Rangers’ Filip Chytil convinces with his words and his game

PITTSBURGH — When the Rangers were eliminated by the Penguins in Game 5 for the first time in their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Wednesday, Filip Chytil spoke with a tone he had never shown in his five NHL seasons.

The Czech winger was stern and single-minded with his words, albeit in English, his second language. He was both critical and motivational as he discussed what Rangers must do to keep their season alive. As a player not normally chosen to represent the club in such circumstances, Chytil handled the stage with aplomb and authority.

He sounded like a player who’s been a regular part of this Rangers team since he’s been in New York. He acted like a veteran. He was a leader.

And Chytil translated it all onto the ice that night at Madison Square Garden.

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Frank Vatrano (77') and Filip Chytil (72') celebrate Chytil's goal in the third period against the Penguins on Wednesday.
Frank Vatrano (77) and Filip Chytil (72) celebrate Chytil’s winning goal against the Penguins on Wednesday.
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Chytil scored the crucial goal on a power play early in the third period to lead the Rangers to a 5-3 win, allowing his team to force Game 6, played in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

Aside from that Game 5 winner, Chytil has been one of the most consistent forwards for Rangers of the series. He’s won puck fights, pushed forward offensive plays and fought for every inch of ice he got. His one goal and one assist in five games was no indication of his overall impact on the series.

“This is a guy who’s always working, always working, always working,” said Chris Kreider, who has been Chytil’s teammate since his debut NHL season in 2017-18. “The championship isn’t linear and I think that’s a guy who understands that. Regardless of what happens over the course of a season, wherever he watches his game, whether he thinks he’s confident or not, he’s doing the right thing every day.

“He’s been a really, really, really good professional since he showed up here – which sometimes takes a little time for a kid that young. You forget how young he was and how young he still is. His details just seem to get better and better.

“This is a guy who wants to be great and wants to make a difference every time he’s on the ice and is really committed to winning and playing a team game. He has become an important part of our team and it is also a pleasure to be with him.”

Chytil, who Rangers drafted 21st overall in 2017, was on the club’s opening list that year at the age of 18. While he only played nine games this season, Chytil has been a staple of the Rangers lineup for the past four seasons. But he’s struggling to establish his identity as an NHLer. His breakout season hasn’t come yet.

However, his first five legitimate playoff games have hinted that that could be on the cards.

Head coach Gerard Gallant has been trying to push the right buttons on Chytil, who has suffered a healthy scrape a number of times during the regular season. Chytil watched three straight games from the press box in late February and Gallant hinted he had spoken to the 22-year-old about becoming more competitive.

“Fil has always had skills and talent, but we want him to be more competitive,” Gallant said. “It’s not just Fil, it’s the line [with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko]. And the kids are more competitive. You play hard. Sometimes as a coach you look at your players and you don’t realize that they are 22, 21 or 20 years old. I knew that, but when you hear it when someone talks about it on ESPN or whatever, it kind of sounds like they’re really young. And that makes them happy.” Rangers’ Filip Chytil convinces with his words and his game


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