Examine how Libor Hajek will likely fit into Rangers lineup

Composition decisions? Head coach Gerard Gallant faces a small handful in the build-up to Sunday’s game at the Garden against the Red Wings.

Let’s discuss:

1. If Ryan Lindgren, who left Thursday’s loss to the Bruins midway through the first period with an upper-body problem minutes after being caught off guard by David Pastrnak, can’t go on Sunday, Libor Hajek will replace him in the ‘alignment.

There is no other option available under the law. The Blueshirts, who are maxed out at 23 on the NHL roster, could clear a spot by placing Vitali Kravtsov on retroactive IR, but they wouldn’t have the cap space to promote an alternate replacement even if it was. the seed of a thought. They have six healthy defensemen, so the Rangers and their $200,000 space wouldn’t qualify for an emergency exemption.

Moreover, if Hajek is not deemed worthy to step up when injured, why on earth have Rangers shielded him from waivers since the start of last season?

But I wonder if Hajek would just slip in place of Lindgren on the left side of Adam Fox or if Gallant would use this opportunity to separate the K’Andre Miller-Jacob Trouba pair who have been unbroken since the first weeks of the season. Miller’s rookie and move Miller to Fox’s left side.

Libor Hajek
Libor Hajek will likely come into the Rangers line-up if Ryan Lindren can’t play.

Miller and Trouba have been paired for every game the two have been in the roster since Game 3 of the 2020-21 season – in which Lindgren skated with Trouba, Miller played with Brendan Smith and Fox was joined by Jack Johnson. According to NaturalStatTrick, Miller played a career-high 2,634 minutes at five-on-five. He was with Trouba for 1,989 minutes, or 75% of the time.

But neither Miller nor Trouba are performing at their best through the first 12 games. Miller didn’t use a dominant preseason as a springboard in the year. His decision-making was flawed, with his defensive zone coverage going in and out. Trouba has been a little less physical and a little more erratic than he was last season. Maybe it’s time to take a break.

If so, why not Miller with Fox and Zac Jones, who has been much more assertive playing the last three straight after back-to-back scratches and had a career-high 23:46 against the Bs, with Trouba to complete the top four with Hajek and Braden Schneider making up the third pair?

2. I think everyone appreciates the effort Alexis Lafrenière made in transitioning to the right wing. But it seems obvious that he is much more comfortable and plays a much more instinctive game on his natural left side.

So if Filip Chytil, sidelined for the last six games due to a suspected concussion he suffered at the start of the previous game on October 23, is able to return against Detroit, that would present an opportunity. to bring Lafrenière back to the left wing by reuniting him with No. 72.

It would give Rangers their best shot at becoming a deep three-line offensive threat while giving Lafrenière his best shot at success playing, a) in his preferred position; and b) alongside a center with whom he is simpatico and has achieved his greatest success.

By the way, the Blueshirts won’t be a deep three-line threat until the Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider connection is in place. In 12 games, Zibanejad is yet to score five against five. And in 12 games, Kreider — unseen against Boston — has scored a five-for-five goal.

Indeed, the players who skated on the third line against the Bs — Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow and Julien Gauthier — amassed four full-out goals against the three that the first lines Kreider, Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko scored.

But back to the original point. Moving Lafrenière to Chytil’s left side gives Rangers a legitimate third-row threat. It also opens up a top six spot on the right which I would fill with Goodrow while using Vesey to fill the third row.

I might as well move Goodrow with Zibanejad and Kreider while moving Kakko down the second line with Panarin and Trocheck, but I’m not sure Gallant wants to smash it all at this point. Additionally, it could signal an overreaction to a bad night against a premium opponent who followed three straight wins.

Alexis Lafreniere
Alexis Lafreniere

Again, such moves might be necessary to shake up the offense of this team which ranks 23rd in five goals against five by 60:00.

3. The Blueshirts have the Red Wings on Sunday and the Islanders at home on Tuesday before a Thursday-Saturday trip to Nashville and Detroit that precedes the Nov. 13 Garden game against the Coyotes.

I expect Jaro Halak, who is 0-3 with an .867 save percentage and 3.69 goals-against average and hasn’t played since October 26 on the island , starts two of those next five games, probably both games against Detroit.

It’s imperative that Igor Shesterkin and Halak find their game for a team whose .905 five-on-five save percentage ranks 25th.


Back to top button