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The Rangers formerly known as “The Kids” have each evolved into different roles

They were the darlings of the unexpected run to the conference finals in 2022, more famous as a unit than individually.

It was the children.

But two years later, they are more commonly identified simply as Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, young hockey players at separate points in their respective careers, even as the Rangers start over.

It’s no longer a singular feeling.

They are separate and unequal.

Lafrenière is ascendant and part of the dynamic top six. Chytil is looking to return to the lineup after experiencing another physical issue. Kakko is on the third line, playing solid and responsible two-way hockey, but with limited offensive production.


Filip Chytil (72), Kaapo Kakko (24) and Alexis Lafreniere (13) are pictured during the third period of Game 4 of the National Hockey League Eastern Conference First Round between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers on April 24.  2023.
Filip Chytil (72), Kaapo Kakko (24) and Alexis Lafreniere (13) are pictured during the third period of Game 4 of the first round of the National Hockey League Eastern Conference between the New Jersey Devils and the Rangers from New York, April 24. 2023. Sportswire Icon via Getty Images

The Kid Line was together for a total of 5:46 this season. It’s possible that head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t even know what The Kid Line meant. In the past, there was also a FLY line.

Lafreniere had four goals and 10 points in the tournament to honor his breakout season of 28-29-57. He brought a consistent physical edge and obnoxious burst to the ice to complement teammates Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin.

“It’s great, it’s nice to see him play like that,” Chytil said after practice. “I was with him every day on the same line so I know what he can bring. He’s getting better every day.

“Even when I didn’t have a chance to watch the games as much, I would just watch his highlights. When we played together, I said, “It happens. » »

Chytil, of course, made his return in Game 3 of Carolina’s series after post-concussion issues had kept him sidelined for the previous 188 days. But he woke up the morning of the fourth game not feeling well enough to skate, and subsequently reported pain that kept him from participating in the rest of the series, although number 72 returned to the unrestricted training. He will be an option for Laviolette.

“I said it after (Game 3), I can see what the team has done all season and now what they’re doing in the playoffs, but yeah, I want to play,” Chytil said. “I didn’t join just to (support) the guys in the stands and take vacations to Carolina and Florida.

“I don’t want to make headlines like I did after (my) last match, so I’m just going to say I can bring a little speed to the game, I can bring a little skill, create some opportunities, shoot, just go to bring my game.”

Kakko, meanwhile, is part of a controlling unit with Alex Wennberg in the middle and Will Cuylle on the left. The unit boasts some very impressive peripherals combining for a shot share percentage of 59.62 and an expected goals percentage of 64.65, while scoring two goals for and one against.

But the unit was tested offensively. Kakko has one goal, the first of Game 4 against the Caps on which he converted a Nick Jensen turnover right off his stick. Cuylle has one goal, the breakaway in Game 4 against Carolina. None of the grinding and none of the work done below the hash marks produced a goal.

“I don’t expect us to score a goal every game, but it would be nice to score sometimes,” Kakko told the Post. “Our trio is playing pretty well. We have the puck at the other end and we have opportunities.

“But the whole line has two goals and it could be a lot more, especially the number of chances we have every game. We all have the puck in the O-zone, but it would help a little if we scored a goal.

It’s a bit of a story of Kakko’s five seasons in which he was a possession machine working the walls, while also being diligent on the defensive side of the puck and in his own side of the ice. Basically, the Finn is as skilled as any runner-up you could identify. There is, however, this disconnect between taking possession and lighting the lamp.

“I feel like I’ve been quicker and created chances, but I’ve had chances where I shoot to score a goal, and that’s also confidence, you know? Kakko said. “I’m not saying I don’t feel good, I feel good and maybe that’s why we spend a lot of time in the O-zone.

“But also to score goals, you get one and you feel better and you have more chances and they go in. Sometimes you need a bit of luck there. I feel like we hit messages I still think it will change and those will start coming, but it’s also trust.


Kaapo Kakko celebrates a goal in the second period with K'Andre Miller #79, Filip Chytil #72 and Alexis Lafreniere #13 against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.
Kaapo Kakko celebrates a goal in the second period with K’Andre Miller #79, Filip Chytil #72 and Alexis Lafreniere #13 against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. NHLI via Getty Images

There will surely be some important conversations this summer between Kakko’s camp and general manager Chris Drury about the Finn’s place on the team when he enters restricted free agency. The second in the 2019 general classification aspires to a place among the top six. He never managed to find one here.

But it still lasts about six weeks. Kakko has a role to play and he intends to do it to the best of his abilities.

“When I played in Finland and I was on the first line, I could take risks to score goals, but I feel like my role is a little different now,” said the number 24. “Our line is considered like two-way We have to play zero-zero and give our other lines the chance to play more offensively.

“We can’t do anything stupid on the blue line. It’s your job. That’s how I see it.

Kakko. Chytil. Lafrenière.

A 24, a 23, a 22, still children, but The Kids, no longer.

New York Post

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