Sitting third in the Metropolitan Division, the New York Rangers are looking to mesh a new-look roster down the stretch. Justin Braun, Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte all arrived ahead of the trade deadline, giving the Rangers a real challenge to develop chemistry before the postseason begins on May 2nd.
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Head coach Gerard Gallant has his work cut out to find the best combination of talent. General manager and president Chris Drury gave Gallant more pieces, but sometimes more isn’t better when it comes to the NHL. It’s going to take some experimentation over the final few weeks of the season as the Rangers try to find the perfect lineup.
Ranking in the bottom half in goals scored on the season, the Rangers will be desperately hoping their quartet of arrivals can make them a more potent force offensively. High-scoring games have generally not worked in their favor this season.
Alexis Lafreniere was dropped from the rotation on Tuesday, and he won’t be the last to see his playing time cut. There are simply not enough minutes to go around, a point which was emphasized by Gallant saying that they will have 27 guys when everyone is healthy.
While clearly sympathetic to the situation, Gallant has made it clear that any decisions he makes are in the name of trying to lift the Stanley Cup.
He said, “Obviously some guys are gonna be disappointed, they’re not playing as much, that’s all part of it. It’s about attitude. Take the right attitude, do what you can do. If you’re not playing, go work hard and be ready for when you do play. It’s not easy.
“I’m not gonna say for the guys that aren’t playing, guys that might get bumped down the lineup, it’s not easy, but we’re all trying to win.”
New York sent out six draft picks ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. They were a string of win-now moves for a franchise all but secured of a postseason berth. Only time will tell if it was worth the gamble, but Rangers fans have plenty to be optimistic about in the coming months.
Gallant and Drury have big ambitions for this season – the head coach spoke frankly about their hopes for the remainder of the campaign.
“That’s what you’re trying to do. We’re trying to win as a team. I know at the end — if you go to the end, if you go to the Stanley Cup finals, if you’re fortunate enough to get there, fortunate enough to make the playoffs — it’s gonna take all 27. That’s gonna be the message. We love everybody, they’re all good people, we’ve had a good season with everybody but we’ve added pieces to our team. We’re trying to make it better.”
It’s going to be a period of adaptation for the Rangers, and that is only going to be exaggerated when Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney return next month. There is no standings pressure, but the clock is ticking ahead of the playoffs.
It’s an exciting time to follow the Rangers, who are one of the teams to keep an eye on as the regular season draws to a close.
Gallant is well aware of the impact this could have on results short-term, but the hope is they are a deeper, more competitive team when the important games start.
“You’re throwing things out there, different lines, different positions for certain guys, trying to get a feel. But it’s a good thing. It might hurt us some nights with guys playing off wings or with new line combinations, but you do the best you can.”
With 12 of their remaining 18 games at home, the Rangers faithful will have plenty of opportunities to see how Gallant manages this new roster.