Lehner and Zibanejad earn first and second Stars of Week

It was a good week for New York locals. Both the Islanders and Rangers were successful on the ice with key players highlighting big weeks by each crosstown rival.

Isles starter Robin Lehner earned the NHL’s First Star of the Week by winning all three of his starts to propel the surprising club into first place in the Metro Division. They lead the Blue Jackets and Capitals by three points following Lehner’s 19 save shutout of the Ducks on Sunday.

Following a bad 7-5 defeat at Columbus that resulted in heavy criticism from first-year coach David Quinn, the Rangers responded by winning their next three games. Mika Zibanejad was instrumental during the three-game winning streak. He twice had two-goal games including his third four-point game of the season. His performance was recognized by the league with the first line center garnering Second Star of the Week honors, beating out high scoring Blackhawks superstar P

Lehner, Zibanejad and Kane Named NHL ‘Three Stars’ of the Week

Stars of the Week, Lehner, Zibanejad, Kane

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK (Jan. 21, 2019) – New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner, New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Jan. 20.

FIRST STAR – ROBIN LEHNER, G, NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Lehner stopped 65 of the 67 shots he faced, compiling a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against average, .970 save percentage and one shutout to lift the Islanders (29-15-4, 62 points) to their fifth straight victory overall and into first place in the Metropolitan Division. He yielded one goal in each of his first two outings for the week, making 30 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues Jan. 15 and 16 stops in a 4-1 triumph over the New Jersey Devils Jan. 17. Lehner then helped the Islanders record their second consecutive shutout (following a 19-save performance by Thomas Greiss Jan. 18 at WSH), turning aside all 19 shots against in a 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Jan. 20. The 27-year-old Gothenburg, Sweden, native has appeared in 26 total games this season, pacing the NHL with a 2.02 goals-against average and ranking second with a .930 save percentage to go along with a 15-7-3 record and three shutouts. Lehner also leads the League with 11 wins in his past 12 contests dating to Dec. 18 (1.30 GAA, .953 SV%, 2 SO).

SECOND STAR – MIKA ZIBANEJAD, C, NEW YORK RANGERS

Zibanejad scored the winning goal in all three of his appearances, topping the NHL with five total tallies (5-2—7) to propel the Rangers (21-20-7, 49 points) to a perfect week. Zibanejad posted 2-2—4, his fourth career four-point performance and third of the season (also Oct. 23 vs. FLA: 2-2—4 and Dec. 29 at NSH: 0-4—4), in a 6-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Jan. 15. He then scored once, the decisive marker, in a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks Jan. 17. Zibanejad added two more goals in a 3-2 triumph over the Boston Bruins Jan. 19, making him the second player in the Rangers’ 93-year history to record the winning goal in three consecutive team games (also Rod Gilbert: Dec. 11-17, 1966). The 25-year-old Huddinge, Sweden, native leads New York with 27 assists and 44 points in 48 total contests this season (17-27—44) – three points shy of his 72-game output from 2017-18 (27-20—47).

THIRD STAR – PATRICK KANE, RW, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Kane, the top scorer on the Blackhawks (17-24-9, 43 points), registered one four-point outing and one five-point performance to lead the NHL with 4-6—10 in three games. He opened the week with 2-2—4, his eighth multi-goal effort of the season, in an 8-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils Jan. 14. Kane collected one assist in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers Jan. 17. He then posted 2-3—5, his second career five-point game and first since Jan. 9, 2018 (1-4—5 at OTT), in an 8-5 victory over the Washington Capitals Jan. 20. The 30-year-old Buffalo native sits fifth in the League with 29-41—70 through 49 total contests this season. That includes 7-13—20 during an active eight-game point streak, giving him the most points thus far in the 2019 calendar year.

### (1/21/19)

Attachments:

All-Star Skills

The 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills will take place Friday, Jan. 25, at SAP Center (6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. PT, NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS).

The evening will feature six events, all individual competitions that will award the winner $25,000.

* Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
* Enterprise NHL Premier Passer
* Ticketmaster NHL Save Streak
* Gatorade NHL Puck Control
* SAP NHL Hardest Shot
* Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting

Click here for event details.

