgiev gave up three goals on five shots to fill the first two periods, which they managed to do, Alexis Lafrenière equalizing midway through the third before K’Andre Miller won 2:02 into the start. extension.
It’s all about getting ready for the playoffs which will begin in just over five weeks. That’s why Georgiev, whose save percentage has been below .880 in six of his last seven starts, got the go-ahead in this one while Igor Shesterkin got a break. ahead of Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh which kicks off a back-to-back game that ends in Detroit the following night.
Vatrano’s first four games as a Ranger were spent on the right with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin before moving on for the last two single games with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad in which his straight-line speed rounds out the No. 20 on the other flank. It’s all about making adjustments.
That’s largely what it was about on Sunday after Ryan Strome left the game after the first period with a lower-body injury that Gallant doesn’t think is serious. When number 16 fell, everything changed. on the right with Strome and Panarin, settles in the middle while Barclay Goodrow moves to the right. Motte, who had opened on the fourth line, took the vacant place of Goodrow and played on the third line with Lafrenière and Filip Chytil.
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But Copp had problems in the middle. So he swapped places with Goodrow. And Motte ended up playing in the center of his unit after taking faceoffs in place of Chytil. Some of them worked against a young Buffalo team en route to an 11th straight playoff. Miss. Some of them didn’t.
“I am still searching [more information]“Said Gallant when asked if he considered Copp a center or a wing. didn’t go so well for our team, so I put Goodie in there to try and get him going again.
“I would have liked to leave Copper in the middle – he’s good on face-offs, but the line just wasn’t jumping. He’s on the right side and we know he can move into the middle if needed.”
Determining his best position could be a topic for the offseason, when Copp becomes an unrestricted free agent. There is always more demand for centers. Rangers will be one of those teams in the market for a top-flight center if Strome chooses to test the market.
“That’s what the coach wants, but I would say I’m a center who can play on the wing,” said Copp, 27. “It’s kind of how my career has gone, but today I was better on the wing than in the middle so if it’s going well there’s no need to break that.
“Usually I’m more of a centre, but the right wing is working quite well at the moment.”
The versatility of Copp and Motte (and Goodrow, whose value continues to rise) was on display in this game, as was the team’s overall resilience to overcome half an hour of gibberish.
More importantly, so too was the steady improvement of Lafrenière, who went to the net to convert Chytil’s trick backhand into a tight shot for the 3-3 goal before setting Miller up for the winner. a big addition like Copp’s or Vatrano’s or Motte’s or Braun’s.
This is because a high number 72 equals a dangerous third line. Perhaps Chytil is the next man.