Rangers’ Chytil Improving Just in Time for the Playoffs

The New York Rangers have already clinched a playoff berth in large part due to the stellar play of their stars, including Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Artemi Panarin.

However, after struggling to get offensive contributions from their bottom-six forwards earlier in the season, New York’s third line has stepped up recently. One of the keys to their success is the improved play of center Filip Chytil, who had a rough start to the season. The 22-year-old center will also be an important player for the Blueshirts this postseason as he has the potential to give them some secondary scoring.

Chytil’s Play Earlier This Season

Last season, Chytil played well despite missing a few weeks with an upper-body injury and finished with eight goals and 14 assists in 42 games. While his numbers certainly weren’t bad, he had only one goal in his final 20 games of the season. He continued to slump early this season with just two goals and two assists in his first 21 games.

Chytil struggled to capitalize on his scoring chances and so did his linemate, Julien Gauthier. He did form chemistry with Alexis Lafreniere, who chipped in offensively and proved to be the biggest offensive threat on the line. In addition to his slump, Chytil also played through an upper-body injury early in the season but said he felt much better after the All-Star Break.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
Filip Chytil of the New York Rangers struggled early in the season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A big weakness for Chytil throughout his career has been his inability to win faceoffs. He has won 42.8 percent this season, and just 40.3 percent in his career. The Rangers briefly moved him to the wing and played him with Panarin and Ryan Strome on the second line. He played much better in that role but he suffered a minor injury, missed a few games, and got moved back to center when he returned. He has remained there since then.

Related: Rangers’ Gallant Should Rebuild Third Line Around Goodrow

Chytil finished the first half of the season with four goals and seven assists in 38 games. He made a few nice plays but in too many games he wasn’t noticeable offensively and made too many unnecessary giveaways.

Chytil’s Play Recently

Even though Chytil didn’t immediately start producing more offensively after the All-Star break, he became much more noticeable. He forechecked more aggressively and shielded the puck well to set up his linemates.

Chytil still had trouble capitalizing on his scoring opportunities but he helped his line create more chances. In an important game against the Boston Bruins in February, he got his own rebound and scored to tie the game at one in the third period. The Rangers went on to win the game 2-1 in a shootout.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
Filip Chytil’s improved play has helped the New York Rangers third line (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blueshirts also added a few key forwards at the trade deadline as they acquired Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano. Both moved into a top-six role and Chytil has spent time playing with more skilled players like Lafreniere, and either Kaapo Kakko or Barclay Goodrow.

New York’s third line has recently started producing as Kakko scored two goals in the Rangers’ 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday and Lafreniere scored two goals in their 4-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Chytil had one assist in each game including a great backhand pass to set up Kakko against Philadelphia. He now has three goals and seven assists in 24 games since the All-Star Break.

Chytil and the Rangers Moving Forward

Despite his slow start to the season, Chytil has stepped up lately and provided the Rangers with a spark. He has size and speed and the Blueshirts will look to him to provide them with some secondary scoring in the playoffs. He is playing his best hockey of the season right now which is great timing as the Rangers look to make a run for the Stanley Cup.

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