The Rangers’ Jacob Trouba took issue Wednesday afternoon with the nickname “Kid Line” for the team’s line of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere.
Chytil is the third-longest tenured player on the team, Trouba reasoned. There is little reason to refer to him as a kid.
It’s unlikely the moniker will be going away anytime soon. But after another standout performance from Chytil, in which the 22-year-old scored twice and drove play on a line that took the Lightning by storm in the latter half of the Rangers’ 6-2 win in Game 1 of the conference finals Wednesday night, it’s clear that Trouba had a point.
Chytil is using this postseason to make a resounding statement. His line is technically the Rangers’ third line, but for large stretches of the past month, it has been their best. And Chytil has been the best player on it.
There’s a lot about this playoff run that nobody could have seen coming. Filip Chytil, who had just 22 points to his name during the regular season — the fourth straight season in which he finished with either 22 or 23 points — holding that title should be near the top of any list.
“I was working hard through the whole season,” Chytil said. “There was tough moments, so many chances when I couldn’t put it to the net, maybe that hockey wasn’t as bad. But when you’re not putting pucks to the net, you’re not helping the team that much. Maybe [I] started to be a little frustrated.”
Now, Chytil is painting a picture of confidence every time the puck is on his stick. His first goal of the night resulted from a move to the slot that caught the Lightning out, giving him a free look off Kakko’s pass from behind the net. His second goal finished off a clinical shift from the Kids on which they hemmed the Lightning into their own zone for minutes at a time.
“He’s grown up to be a man,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of Chytil. “He’s 22 years old. He’s confident in his game and he feels good about his game and he always has. But now he’s really stepping it up.
“Every time you watch him go out there and play, he’s more confident. He’s stronger on every puck. He’s more confident in the faceoff circle. He’s growing up.”
During the regular season, Chytil played just 28:13 together with Kakko and Lafreniere, per Natural Stat Trick. Ahead of the playoff opener against the Penguins, Gallant put them together and unlocked something in all three.
Something that has helped the Rangers move to within three victories from their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 2014.
“Now it’s finally going in,” Chytil said. “I’m so happy that I can help the team like this and [contribute to] winning the games.”