All-Star Game Jerseys

The NHL and adidas have unveiled the eco-innovative and ocean-inspired adizero authentic jerseys for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game – the first-ever NHL jerseys featuring repurposed and upcycled materials created in partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

Designed with Parley Ocean Plastic – a range of materials made from upcycled marine plastic debris – each jersey is crafted to be a symbol of change in the movement to protect the oceans.

Click here for more details.

Stadium Series Accreditation

Media credential applications for the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series now are available.

Click here to submit an application, which is due by Thursday, Feb. 7.

The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will take place at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field – between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins – on Saturday, Feb. 23.

All-Star Game Jerseys

The NHL and adidas have unveiled the eco-innovative and ocean-inspired adizero authentic jerseys for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game – the first-ever NHL jerseys featuring repurposed and upcycled materials created in partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

Designed with Parley Ocean Plastic – a range of materials made from upcycled marine plastic debris – each jersey is crafted to be a symbol of change in the movement to protect the oceans.

Click here for more details.

Stadium Series Accreditation

Media credential applications for the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series now are available.

Click here to submit an application, which is due by Thursday, Feb. 7.

The 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will take place at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field – between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins – on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Midseason Rankings

Center Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team and right wing Kaapo Kakko of Finland’s TPS rank No. 1 among North American and international skaters, respectively, in NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s midseason rankings.

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Game #48: Zibanejad scores twice to highlight Rangers’ 3-2 win over Bruins, third win a row into break

Here’s where Henrik Lundqvist ranks on the all-time NHL wins list following his 446th victory to pass Terry Sawchuk. AP Photo courtesy MSGNETWORKS via Twitter

This one was well earned. A job well done by a determined bunch of Rangers, who reeled off a third win in a row into the odd bye week and All-Star break with a 3-2 victory over the Bruins in Beantown.

It’s funny how it works sometimes. They only had 20 shots on goal and just 28 total attempts. The Bruins may have outshot them 29-20 and out-attempted the Blueshirts 56-28, but they didn’t outplay them. Especially during the crucial parts of a very competitive game that had a little emotion to it due to popular former Bruin defenseman Adam McQuaid returning to a nice video tribute and cheers from appreciative fans.

On a night Henrik Lundqvist passed Terry Sawchuk for sole possession of sixth place on the all-time wins list with number 446 in one of his favorite arenas historically (Lundqvist vs Tim Thomas especially), it was the Rangers who got big performances from their best players. That included emerging rookie Filip Chytil, who duplicated the goal he scored against Chicago by doing the same thing to Boston late in the first period to tie the game 64 seconds after Danton Heinen tallied.

Chytil’s ninth unassisted (third in five games) was a thing of beauty. It was another great end to end rush that started deep in his own end with the supremely skilled 19-year old Czech forward able to skate by the Bruins D before whipping a perfect shot high short side on Tuukka Rask at 18:32. Unfortunately for Rask, Chytil was shoved from behind into him for a direct hit that knocked out the Bruins starter. What really is too bad is that he sustained a concussion due to the impact. Hopefully, he won’t miss significant time. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. Here’s how it looked in top speed via the Bruins feed on NESN called by Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley:

There was nothing he could’ve done. He tried to avoid Rask, but Charlie McAvoy checked him right into his poor teammate. If you look carefully at the replay following his goal, a concerned Chytil went over to Rask to check, but David Pastrnak pushed him away. It’s understandable why. It had to be extremely frustrating for the Bruins at the moment. They knew the injury was bad to Rask, who immediately was replaced by backup Jaro Halak.

Nobody likes to see anyone get hurt. It was a subplot to a good hockey game that was hard fought by both classic Original Six rivals. A big reason the Rangers won was their special teams. In the opening period, they went three-for-three on Bruins power plays. That included a pivotal kill of a Ryan Lindgren hi-sticking double minor in the first half. In fact, the more aggressive tactics actually resulted in better chances for the Rangers with Boston held to only one shot in the four-minute power play. That resulted in groans from the pro Bruins crowd.

Penalties weren’t a problem in the second. The Rangers took only one while on the power play with Kevin Shattenkirk called for a dubious trip that resulted in four-on-four. In what was a tightly contested second, they got the lone goal at five-on-five thanks to a rare face-off win by a unlikely candidate.

