Game #7: Young kids misused again in overtime loss to Coyotes

Alexandar Georgiev allows a goal in an otherwise brilliant effort that fell short for Rangers in a 3-2 overtime defeat to Coyotes. AP Photo by Kathy Willens via Getty Images

It is getting redundant. The way David Quinn runs the bench is perplexing. Even in a game his team responded well in following a abysmal first period, the second-year coach refuses to play the kids enough. Who cares about the bleeping point earned in a 3-2 overtime loss to the much better Coyotes?

Lias Andersson 7:34

Kaapo Kakko 9:51

“Hello coach! I exist.”

Let’s stop right there. How is it possible for them to call this a rebuild? If he’s not going to give consistent minutes to Andersson, who remains in jail, and prize second overall pick Kakko, who recorded his first NHL assist, what the heck is the point? Either play them or leave. I’m serious. This is a bad team. Let the young players learn. They’re not going to sitting glued to the bench.

Tonight, it was Alexandar Georgiev’s turn to get peppered early. I don’t know how you come out so flat following Sunday’s fiasco against the Canucks. How is it possible to look as unprepared and be as outplayed as the Rangers were in the first period? They got outshot 21-4 and heard it from the crowd which included my Dad. He’s already starting to get down on Quinn and for good reason.

Like one of many classic scenes from Groundhog Day, the Rangers saw their collective shadow by taking ill advised penalties to hand an opponent the momentum. In this league, you cannot do that and be successful. They’re lucky Georgiev was so good. He only allowed one goal in such a lopsided period, it must’ve given Henrik Lundqvist nightmares watching from the bench. They can thank Georgiev for standing on his head in a game his team totaled 19 shots. He made 32 saves in his third start (first since last Thursday).

Astonishingly, Arizona only was able to get one puck by him early. It came on a total breakdown that allowed Lawson Crouse to put in a Christian Fischer rebound on a play set up from Carl Soderberg. It was way too easy with first Brendan Lemieux and then Tony DeAngelo failing to clear the front of the net.

The period was so bad that I can’t recall any of the four Ranger shots. They at least woke up in time for the second. Finally playing with more assertiveness, they got the game tied up. Pavel Buchnevich forced a turnover in the neutral zone and led a odd-man rush. He fed Lemieux for a one-timer point blank that Coyotes started Darcy Kuemper got. The rebound was put home by a cutting DeAngelo for his second at 5:04.

Unfortunately, Buchnevich also had a bad turnover that led to him getting nabbed for a cross-check. His second minor of the game. He’s putting up points, but isn’t playing a complete game yet. If he wants to be in the top six where he should be, Buchnevich can’t take shifts off. You won’t find this criticism in other blogs. They ignore that part of the game. Taking the body is also a requirement. Not an alternative in the NHL. These are areas the 24-year old must improve on. Not every fan likes him for this reason. I do, but understand the game. He can give more.

The second Arizona goal came with Buchnevich in the box. Alex Goligoski was able to take a Jakob Chychrun pass across and fire a shot that took a unlucky carom changing direction to get by Georgiev for a 2-1 lead at 13:46. Nick Schmaltz set the play up.

But this time, it was some undisciplined play by the Coyotes that allowed the Rangers to even the game back up. A delay of game and bench minor less than a minute apart handed the Blueshirts a two-man advantage for 1:09. Some near misses from Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad allowed Arizona to kill the first half off.

With the top unit off, it was the second unit that went to work. Kakko worked mostly on the left point and had two attempts. Eventually, he helped get the puck over to Ryan Strome, who came out and made a bullet feed across for a cutting DeAngelo finish for his second career two-goal game. It was Kakko’s first assist. The knowledgeable fans cheered in recognition. Too bad it didn’t result in more shifts. Why not?

The third became a defensive battle between two teams not wanting to make a mistake. Neither netminder had to do anything. There were eight total shots. Arizona had five while the Rangers had a pedestrian three. So, in two of three periods in regulation, they totaled seven shots. That’s awful. Way to entertain the fans who paid good money. What are they charging for beer now? Fifteen bucks? Eight dollars for bottled water that sucks. Holy mackerel. And they wonder why they can’t sellout. Why don’t they push another five-game mini plan? In the old days, it was ten games because there were more true fans due to the cost.

The game would go to overtime. Yay! They got a point. It didn’t last long. It only took the Coyotes 64 seconds to end the game. Christian Dvorak took a good Goligoski feed and skated into open ice where he fired a good shot past Georgiev high glove, or top shelf. Where Mama hides the cookies. Thank goodness for Rick Jeanneret. To be honest, it’s a shot Georgiev should’ve had. Something he admitted later. He credited Dvorak for making a good shot. I like his honesty.

They don’t get a point without him. That’s how it’s going to be more often than not during this season. The goalies are gonna have to steal games. Sometimes, it’s not even enough. Be glad they got to OT.

Don’t be happy about DQ. He’s seven games into Year Two and I’m already losing patience. He is not only mishandling Kakko and Andersson, who I don’t even remember being out for a shift. But insists on misusing Chris Kreider. Kreider is hardly featured on the power play due to the three big right shots. He also continues to play out of position because the coach doesn’t trust Kakko to give him first line minutes.

The misusage is frustrating. Not every blog is going to agree on everything. However, most of us see what Quinn isn’t doing. It’s not helping the process. It’s hurting it.

Play the kids already! Let them make mistakes.

