Alexis Lafreniere’s battle has gone a long way with his fellow Rangers
Alexis Lavrinier dispensed with JJ Bago’s lofty kick against teammate Ryan Lindgren in the third period of Rangers beat Long Island 4-1 On Wednesday night, the former first pick instigated the first fight of his hockey career.
After Bago faltered on the pass less than two minutes from the end of the game – a call the referees surely missed – Lavrinier skated back to net Bago’s cross. The two became entangled before Lafreniere threw down his gloves and delivered a handful of punches to Pageau’s side, causing both players to fall onto the ice on top of each other.
“I thought it was a bit loud, and I didn’t like it, so I kind of went for it,” Lavrinier said after Thanksgiving practice for the Rangers on Thursday afternoon. “And I saw what happened, so maybe I should work on my martial skills.”
The Rangers may have faced a skeleton of the island’s population lineup, which has been depleted by the COVID-19 outbreak and a slew of long-term infections, but the islands were still able to play the physical brand of hockey that became the premium quality game for the organization’s identity.
There is a lot that young players like Lafreniere can disqualify from competing in those kinds of games, including how to not only stifle an opponent’s aggressiveness, but how to counteract it.
“I’ve always played kind of physically, but I think you’re getting more physical here,” said the 20-year-old winger. “[In] This league, nothing is given to you. It should really work for your space. So it’s good to be physical and add something to your game.”
Lafreniere added that, like many of his younger colleagues, he took some lessons from Ryan Reaves Fighting School. He described Reeves as one of the strongest players in the NHL and noted that the veteran performer can teach Rangers how to protect themselves in those situations.
Lindgren, who said he was fine after Bago’s injury, saw Lavrenier and Adam Fox standing up for him from the locker room. The defensive man said it meant a lot to see two of his teammates who usually defend him in this way.
“He went up for a teammate, but again, I don’t want him to fight too much,” coach Gerard Gallant said of Lavrinier before Rangers fly to Boston for Friday’s show against the Bruins. “But when you’re a team and you stay together, that goes a long way with your teammates. For him, doing that. [Wednesday] Lil, he’s come a long way with his teammates.”
While Lafreniere was never known as a fighter during his three seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major League Hockey – and probably never would have been known as such – he still adds dimension to his game. Part of that is balancing his physical play with his clever approach to the game that fuels his offensive capabilities.
He said, “I am not a fighter.” “I wouldn’t look for fights in every match, but you never know what could happen. So I’m always ready, for sure.”