In a game where the Bruins dominated in the middle by winning 64 percent (42-and-24), they had one of the game’s best in Patrice Bergeron against Mats Zuccarello after Mika Zibanejad got tossed out. Easy win for Bergeron, right? Wrong! Zuccarello won it clean back to Brady Skjei, whose shot was redirected in by Zibanejad for a 2-1 lead. Just how they drew it up. Even Sam Rosen and Joe Michelleti sounded shocked.

Things couldn’t be going any better for Zuccarello, who recorded two assists to pad his total to nine points (4-5-9) over the last five games. He also had a run in with the much taller and stronger Zdeno Chara, which is always amusing. Zuccarello versus Chara. He doesn’t back down from anyone. It’s nice to see him having fun again, and playing superb hockey. Whoever winds up with him will get a good player that can bring a lot to the table for a playoff run.

The interesting aspect is in winning a third consecutive game, the Rangers are up to 49 points with 34 games remaining. They somehow are only nine points behind the Penguins, who lost in Vegas 7-3. It’s not happening. However, it’s a credit to the players for how they responded since David Quinn’s roast job last Sunday. They went 3-0-0 this week to get back over NHL .500 (21-20-7) with a 10-day vacation. Lundqvist will go to the All-Star Game having won three in a row. That has to feel good. He looked very happy in the postgame talking to John Giannone.

He mentioned the focus on the penalty kill and special teams that won them the game. They not only were five-of-five on the kill, but went 1-for-3 on the power play highlighted by Zibanejad’s game deciding PPG with 10:55 left in the contest. On the game-winner, Zuccarello got the puck to Shattenkirk at the point. He found Zibanejad in his spot for a wicked wrist shot past Halak for his 17th. He’s playing the best hockey of his career. Zibanejad goes into the break on a three-game goal scoring streak with five goals. He also has two assists and seven points over those three. In the past five, he’s 5-4-9 and plus-five. He leads the team in scoring with 44 points (17-27-44) in all 48 games.

There also was this from McQuaid in direct response to a questionable hit from Chris Wagner on a unsuspecting Jesper Fast.

This is what makes McQuaid such a great teammate. It’s why he was extremely popular in Boston. He took care of business against Wagner. In typical fashion, the Rangers wound up a man down due to McQuaid getting the extra two for roughing. Somehow, Wagner skated free of any interference minor penalty for the hit on Fast. He saw him all the way too. What a league. Wagner is a physical player who likes to hit. So, it came as no surprise. I didn’t like it, but I was more incensed by the call that gave Boston a power play. Poetically, they did nothing on it.

After Halak was pulled for an extra attacker, Lundqvist made a couple of saves to preserve the win. He finished with 27 saves. He also got plenty of help from willing teammates, who sacrificed for the cause. That included Marc Staal selling out for a huge diving block that denied a Boston opportunity. The kind of gritty play the defunct captain has done for years without much recognition. He’s played very well since Tony DeAngelo was teamed with him. Even when Neal Pionk returns, that pairing must stay together. DeAngelo has played very well, proving he can be dependable.

It was a good way to conclude the first half if you can call it that. It was great to stick it to Boston after the Wagner hit. A well deserved win that saw plenty of happy faces as they took off for the break.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Filip Chytil, NYR (another goal for the highlight reel for the rising future star)

2nd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, NYR (two more goals for the top center who’s been on his game)

1st 🌟 Adam McQuaid, NYR (it’s rare that I give the number 1 star to a heart and soul guy with no points, but McQuaid’s imprints were all over this win from his response to Fast being hit to his 4 hits, 3 blocks and 2 takeaways. A true warrior!)

Notes: Brad Marchand got the Bruins second goal early in the third following a Lundqvist misplay that allowed Bergeron and Pastrnak to combine to set up The Rat’s 19th at 3:24. Boston carried the play early on, but the Blueshirts had a good response with Zibanejad’s second of the game proving to be the difference. …

A day after Alexandar Georgiev was sent down to Hartford, the Rangers optioned both Boo Nieves and Lindgren, who looked good in his first three games. They’ll get into more games to stay sharp. It doesn’t look like Brett Howden will be following them. He’s been a huge scoring slump. But maybe some time away from the rink is best. … When Kevin Hayes returns, what happens to the lineup? Does Howden come out? With how well Ryan Strome has centered Chytil and Fast, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide. Ditto for Pionk with Shattenkirk finally starting to round into form.