Hudson 3 ๐ŸŒŸ:

3rd ๐ŸŒŸ Alexander Georgiev, Rangers (32 saves including 20/21 in 1st)

2nd ๐ŸŒŸ Tony DeAngelo, Rangers (2 goals including a power play goal, -1 in 18:54)

1st ๐ŸŒŸ Alex Goligoski, Coyotes (power play goal, primary assist on Dvorak OT winner, +2 in 20:28)

Note to the biased New York media who cover this team: I see they somehow gave Kuemper a 1st ๐ŸŒŸ. What for? He stopped 17 of 19 shots including a paltry 15 of 16 at even strength. He’s got a nice streak going of allowing 2 goals or fewer dating back to last season. But why is he even a ๐ŸŒŸ for?

Do these fools even watch? Georgiev stood on his head and got no respect except for his teammates, who knew better. Even Sam and Joe saw it. Would it kill them to recognize the quality backup he is? Only the King gets preferential treatment at MSG. It’s insulting. Much like Quinn’s coaching. Stop insulting our intelligence!

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A cool moment between Raanta and Lundqvist

Tonight’s game is going off now between the Coyotes and Rangers at The Garden. Neither Antti Raanta nor Henrik Lundqvist are starting. It didn’t stop the former teammates from sharing a cool moment during warmups.

It’s great to see the two catch up. Also Brady Skjei, who gave a puck to a lucky fan, came by and gave Raanta a slap. Pretty nice stuff. These guys don’t forget good teammates. Even if Antti hasn’t been here in a couple of years along with Derek Stepan.

You have to love it.

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The Quinn Combos line shuffle continues, what the lines should look like instead

It’s time to find out what Kaapo Kakko can do on the top line. Ditto for jailed former 2017 first round pick Lias Andersson. Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the Arizona Coyotes visit town for the first of a three game tour over four days with stops at the Islanders Thursday and Devils Friday. First up are the Rangers at MSG later today in the Big Apple.

It’s a return for Antti Raanta again. Since leaving in a trade with former playoff hero Derek Stepan, it’s been some bad luck for the former Rangers backup goalie. Injuries have contributed to him losing the starting job to Darcy Kuemper. However, Raanta just won his second start the other day against Ottawa. He could get the call versus his former team.

While the Coyotes enter playing well due to improved all around play in Rick Tocchet’s system that features two good netminders, the Rangers are losers of four in a row. In losses to Edmonton, the Devils, Capitals and Canucks, they’ve been outscored 17-7. Even more alarming, they rank 29th in goals with 17. That’s mostly due to coach David Quinn unable to find the right combinations for Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko, whose only goal came on a nice pass from Ryan Strome in transition against the Oilers.

Jesper Fast has three points (2-1-3) over his last two games. Due to being elevated to the top line where he set up Artemiy Panarin for his fourth in Sunday’s comeback that fell short, he’s starting the Blueshirts’ seventh game on the first line with Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

That was my initial reaction. Notice my confusion over why Lias Andersson continues to be buried on the jail fourth line. I don’t understand what Quinn is doing. Nobody does. It looks like our 2017 first round pick GM Jeff Gorton selected seventh overall, is going to be out of the top nine forever. Great trade. The idea is for development. Not to stunt growth. He’s 21 and outplayed Brett Howden to this point. Yet Howden will center line two between Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko. At least Kreider is back on the left side.

Nothing against Fast, who’s one of the hardest working players they have. If everyone had his work ethic, maybe they wouldn’t be struggling. However, Quickie cannot be on the top line. It should be Kakko getting that chance. Meanwhile, Pavel Buchnevich is on a third line with Strome and Brendan Lemieux. Eh. Even if there are some aspects of Buchnevich’s game I dislike, he has to be in the top six.

If I were making the Quinn Combos, this is how they’d look for now:

Panarin-Zibanejad-Kakko

Kreider-Strome-Buchnevich

Lemieux-Andersson-Fast

McKegg-Howden-Smith

At this point, that makes the most sense. It gives Kakko the opportunity to learn while working with their top two forwards. That should include the power play. He’s the key to the future. Let’s see what the second pick can do.

Strome for now is the best option to center the second line. We know he’s not a top six forward. However, based on experience and his ability to make plays on the forecheck while being responsible defensively, he should stay there until Filip Chytil returns from Hartford. Give Kreider and Buchnevich consistent minutes with Strome and see if it can work.

Andersson is the gritty two-way center whose strong work habits, would fit in well with Fast and the pesky Lemieux. That had a perfect balance to become a solid checking line. They can lean on Fast’s experience. Plus become an effective forechecking unit. Exactly what fans want to see.

The fourth line is your basic energy line. McKegg and Smith bring a good work ethic. Howden should be the fourth center for now. He has good speed and playmaking instincts. So, having him on this line should be okay. He kills penalties like Andersson, but gets favorable minutes from DQ. There’s nothing wrong with doing the opposite and finding out if Andersson is capable of a more responsible role. He deserves a chance to succeed.

As for the D pairings, Quinn has decided to stick with what he had last game. So this is it for now:

Hajek-Trouba

Staal-Fox

Skjei-DeAngelo

I don’t agree. Brady Skjei has to be in the top four for the money they invested in him. He’s a much better skater than Marc Staal, who would be better suited for the third pair and PK role he plays. There’s nothing wrong with that. I would switch Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox. Fox can play with Skjei on the second pair. Let DeAngelo stick with Staal, who he’s familiar with on the third pair.

At some point, Libor Hajek cannot stay with Jacob Trouba. That’s insane. He’s not ready for that kind of role which is why Quinn mixes and matches as games go along. Hajek has to be sheltered because he’s not strong defensively. I’d like to see what Ryan Lindgren can do. They’re shafting him. He doesn’t belong in Hartford. He should be getting into games.

This is clearly a PR move by the organization by giving both Howden and Hajek increased roles due to the Ryan McDonagh/JT Miller trade with the Lightning. It’s not the right philosophy. Minutes should be earned. The results for Hajek have been mixed. I’ve had my say on Howden.

