Jacob Trouba has hit the ground running in the Rangers’ first two games since the All-Star break, landing game-changing hits and punches in the first and notching his first two points in over a month in the second.
The Rangers’ captain assisted on Alexis Lafreniere’s goal in the second period and on Mika Zibanejad’s goal in the third to help propel his team to a 4-3 win over the Canucks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Both helpers came in the form of shots from the top of the zone, which were then somehow deflected into Vancouver’s net somehow.
Perhaps his contributions Wednesday night weren’t as exciting as those on Monday, but Trouba managed to get back on the score sheet for the first time since Jan. 7.
In a 5-4 overtime win over the Flames on Monday night, Trouba recorded two momentum-swinging hits and engaged in two fights, one of which resulted in a critical power-play goal. Each sequence played a critical role in the Rangers’ ability to start the final stretch of the season strong.
“It’s always how I’ve played, even as a kid,” Trouba said after practice Tuesday. “It’s always been a part of how I play hockey. It gets me involved in the game, it gets my energy back up after a long break. It’s always been something I’ve done.”
Those game-changing blows delivered by Trouba have become more frequent in the last two seasons or so, but they’re not an every-night occurrence. Not only is it almost impossible to operate at that level of intensity on a game-to-game basis, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound blueliner is selective when it comes to the moments he chooses to utilize that style of play.
Trouba throws his body around like that only when it’s warranted or when it’s going to give the Rangers a much-needed jolt. We saw it earlier this season, when the Rangers needed a wake-up call and Trouba delivered it with three fights in December, including a helmet toss during the Dec. 3 matchup in Chicago that has since gone viral.
“A hundred percent,” head coach Gerard Gallant said when asked if he feels Trouba has been playing better hockey than at the start of the season. “He’s played strong. Nobody is perfect through 82 games.He’s a big part of our group. He might not bring big offense all the time, but he brings the physicality and he brings a dimension to our team that we need. He’s character. He’s a leader. I like the way he’s playing, him and K’Andre [Miller] are playing great hockey for us and they play against top lines every night.”
The Flames’ Nazem Kadri was asked about the hit Trouba landed on him that knocked his helmet off in the second period Monday.
“Good hit,” Kadri told reporters the following day, after the hit had gone viral. “I took it like a man, got right back up, dusted myself off and away you go.”
Libor Hajek was a healthy scratch for the 21st game in a row Wednesday night against the Canucks. Julien Gauthier sat for a second straight contest and Vitali Kravtsov sat for the fourth consecutive game.