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The first place New York Islanders

A quick glimpse of the standings and you’ll probably do a double take. Maybe even a triple take.

METRO DIVISION

1.New York Islanders 47 GP 28-15-4 60 Pts 26 ROW

2.Columbus Blue Jackets 47 GP 28-16-3 59 Pts 28 ROW

3.Washington Capitals 47 GP 27-15-5 59 Pts 24 ROW

4.Pittsburgh Penguins 47 GP 26-15-6 58 Pts 25 ROW

We’ll make the second wildcard Pens the cutoff. There’s no reason to include the pretenders. None of the remaining four teams are playoff caliber. You have your top half all jockeying for position in the second half with the All-Star break approaching.

Entering tonight, all four Metro contenders have played 47 games. The Blue Jackets will play number 48 later at Minnesota, and the Penguins visit old friend Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights for their 48th game. So, things could change again depending on the results. With any type of win, Columbus can vault over the NHL’s biggest surprise. The first place New York Islanders.

At this point of the season, the much improved Islanders under the guidance of Jack Adams candidate Barry Trotz have won 14 of their last 17 to lead the division with 60 points. Since suffering a tough luck 2-1 home loss last weekend to the rival Rangers, they responded impressively with four consecutive wins. That included a statement 5-1 home victory over first overall Tampa the following night. After a lucky 2-1 overtime triumph over the Blues, they easily defeated the Devils 4-1 prior to Trotz’ return to Washington on Friday night.

For the veteran coach who led the Capitals to their first ever Stanley Cup last Spring, it was a emotional return against the team he formed a bond with that will last forever. That’s why it was fitting on the night they honored proud veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik for playing his 1,000th career game. Trotz was back in DC with his new team with two home arenas playing its best hockey. There was a wonderful tribute to the proud coach and his assistants during a stoppage. There was a well deserved loud reception and stick taps from his former players including Conn Smythe winner Alexander Ovechkin. At first, you could see how much it meant with an emotional Trotz tearing up. But he eventually smiled and said something to his players on the Isles bench before waving to the crowd. It was nice to see.

Maybe his new team knew how much this game meant. They came out and controlled it in entirety. With Trotz changing his mind on giving starter Robin Lehner back-to-back starts, instead going to backup Thomas Greiss, the Isles played with urgency throughout. From the NHL’s worst defensive team a year ago to the league’s best, they took time and space away from a talented roster that right now is out of sync. They were frustrated by a diligent checking and stingy group that’s doing this despite losing John Tavares to the Maple Leafs.

Astonishingly, the Islanders have the identical amount of points (60) at this stage as the high scoring Leafs, who fell to lowly Florida yesterday. Tavares has played very well leading his new team with 29 goals and five game-winners. His 52 points rank second on Toronto behind super soph Mitch Marner (60).

If you contrast that with Mathew Barzal pacing the Islanders in scoring with 44 points and 31 assists, it’s totally different. The Isles defend better. They also won the first meeting by going up to Toronto and shutting out the Leafs 4-0. A game highlighted by Barzal’s hat trick and assist for four points on Dec. 29. Dating back to a tough 3-2 loss at Vegas on 12/12 that made them 1-3-1 over a difficult stretch, they’re 14-3-0 since.

Including last night’s 2-0 shutout on third period goals from Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck, they’ve won 11 of the 17 previous games in regulation. Only three have gone into extras with a shootout win over Detroit, along with overtime wins over Chicago and St. Louis.

They do it with strong goaltending from Lehner and Greiss, who hasn’t played that much due to how well the former Sabre has done. Not bad considering new architect Lou Lamoriello signed him to a one-year deal for a bargain basement price of $1.5 million. After addressing some key off ice issues that were having a negative affect on him, Lehner has rewarded the Isles with a 14-7-3 record, 2.11 GAA, .928 save percentage and two shutouts in 25 contests including 23 starts. Tremendous stuff from a unproven netminder who had been inconsistent and injury prone throughout his career. Greiss has 14 victories with a 2.50 GAA, .920 save percentage and two shutouts. Combined, that’s 28 wins for the pair with four shutouts along with a league best 2.47 GAA. That counts Christopher Gibson, who got into one game.