Alexandar Georgiev makes his first start at home. He last was in at the Devils. Hopefully, he’ll be sharper. He’s an important part right now because they can’t overwork Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was peppered on Sunday after the Washington debacle. At least the Devils game was competitive.

That’s it for now. We’ll see if they can snap the losing skid.

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Game #6: That Losing Feeling, Lias Andersson buried again, Jimmy Fallon pays price for supporting Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist stops Jay Beagle in a 3-2 loss to the Canucks. AP Photo by Kathy Willens via Getty Images

I’ll be honest. I didn’t have a good feeling about Sunday’s odd 1 PM game against the Canucks. I figured they’d bounce back following being shutout by Mackenzie Blackwood and the Jack Hughes Devils. Still, it’s a bad sign when you can’t take advantage of a tired opponent.

Vancouver was on the back half of a back-to-back. Those are the games even the rebuilding Rangers MUST win. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. A lousy start doomed them in a 3-2 home loss on Kids Day at a less than capacity MSG. That’s what Dolan gets for charging the prices he does. The fan decrease started last year. It’ll continue despite fan excitement over Kaapo Kakko and Artemiy Panarin, who scored his fourth to make things interesting late.

It doesn’t matter if they played one good period. That’s not good enough. Not with a team in transition. Even with fancy new additions Panarin and Jacob Trouba, who’s fast becoming a NHL iron man due to the current state of the defense, this team isn’t good enough to half ass it. They cannot mail it in as they did for too long after being more rested than the Canucks, who are further ahead in their rebuild. Having Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and former buddy JT Miller will do that for Vancouver coach Travis Green, who praised his team’s effort. He called their first two periods the best he’s seen since he took over.

That in itself is an utter embarrassment for confused Rangers coach David Quinn, who didn’t look pleased throughout. Maybe he should start by looking in the mirror. The mixing of lines isn’t working. Sure. It’s only Game Six of an 82-game schedule. I don’t understand some of the combos. Maybe Quinn should have a sponsor for his lines. Combos, anyone? Pizza are my favorite.

Quinn stuck with Chris Kreider playing his off wing on the top line. Kreider did get some opportunities thanks to hard work by using his greatest attributes. His skating and speed. However, Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom wasn’t biting. I still am not sure this is best for Kreider moving forward. He’s a left wing playing the right side. He’s doing okay with Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, who continues to be far and away this team’s best player. He picked up an assist in the Rangers’ fourth consecutive defeat. He also hustled like hell to try to prevent veteran Jay Beagle’s back breaking shorthanded goal late in the dreadful first that made it 3-0 Canucks.

Let’s quickly get to the mixed bag of DQ lines sponsored by Combos:

Panarin-Zibanejad-Kreider

Lemieux-Howden-Kakko

Buchnevich-Strome-Fast

Haley-Andersson-Smith

Hajek-Trouba

Staal-Fox

Skjei-DeAngelo

Honestly, I have no clue what Quinn is trying to do. I get the need to look at different pairings due to the continued struggles from Brady Skjei. He had another poor showing. He was caught out of position on the Horvat power play goal and got benched in a dismal second where he gave up a rush that led to Henrik Lundqvist having to fend for himself. Even though he could’ve had the Boeser and Beagle goals (both high glove), he had to do way too much the first 40 minutes. Judging from rewatching, this could’ve been 6 or 7-1. Something Green alluded to afterwards. They had so many point blank chances, it makes you wonder if the guys in the Blueshirts were even there for the first half of the game.

At some point soon, Quinn has to give a struggling Kakko a look with Zibanejad and Panarin. It makes the most sense. Then you can put Kreider back in his ideal spot along with Buchnevich, who lost ice time due to the coach not liking his effort. At one point, he was down on the fourth line. I feel like Howden can’t be asked to be the second center. He isn’t ready yet. It’s doing a disservice to Kakko and Kreider. Filip Chytil had two more points (goal/assist) in Hartford’s win Saturday night. He’s got eight points so far. They still shouldn’t rush him until they feel he’s ready.

I want to talk about Lias Andersson. He isn’t being treated fairly by the coaching staff. While Howden gets all these minutes and hasn’t excelled, Andersson is buried on the fourth line with Smith and Haley (why). So much for training camp meaning anything. Andersson outplayed Howden and Greg McKegg was way better than Haley. Why did they even trade Vladislav Namestnikov if this is what they’re doing? I know it’s not permanent. But here is a harsh reality for Blueshirts fans:

GOALS

Namestnikov 3

Kreider/Buchnevich/Kakko 2

That trend cannot continue. Ever since Kakko got his first NHL goal last weekend, the team hasn’t been the same. There’s no consistency. Obviously, the layoff didn’t help. You need to play games. Something Quinn referenced. Unfortunately, they haven’t gotten any traction. They went 0 for 3 at the Devils, Capitals and home for the Canucks, who gave them a great chance at a comeback due to getting tired. There are two reasons the Blueshirts didn’t complete the comeback:

1. Referees missed calls. You know I hate blaming the refs, but they were not good. The call on Skjei for interference was tacky in the first. Then, they missed an obvious trip with Buchnevich driving the net and under a minute left. Unbelievable. That should’ve been a six-on-four with Lundqvist on the bench. They missed one more too and didn’t put a second back on the clock at the end. Be consistent!

2. Markstrom was good. Of the 38 saves he made, 16 came in the third. He was under stress in similar fashion to his Swedish counterpart. The one goal he gave up was a good Panarin one-timer off a nice Fast pass. That was it. He stood on his head in crunch time by making several big stops with none bigger than the stone job on a stunned Ryan Strome with 40.1 seconds left. A perfect misdirection pass by improving rookie Adam Fox down low for a Strome redirect that Markstrom got. He also made a brilliant save on Tony DeAngelo and got the rebounds during a mad scramble.

