Last Laf! Rangers Beat Columbus 4-3 In Shootout Behind Alexis Lafreniere’s Heroics.

There are many positives to take away from this successful streak the Rangers have been on. Points in ten straight games (9-0-1) and finding ways to win through injuries and adversity.

Perhaps the greatest of these revelations has been signs of the long-awaited emergence of Alexis Lafreniere as a bonafide superstar. Whether that continues remains to be seen, but he was unquestionably the hero of last night’s thrilling 4-3 comeback shootout victory against Columbus.

So let’s break down the good (Laf), the bad (long reviews), and everything in between (Let’s hope Lindy is okay)

THAT’S GOOD!

LAFRENIERE

The story of Alexis Lafreniere’s tenure in the NHL has been spotty. The fact that the ping pong ball came up with the Rangers logo due to a unique draft year only intensified the hype for Lafreniere, as he was coming to a team more established than your usual team that picks first overall.

That hype and perhaps not receiving the proper ice time or development led to underwhelming production for Lafreniere and the unfair perception that he was a “bust.”

The cry to unleash him in the top six without fear or reprisal was finally answered by Laviolette, and the results are now shining through. Two goals last night, including the clutch tying goal with eleven seconds left (off a smart pass from Kreider), electrified the Garden crowd.

As if that wasn’t enough, he was the only one to score in the shootout with a brilliant backhanded top-shelf shot that fooled Merzlikins and sent the Rangers to victory.

His amazing night followed up the first three-point game of his career, which symbolizes that this surge might not just be a hot streak but the catalyst to Lafreniere becoming the star he was always projected to be.

VIBES

This section is more of an intangible description of what’s happening lately, but it’s rooted in tangible evidence.

The vibes around this team are, as the kids say, immaculate. The Rangers lived up to the No Quit In NY slogan two seasons ago. It became the team’s identity, and the fans fed off of it. Somehow, last season, even though the team finished only three points behind the season before, felt different. The magic was gone and replaced with uncertainty. That feeling eventually led to Gallant’s departure.

Now, for a multitude of reasons (Laviolette, Panarin, Lafreniere, etc..take your pick), the DNA of resilience, positivity, and good vibes has returned. Obviously, winning plays a role in that, but I believe those two entities feed off each other.

The actual test will be when the team takes a dip, so you see how they’ll respond, but we’ve seen enough of this core to know the bounceback ability is sustainable. It’s a team that genuinely cares for each other and knows how to win, stay focused, and overcome adversity. That’s a wonderful combination that will continue serving them well.

THAT’S BAD

TORONTO HATES US

Okay, this one might not have as much tangible evidence and allow me to whine a bit, but everything about that goal review was embarrassing last night.  

Not only was the puck clearly over the line (definitely before the whistle blew, and possibly initially), but to take THAT long for a review borders on incompetence and only lends itself to the perception that the league office makes these decisions up as they go—zero consistency.

The review took so long that I even switched over to watch the Jets game for a bit, so that should give you an idea of the level of my frustration with it when I’m willing to subject myself to that torture.

The erroneous decision only lends more credence to the resilience of this team, though. The Rangers could have played better last night(for some reason, the Columbus matchup is not a good one for this team), but they turned it on in the 3rd and, ultimately, found the equalizer.

CAN I GO NOW?

  • One underlying issue masked by this streak has been the underwhelming play of Mika Zibanejad. This continued last night with several inaccurate one-timers and some lackluster play in general. We’re still waiting for him to contribute in the manner we know he can.
  • On that same front, Kaapo Kakko still looks a little lost out there despite a few flashes. The emergence of Lafreniere has offset this a bit, but there’s still hope that Kakko would take a similar leap, and instead, it has been regression so far.
  • That’s not the case for Will Cuylle, who continues to impress.
  • Jonathan Quick was again stout last night, and his play is a significant factor for this streak.  
  • Add Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, and Gustafsson to that list, as the Rangers are getting contributions from all three. Even when the overall play is not consistent or sharp, these players are showing up clutch in big moments.
  • Congrats (and thank you!) to Artemi Panarin for tying the franchise streak of 14 games to start the season with at least a point. This might be the most remarkable stretch of his Rangers’ career, which is saying something.
  • Hopefully, Lindgren is okay (Laviolette actually called it a maintenance day for him for today’s optional skate, so that’s a good sign). Yes, the Rangers haven’t missed a beat with these injuries, but I would hate to face the Devils without both Fox and Lindy.
  • We don’t have to worry about that yet, though, because the NHL has oddly scheduled a five-day break here for the Rangers before their next game Saturday night against New Jersey. We’ll have to wait a while to see who, if anyone, returns to the lineup to see if Panarin and this team can keep their streaks alive.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Marc Panzer

NYR Fan living in Long Island

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