It’s a huge turnaround. The Islanders still give up over 30 shots a game. However, it was higher earlier in the season. They’re now ranked 20th, which is a dramatic improvement. So much of it due to the very organized system Trotz has got them to buy into. When you hear players talk before and after games, they mention how confident they are that they’ll win. That was never the case under the old regime that included Garth Snow and former interim coach Doug Weight.

Having one of the game’s best coaches along with a legendary GM counts for something. Especially when it comes to changing the culture. They believe in each other.

The offense is by committee. It isn’t only the top six that includes Barzal, gritty captain Anders Lee (18 goals), Bailey (36 points) and the improved Brock Nelson (16-15-31). But also about the best fourth line in name only that saw Lamoriello wisely reacquire popular grinder Matt Martin from Toronto- reuniting him with Casey Cizikas (11 goals, +14) and Clutterbuck. Or the overlooked Valtteri Filppula, who’s contributed 10 goals with three game deciders. Leo Komarov, who brings consistent energy to his shifts as well.

But how about the no name defense that still features vets Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk? Last year was a nightmare for Leddy, who finished a nightmarish minus-42 rating despite having 42 points. A year later, he’s 1-16-17 with a plus-one.

Nobody on the blueline scores a lot. However, with emerging youngsters such as Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Devon Toews, there’s a reason for Islander fans to get excited. These aren’t the same Islanders, who rolled over and teased their loyal fan base.

Indeed, the fans can finally be proud and loud, especially at Nassau Coliseum. They’re a first place team not by accident. Rather by hard work. Lamoriello and Trotz have successfully remade New York’s other team. The only local that is competitive and has a shot to do something in the playoffs. They still must get there. A welcome change.

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Game #48: Snowy Saturday – Ducks 3, Devils 2

Despite selling my tickets off for today’s game I had planned on watching this afternoon, or at least having the game on while I was doing other things but an utter lack of sleep on Thursday caught up with me and I needed a nap, figuring if there was anything worth watching on the replay I had nine days to do it till the Devils’ next game. As it turned out today’s game was a rarity of late – one where the team played well…but the result still stayed the same in the end. Another regulation defeat, and our miserable record stands at eighteen wins in the season’s first 48 games.

So in the end it was a good thing I decided to avoid the possible snow on the drive home and the hilariously early state of emergency declared in NJ from noon on. Would have been okay with going to hopefully see a couple of arena friends but it wouldn’t have been surprising if all of them failed to show as well with the forecast and the team’s current plight. Truth be told, this is definitely a game I’m at if the team was in a better situation since the forecast wasn’t that bad until a bit ‘after’ the game at least.

As it worked out I was better off taking a nap than watching.

That’s not to say there wasn’t good things about today’s game, it just didn’t really matter in the end because our popgun offense had little chance against John Gibson in the Ducks net. 1.5 goals would have been about the over-under for the night, and after an early Marcus Johansson goal we would have still barely hit the over when Jesper Bratt scored late. It’s easy to rip your own goaltending when you get outshot 31-14 and lose but really I can’t describe any of the goals against Mackenzie Blackwood as bad. Maybe the third one he wasn’t giving up earlier in the season, but it was still a bang-bang one-timer from the slot after a turnover behind the net. To his credit poor Nathan Bastian (in his first NHL game no less) took the responsibility for that goal:


My first thought reading that was ‘we have a system?!’

Seriously though, while self-accountability is nice there hasn’t been a lot of collective accountability around here the whole season. Sad that it took a fourth-line vet in Drew Stafford to be the one to call an on-ice team meeting after practice yesterday, following two straight desultory road losses. When guys like Stafford and Brian Boyle are your bad cops and (no offense guys) not among your better players, the message isn’t going to get through as easily. To their credit the team did at least respond for a game, but it was kind of odd timing for a butt-kicking meeting in the first place considering there was always going to be the long break after this game.

To continue the bad news, Taylor Hall remains out through All-Star weekend so for the second straight season he’ll miss the 3-on-3 classic. At least Kyle Palmieri’s a deserving stand-in, one of the few left on the roster. Not that I really care to watch it other than maybe the hardest shot competition for a few seconds, assuming that’s the skills event K-Palm is entered in. Plus I’ve seen enough bad three-on-three this season to not want to run to watch it next Sunday anyway.