Had they approached the first two like the third where they outshot Vancouver 17-6, the Rangers could’ve and should’ve won. When you come out flat and give up three goals on a ungodly 20 shots due to lazy play along with a bad minor penalty on rookie Libor Hajek (hooking), that gave the Canucks the momentum. Their new captain Horvat scored a power play goal on a good feed from Petterson with Miller screening in front. Quinn Hughes helped set it up for a secondary assist. There was enough time for Skjei to close out Horvat. He didn’t and I don’t know what Howden was doing. Trouba was occupied with Miller.

The second Canucks goal was as simple as two terrible defensive plays. First from Smith, who didn’t clear the puck. Instead, it deflected back to Marc Staal. Staal’s attempt was even worse. It went off a Canuck and right to Boeser in the slot. He skated in and released a good shot that Lundqvist got a piece of with his glove, but let in. He slammed his goal stick in reaction. Honestly, those are the saves he needs to make to help this team. It was a brutal miscue by Smith and Staal. But he was there and just didn’t get it. That’s how shaky the defense is.

The third one was a brutal turnover on the power play. The first unit failed miserably. Kreider mishandled a puck followed by Zibanejad making a mistake by getting caught. That resulted in Chris Tanev passing for Beagle, who led a two-on-one. A solid penalty killer who really got it done with the Caps, he skated up ice and somehow got into position as Zibanejad trailed him. With Lundqvist anticipating pass, Beagle surprised him by taking the shot that also went high, glove side for the 3-0 lead.

Vancouver had another 17 shots in a busy second. They totaled 37 thru 40 minutes. That’s inexcusable. So were the ridiculous scoring chances they allowed. Lundqvist had to make some great stops to keep it at three. The one sequence where Skjei got abused and then Lundqvist made a big save and Boeser somehow missed with a wide open net. That can’t happen. It’s why Skjei missed some shifts in the period. Quinn explained how they expect more from him. He is making too much money to be this inconsistent.

Give Quinn credit for realizing which players were going. He moved Fast up and gave Strome more shifts. It was the gritty Fast who was rewarded when a Trouba shot deflected off him for his second goal in two games. Strome did some good work in the corner to get the secondary assist. Very quietly, he’s got three assists in six games. He can use a goal for the consistent work ethic he brings. Maybe it’ll come this week. Arizona visits on Tuesday. They’re also in town to see the Islanders and Devils. Might we see Antti Raanta in net versus his former team? We’ll see. He’s the backup behind Darcy Kuemper.

Whatever was said between periods, it worked. The Rangers reacted differently to being yelled at. They dominated the third, outshooting the Canucks 17-6. They came at Vancouver hard and had the puck possession five-on-five the way we hope they’ll eventually over time. It was relentless pressure at even strength.

That’s where the period was played with the refs putting their whistles away. That includes Dan O’Halloran, who doesn’t have the best relationship with the Garden Faithful. Can I just ask how Staal got a reaction penalty after he was shoved from behind by Jake Virtanen face first into the boards during the second? Holy moly.

With Quinn shuffling the deck, Fast got a few shifts on the top line. It paid
dividends when off some grunt work along with Zibanejad, he was able to find an open Panarin for number four to pull within a goal with 14:29 left in regulation. A great all around play off hard work via the forecheck. Something we need to see more of moving forward.

They had one very long shift where it seemed like a power play in the Canucks zone. In particular, Fox was very good during the shift. He was good in the game, drawing a penalty and looking more confident with the puck. He is due for a goal. He’s getting chances. Maybe he breaks on through. Couldn’t help but get a Doors reference in. I share a birthday with the legendary Jim Morrison. ๐Ÿ˜€

Of the six D, half played well. They were Trouba, Fox and DeAngelo, who rebounded from a benching by receiving the second most ice time on the back end with 20:18 including 2:19 on the power play. He plays on the second unit, which started two power plays due to the first line being out before stoppages.

Even though they did everything possible to tie it, Markstrom wouldn’t allow it. There’s not much else to say. It was a missed opportunity. Lundqvist finished with 40 saves including 34 in the first two periods.

And finally, there was this funny moment from Jimmy Fallon. He made a deal with the Devil. Oops.

At least he’s a good sport. That’s what Jimmy gets for supporting the Rangers in the early stages of another rebuilding season. Hopefully, they improve so we don’t have a repeat of Fallon getting a pie to his face from NJDevil. Unlike the Giants and Yankees, it at least made me laugh.

Hudson 3 ๐ŸŒŸ:

3rd ๐ŸŒŸ Jesper Fast, Rangers (2nd of season, assist, +2 in 14:56)

2nd ๐ŸŒŸ Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (40 saves including 34/37 in 1st & 2nd)

1st ๐ŸŒŸ Jacob Markstrom, Canucks (38 saves including 16/17 in 3rd)

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Hughes’ first goal leads to a second straight Devils win

I hadn’t heard this call of Jack Hughes’ first NHL goal till now since I was at the game.ย  Have to admit it was some call by Cangi…that’s #1 for #1!ย  Well Hughes does wear #86 but everyone knows what he meant, being that Hughes was picked #1 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.ย  In a weird coincidence Hughes’ first goal came two years to the day of fellow Devils #1 overall pick Nico Hischier scoring his first NHL goal.ย  Fortunately in both cases the team won the game, though it certainly wasn’t easy today against Vancouver in a matinee.

Ironically if it wasn’t for the special circumstances surrounding the game – Hughes’ first being the only goal of the game, and playing against his brother Quinn (a defenseman on the Canucks) – it would have been Mackenzie Blackwood getting a deserved first star and post-game ice interview with Erika Wachter for a 25-save shutout.ย  After a second straight win following six losses to begin the season, I doubt anyone cares about who gets the credit or the military jacket the team’s passing out for their unsung hero of the game – although certainly Blackwood’s strong peformances the last two games pretty much ensures it’s his net for the near future at least.

It’s nice to be able to recap positives for a change…really the last few days feels like a reset on the season given everything that’s gone on.ย  With the aformentioned six-game losing streak bringing things to DEFCON 2 in Newark, assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald came down to the bench earlier this week, ostensibly at the request of coach John Hynes but few really believe that cover story, or that there wasn’t more to it given the staff has come under fire for the team’s poor start.ย  However, I doubt the coaches were the only people in the organization put on notice by GM Ray Shero.

Certainly having the assistant GM behind the bench puts everyone on probation – coaches and players alike.ย  Although things certainly aren’t perfect, clearly the last two games have been an improvement in all areas.ย  Particularly in this team’s play with a third-period lead which had been nothing short of craptacular before the last two games.ย  I couldn’t see Thursday’s game, but judging by the shot total and result obviously they played much better in the third period there, and today for the most part they managed to keep the third period low event until the final ninety seconds when three icings and a couple of saves that stopped play drew out the suspense.

Of course it remains to be seen whether the problems that have plagued this team throughout the first two weeks of the season will fix themselves long-term or whether things just look better because we’re in the ‘everyone’s on their best behavior because the assistant principal’s in the classroom’ part of the semester.ย  Tactically there does seem like a little more structure and certainly the power play actually looked like an NHL power play this afternoon, especially on Hughes’ goal.ย  Even the penalty kill – which had mostly been awful this season – came up huge today on several straight Canuck power plays in the middle of the game.

Can’t complain about the defense other than whatever the heck Damon Severson’s first five minutes were – when he committed a penalty, should have been called for a second on his next shift, and then gave up a breakaway recklessly wandering out to nowhere.ย  Honestly if the defense wasn’t already down one top six guy in Will Butcher it might have been benchable.ย  Maybe someone said something to him on the bench because he clamped down after that and cut out the crazy stuff.ย  Obviously the return of captain Andy Greene from IR helped offset the loss of Butcher on the blueline and helped stabilize the penalty kill.

Offensively the Devils are running in danger of being a two-line team, and that’s if everyone was healthy.ย  Hischier missed his second straight game with a bruised rib but still contributed to the good feeling around the team in recent days by signing a seven-year extension.ย  Not that he was going anywhere in the next few years regardless, but it’s still nice to get that long-term commitment locked up and in a cap league you always want to know cost certainty and not play it year-to-year with arbitration and load up on bridge deals.ย  He should be back by Friday, which astonishingly is the Devils’ only game in the next ten days.ย  I’d call it a Ranger-like streak since they’ve had a similar early vacation.ย  In a lot of ways it’s great timing for it though, given the addition to the staff and polishing up of the team’s game that it needs, plus they can at least sit on two wins in a row and feel better about themselves than they did at 0-4-2.

My biggest concern from today’s game is the dissapearing line of Nikita Gusev and Jesper Bratt.ย  Offensively they’re both skilled wingers but defensively have been so bad (particularly Gusev) that the staff obviously can’t trust them in tight games late, which we’ve had a lot of.ย  Their icetime has sunk to the level of fourth-liners but the team is going to need more from both sooner or later.ย  As good of a player as Blake Coleman is and as good of a guy as Wayne Simmonds is (see below) they really should be third-liners, not second-liners.ย  Simmonds hasn’t gotten his offense going yet in his first couple weeks as a Devil, eventually they will need more scoring than just the top line plus Nico.

At least the team is still together as evidenced by the melee that ensued late in the second period when a wayward Alex Edler elbow sent Coleman flying (threatening to knock out even more teeth after he’s already had some dental work this season), then Mirco Mueller jumped in and wound up in a tussle with Brandon Sutter earning a plexiglass fist-bump from Simmonds after the fact.

It’ll take more than ‘the brotherhood’ (another staff saying) to keep this team pulling in the right direction though.ย  Especially when they resume facing teams that aren’t rebuilding themselves.ย  Obviously the Devils are going to have to pound on teams like the Rangers and Canucks to get out of a hole, but eventually they’re also going to have to up their play to beat the big boys.ย  It’ll be a long wait till Friday for the next game but at least the cloud surrounding this team has gone away for the moment.ย  We’re almost at winning streak territory.

They got the win today…now to get one on Friday and make it a winning streak.

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Jack Hughes scores his first NHL goal

It finally happened. Jack Hughes scored his first career NHL goal for the Devils. Fittingly, it came with his team facing older brother Quinn Hughes and the Canucks this afternoon in Newark.

The top pick got it on the power play thanks to a great cross ice feed from Taylor Hall. Hughes quickly snapped a perfect wrist shot past Thatcher Demko with 5:52 remaining in the first period. Sami Vatanen helped set it up by playing catch with Hall, who created the passing lane to get the puck over to Hughes for the first of many.

The excitement from the number one overall pick was as expected. He was pumped up with his proud parents, family and friends cheering on in the stands like they have at other home games. Only this one is special. A true family affair with Jack facing brother Quinn.

New Jersey is going for two straight victories after defeating the Rangers 5-2 on Thursday night. They just got their first win of the season. Now, their top pick got the monkey off his back by following up his first career NHL assist with his first goal.

Mackenzie Blackwood is in net for a second straight game. The Devils lead by one late in the second.

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Game #5 Quinn treats DeAngelo like crap, Rangers waste good effort from Lundqvist in 5-2 loss

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer waves to the home crowd before dropping the puck. The Caps defeated the Rangers 5-2. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Washington Capitals

Make it a three-game losing streak for the Rangers. They’ve predictably come down to earth following the 2-0-0 start. A night removed from a disappointing loss to the Devils, they were out of their league against the Capitals. The end result was another 5-2 loss in the first back-to-back of the season.

I’m not too pleased with the coach either. I’ll give him credit for altering the lines. He tried to spark something. It was mixed results. Pavel Buchnevich had his best game scoring his first goal and looking more involved. He slid down to the second line with Brett Howden and Kaapo Kakko, who still hasn’t found his footing. He’s 18. It’ll take some time.

Moving up to the top line was Chris Kreider, who hasn’t looked in sync since the start. He got to play with Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin. Kreider was fairly quiet again except for a primary assist on Panarin’s third of the season. I feel like he’s not getting enough shots. Part of it is how the offense is run. They look more for the off wing one-timer from Panarin, Zibanejad and Jacob Trouba. However, Kreider needs to be better overall.

The Blueshirts wasted a good effort from Henrik Lundqvist. Despite allowing four goals, he was superb against a quality opponent with the extra rest. Of the 33 shots he faced, I would say almost half were very tough. Let’s put it this way. The only reason they trailed by one goal after two periods was the outstanding play from the goalie. And he was hardly to blame on the Caps’ four goals. The 29 saves were excellent. He should be back in net for the Canucks, who visit MSG on Sunday.

I’m not happy with David Quinn for benching Tony DeAngelo. I understand he didn’t have a good game, but it’s clear that he’s the whipping boy for the coach, who’s already playing favorites. DeAngelo was on for two goals against and didn’t take a shift from the middle of the second on. He only played 8:09 which broken down, was 6:08 at even strength and 2:01 on the power play. That’s not enough. Would he do that to Libor Hajek or one of his other boys? Come on.

If you’re gonna do that, it shortchanges your team. Granted. He could move Brendan Smith to the back end for some shifts. Smith has been one of the most consistent players in the first five games. That’s saying something. It’s not a good development. Smith works hard every shift and more often than not, is effective on the forecheck. He also drew a penalty. It’s getting the rest of the lineup up to speed. It shouldn’t just be Smith, Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast. Brendan Lemieux was also noticeable in his return.

There needs to be more from certain players. That includes Kreider, whose lousy turnover on a pass to no one, allowed the top line of the Caps to go to work and score. As much criticism as the defense received due to people not paying close attention, you also need better play from the forwards. Both Kreider and Panarin were in the wrong spot for the third goal by the Caps. It cost them.

So, while it’s easy for Quinn to use DeAngelo as his scapegoat for what happened earlier in the game. One in which they got scored on early by TJ Oshie due to a scramble in front and the puck taking a bad bounce off Marc Staal’s skate. That really frustrated Lundqvist, who fumed at the veteran defenseman after. I know it was a mistake by Staal, but I really hate when our goalie reacts that way. It looks like he’s showing up his teammates. It reflects poorly. The bottom line is it was unlucky.

As bad as it was, the Rangers got it back thanks to an awesome play from Zibanejad. After receiving a Trouba pass, the top center turned on the jets to draw defenders before making a perfect feed across to Buchnevich in front for a nice finish. I like how Buchnevich held onto the puck first and patiently waited for Braden Holtby to go down before burying his first to tie the score.

Too bad it didn’t last long. A little less than three minutes later, it was mad chaos in front of Lundqvist as the Caps top line kept going until the puck found defenseman Michal Kempny for an easy rebound. Oh. DeAngelo was out for it. So too were Hajek, Kakko, Howden and Buchnevich. It was either Hajek or Buchnevich, who tried a panic clear in the crease that deflected right to Kempny for the goal. See for yourself.

It was Hajek. DeAngelo didn’t do a good job on it. However, he definitely took the brunt by landing in the DQ doghouse. There are five players out for any goal against. That includes three forwards and two defensemen. You need to look at all five on the breakdown. Especially when Kreider was at fault on the Nic Dowd goal due to his awful cross ice pass to nobody in the Caps zone. That puck has to get deep. He didn’t cover when he came back. It was indicative of his start.

At least Kreider got the chance to atone for his mistake. So did Hajek, who’s looking more confident with the puck offensively. He made a good pinch to keep a play alive that resulted in Zibanejad absorbing a check to get the puck to Panarin and Kreider for a give and go. It was a picture perfect play with Kreider threading the needle to Panarin at the doorstep for his third to cut the deficit to one.

It really could’ve spiraled out of control. It was mostly Caps the rest of the second period. They created a lot of quality scoring opportunities that Lundqvist was able to deny. That included a penalty shot that wasn’t where he stoned Jakub Vrana down low to keep it 3-2. They called Skjei for a slash from behind to reward Vrana the penalty shot. It wasn’t even a penalty. It was a garbage call on a solid defensive play in which he got stick on stick. Something both Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were in agreement on. Poetic justice.

Not a bad view live. That’s the only video footage I could find. I love how the anticipation of the crowd goes up a couple of notches as the shooter gets ready to take the puck and make his move against the opposing goalie. That’s what makes the penalty shot my favorite play in hockey. In this case, it really wasn’t one. So, it was nice to see Lundqvist come through. He kept his team in it. The Rangers were outshot 16-7 in that middle stanza.

There wasn’t enough sustained pressure. Outside of a strong shift from secret weapon Smith on a fourth line with Lias Andersson and Micheal Haley, and a good forecheck from Strome, Fast and Lemieux, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. You had the very nice goal created from the skill of Panarin and Kreider thanks to solid work from Zibanejad and Hajek. That was basically it.

With Quinn opting to keep DeAngelo on the bench, he went down to five D for the third. Nothing against the other guys, which feature Iron Man Trouba (game high 28:22), Skjei (18:49), Staal (19:22), Hajek (16:34) and Adam Fox (19:01). But it doesn’t make much sense. Smith had his time increased. He wound up logging 13:47 including 3:25 shorthanded. Quinn continues to use him as a key defenseman on the penalty kill. Unfortunately, he got a questionable extra two for cross-checking after bloodying Garnet Hathaway in a fight.

Predictably, the dangerous Washington power play connected for the second time in four chances. They have so many weapons that it’s scary. Start with Alexander Ovechkin in that left circle. Then there’s Nicklas Backstrom in his office on the opposite side. John Carlson up top. Evgeny Kuznetsov down low. Plus Oshie in the middle. On this one, they ran it through Backstrom up top for a Carlson one-timer that Oshie redirected past Lundqvist for a 4-2 lead with 9:42 remaining in regulation.

Given how unbelievable he’s been at the start, I think I’d try to stop Carlson. He entered with 14 points leading all defensemen. By night’s end, he was up to 17 thanks to three more assists. He’s right in the scoring race with Edmonton tandem Connor McDavid and Leon and Draisaitl. Maybe this is the year Carlson gets recognized for the Norris.

Hathaway would add an empty netter to further frustrate fans, who didn’t have enough of the 5-2 identical score in Newark. There’s also this.

It isn’t ’14-15 anymore. Losing to the Caps is like going to the dentist. It’s like novacaine. No. I’ve never had the pleasure so far. I probably just jinxed myself. ๐Ÿ˜›

I guess we won’t be seeing DeAngelo next game. I think it would be a mistake. But what do I know? He wants to play Haley and Greg McKegg while having Smith shift to D. Let him. It will only lead to more royal suckage. The Canucks are no slouches either. Even if they’ll be traveling.

The good news is the Yankees won to force a Game Six tonight back in Houston. At least for one inning, the offense got the job done versus Justin Verlander. Thank you DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and especially Aaron Hicks. Of course, that anti Yankee Verlander apologist John Smoltz had to make excuses. What an airhead. James Paxton was superb. If the bullpen by committee can force a Game Seven, I’ll take my chances even against Gerrit Cole.

The good part is I can enjoy the ballgame without any Rangers interruptions. And Sunday is an early one against football. That means if there’s a deciding Game Seven, no channel flipping.

Let’s Go Yankees!!!!!

Hudson Rivalry 3 ๐ŸŒŸ:

3rd ๐ŸŒŸ Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (29 saves)

2nd ๐ŸŒŸ John Carlson (3 assists, +2 in 25:13)

1st ๐ŸŒŸ TJ Oshie, Capitals (2 power play goals, +1 in 20:44)

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Nico Hischier gets paid

The Devils didn’t wait long to extend Nico Hischier. In the third and final season of his entry level contract, the 2017 first overall pick out of Switzerland received a big extension this afternoon. Here are the details.

It kicks in at the start of next season. The average cap hit is a shade over $7 million. The seven-year, $50.75 million extension runs from ’20-21 through ’26-27. Hischier is still only 20. He recently reached 100 points in his young career with a two assists effort. He didn’t play last night due to a lower body injury. But practiced with the team this morning.

The new contract will include a modified no-trade clause. Thanks to Chris Johnston for the details.

It’s an interesting deal. The Devils have decided to invest early in a good two-way playmaking pivot who should get better. Don’t forget with top pick Jack Hughes, they’re very young at center. Behind the 20-year old Hischier and the 18-year old Hughes, who picked up his first NHL point during last night’s 5-2 win over the Rangers, New Jersey has a bright future.

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Another Look: Hall elbow on Fox

I didn’t make a big fuss out of it watching the game. Nor did I in the game review involving the Rangers and Devils. However, it’s worth taking a second look at the Taylor Hall elbow on Adam Fox.

The Devils ’17-18 Hart winner went for the big hit on Fox behind the net. He was playing the puck and saw Hall coming. Here’s what transpired:

Now, I’ve seen some replies to this Tweet. I’m puzzled. How is that clean? To make matters worse, Hall protested. In what world is elbowing a player not a penalty? That’s why Brady Skjei responded immediately. The one positive thing he’s done so far. Although his game was a bit better on Thursday night in Newark. He had a secondary assist on a goal with a good pinch.

Hall was assessed four penalty minutes on the play. He got two for elbowing and two for roughing. The latter a matching rough with Skjei. I’m only gonna say this once. Elbowing should either be a double minor or major. No in between. Hall was lucky he didn’t get more.

My question is will the play in question be reviewed. Probably not. NHL Player Safety will likely pass due to Fox ducking at the last split second. Plus he was able to continue.

However, I didn’t like the hit. It was dirty. Too bad the Rangers power play stunk. They fired as many blanks as the Yankees offense did with runners in scoring position.

As far as the next game between the Hudson rivals, it’s not until November 30. By then, we’ll have a better idea of who Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are. Ditto for both teams.

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Game #4: A Devilishly disappointing loss for Blueshirts

Mackenzie Blackwood makes one of 29 saves to lift the Devils to their first win of the season. They defeated the Rangers 5-2. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Devils

There are going to be nights like this over the 82-game schedule. I understand the situation with this team. The harsh reality for fans is that the Rangers are a work in progress. Even with key additions Artemiy Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and promising teenager Kaapo Kakko, they are a flawed team.

It showed in the loss to the improved Oilers last century last Saturday. It also showed even in imperfect wins against Winnipeg and Ottawa. Well, tonight was very disappointing. Not just because it was a 5-2 loss to the hated Devils, who had to get a win sometime. Of course, it came against them. It was the way they lost that bothered me.

I can live with losses if it’s a consistent effort over 60 minutes. I can even deal with coach David Quinn’s explanations for why former first round pick Lias Andersson didn’t play enough in the first three games. As promised, he found more ice time for the seventh pick in the 2017 Draft. That was about the only positive anyone could take from a second straight defeat to even the Rangers at 2-2-0 over a laughable four games.

Nothing was good enough. Not after Quinn stopped scrimmages at practice due to being unsatisfied with the lack of tempo. Don’t blame the layoff either. That’s not an excuse for lousy special teams with the power play continuing to fire blanks after a good start. They went 0 for 6 due to being way too predictable.

Does every single one have to revolve around Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Trouba? All they do is look to set up the big right shots from the off side. What about Chris Kreider? Does he still play for this team? How many times does Pavel Buchnevich have to be out for too long on the top unit while Kakko waits until his second unit gets garbage time? Ugh. Buchnevich has four total shots in four games. Hardly enough for all the favorable ice time he gets.

The Devils also converted their first power play goal. So, they won the battle of special teams and got the better of the first match up between Kakko and top pick Jack Hughes. Hughes finally got his first NHL point. It was an impactful one with the rookie center able to deflect a Matt Tennyson shot that also went off Miles Wood for the game-winner. Congrats to him on his first assist. He centered the Devils top line with Nico Hischier (LBI) out.

In a battle of second-year goalies, Mackenzie Blackwood outplayed Alexandar Georgiev. He made 29 saves including some timely ones like his pad stop on a dangerous Zibanejad one-timer on a key penalty kill. Georgiev wasn’t his usual self. He gave up a flukey tying goal to Blake Coleman on a breakaway. The shot hit off his mask and took a weird bounce through his five-hole. I’ve never seen that before. It was strange. It wasn’t his fault as Fox had a bad neutral zone turnover that led to Coleman’s third of the season.

The Rangers got off to a good start thanks to some strong work from Andersson. He kept a forecheck going by playing a loose puck behind the net. A smart pinch by Brady Skjei saw him center the puck which Buchnevich got a piece of. Eventually, a pinching Tony DeAngelo got to the rebound and chipped it in for a 1-0 lead. They could’ve added to it by creating some more scoring chances including a pair for Fox, who made a bid for his first NHL point. But he didn’t have any luck.

It wasn’t long before Fox tried one of those risky passes in the neutral zone. As well as he’s played, that was a valuable lesson learned. It trapped everyone including Andersson, who trailed the play with Fox as Coleman fired the bizarre tying goal off Georgiev’s mask and in. Maybe he should take pointers from Henrik Lundqvist, who’ll make the start tonight at Washington. Uh oh. The schedule makers didn’t do the team any favors.

There were a lot of undisciplined penalties from these two Hudson rivals. It wasn’t the cleanest game. Good players from both teams took unnecessary minors. Some of the gripes we saw was ridiculous. These were legit calls. Yes. I’m pointing at you Ryan Strome, Panarin and Jesper Fast. Ditto for Taylor Hall and Palmieri. There was one run from Hall where he caught Fox up high behind the net that resulted in Skjei taking up for his fallen teammate. Hall got the extra for elbowing. It didn’t matter due to the anemic power play. God. Were they predictable.

I think the Devils were 0 for 20 until Palmieri took advantage of a face-off win and found a rebound to go short side top shelf on a surprised Georgiev for a 2-1 lead. I’m not sure how it was unassisted. How did the puck go off Georgiev? It was odd.

The most perplexing aspect of the game was the second period was the Rangers’ best. They carried a lot of the play at five-on-five and had enough opportunities. However, Blackwood got the job done by stopping all 15 Ranger shots in a second they held a 15-9 advantage. Instead of tying it and regaining momentum, Hughes won a offensive draw and got a stick on a Tennyson shot that changed direction twice before going off Wood in front for a 3-1 New Jersey lead.

The Devils were better in the third, but nearly blew the two-goal lead. On a sustained forecheck started by third liner Brendan Smith, Strome wisely got a backhand shot by Tennyson right to an open Fast, who backhanded home his first into an open side that cut the deficit to one. I said Fast needed one. Maybe that’ll get him going. It was the second straight game Strome earned a primary assist on a goal. Not bad for a player the chart nerds root against bash illogically. That’s NYR Twitter.

On a penalty kill, the Rangers nearly had the game tied. Their best shorthanded threat Zibanejad got a great chance on a mini break. He patiently held onto the puck and seemed to have an aggressive Blackwood dead to rights. But he must’ve gotten a piece of it to keep it out. I thought for sure it was 3-3. However, Zibanejad just missed. That was the turning point.

Following a Devils power play that expired, Panarin tried to get the puck out. But his clearing attempt was fanned on due to a broken twig. Nikita Gusev quickly pounced on the turnover and shot five-hole on a shaky Georgiev for a unassisted tally that made it 4-2. That was the crusher.

Much hungrier to the puck, the Devils did a much better job on the forecheck. They controlled most of the play with a 15-6 shots edge. Well, really 14-6 until PK Subban ended matters with his first as a Devil into a vacated net with over 47 seconds left.

They won because they were the better team overall. So, the first installment of four goes to the Jersey side. Too bad there’s only three more meetings. Hopefully, both teams will improve throughout the season.

From a Rangers standpoint, it wasn’t good enough. At least Andersson played more due to all the penalties. He received 19 shifts for 12:46 overall including 3:52 shorthanded. Hopefully, Brendan Lemieux will be back in the lineup over Michael Haley. Oy.

At least it wasn’t the Yankees offense against the Astros. Holy moly.

Hudson Rivalry 3 ๐ŸŒŸ:

3rd ๐ŸŒŸ Ryan Strome, Rangers (primary assist on Fast’s goal, 2 SOG, 5-and-2 on faceoffs in 15:08)

2nd ๐ŸŒŸ Jack Hughes, Devils (first career NHL assist on Wood’s GWG, 2 SOG, 2 takeaways in 18 shifts-13:09)

1st ๐ŸŒŸ Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils (29 saves including 15/15 in 2nd for first win of season)

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