I could bother with an All-Star wrapup post but what’s the point? I’m just glad to have the break from even the long-distance angst this team is giving me.

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Game #47: Two straight wins for Rangers as Lundqvist ties Sawchuk for sixth all-time in 4-3 triumph over Blackhawks

Make it two in a row. The winning has returned for the Rangers as the All-Star break approaches. In defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 at home, they made sure Henrik Lundqvist made some history. He tied hockey legend Terry Sawchuk for sixth all-time on the NHL wins list with number 445. Lundqvist’s 24 saves were enough to pick up his 14th victory of the season to tie Sawchuk.

Even if he allowed a bad goal with under two seconds left to Dominik Kahun for my correct score prediction to my brother Justin, he did more than enough to earn the win along with the game puck. He may not have faced a ton of shots, but when called upon, Lundqvist was there like he’s been often for this franchise since his rookie season in ’05-06. That feels like another lifetime ago. His best save was a late reflex glove stop on a Brent Seabrook shot that he admitted he didn’t pick up right away.

There were several good saves throughout in his second straight win. His last two game win streak came 12/29-31 when he stoned Nashville and St. Louis. After a tough three-game losing streak that saw him pulled twice, he’s stopped 58 of 63 shots. Maybe Alexandar Georgiev giving him some time off helped even if it took a Columbus humiliation for the team to play better.

They got off to a slow start tonight. The Blackhawks were sharper from the outset by using their speed and skating to generate early chances on Lundqvist. Following a missed high-sticking call on Erik Gustafsson that clipped countryman Jesper Fast, Cody McLeod got nailed for a high-sticking minor penalty. The Rangers entered better on the penalty kill having been successful in three straight games (15-for-15). But Brandon Saad scored on a rebound of a Seabrook shot that Artem Anisimov deflected off the post with eight seconds remaining for a power play goal at 5:41.

Maybe Saad’s 14th woke up the Rangers from the doldrums. They got back in the game as the first period rolled along. It was a breathtaking individual effort from emerging 19-year old rookie Filip Chytil that tied the game when he blew past a Chicago defender to score his eighth unassisted. A terrific play where he used his wheels and then skill to complete the beautiful rush by finishing with a great shot top shelf by Chicago netminder Collin Delia at 13:20.

The more you watch him, the more you start to realize how talented he is. The 2017 first round pick taken by GM Jeff Gorton 21st overall, isn’t one dimensional. He gets back defensively and competes every shift in all three zones. It’s not only flash and dash with Chytil. He has a chance to be special. A rare thing when it comes to Rangers draft picks, especially in the first round.

What if Lias Andersson works out too? It’s easy to forget he’s basically the same age. Don’t be so quick to write him off. That trade is turning around thanks to coach David Quinn’s patience and discipline with emerging defenseman Tony DeAngelo. He nearly had a great primary assist on a Mika Zibanejad goal that got wiped out by a Chicago offside challenge that was hard to tell. DeAngelo is showing more confidence since returning to the lineup with Neal Pionk out. Maybe the former Tampa first round pick will finally stick. Stay tuned.

Mats Zuccarello continued his turnaround when he was in the right place for his eighth on a good play by Chris Kreider that put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 17:38. Marc Staal added a secondary assist. He also did a outstanding job neutralizing dangerous Blackhawks leading scorer Patrick Kane. Staal teamed with Adam McQuaid to keep both Kane and Jonathan Toews off the score sheet at even strength. The tandem finished plus-five while the Toews unit all were minus-two.

Even better, the Zibanejad line with Kreider and Zuccarello had a great night. They dominated the match-up with all three players lighting the lamp. Both Zibanejad and Zuccarello finished plus-three. In the second, Kreider got the only goal unassisted for his team-leading 22nd at 13:09. Zuccarello made the whole play happen by driving hard to the net to force a save by Delia. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith fumbled the rebound that allowed Kreider to strip the puck and send a quick backhand past Delia for a 3-1 lead.

The third saw Jesper Fast get into penalty trouble. Having already taken a bad penalty in the offensive zone, he tripped up a Hawk only 19 seconds into the period to hand them a third power play. Alex DeBrincat capitalized in timely order at 1:40 when he buried a one-timer off a good Gustafsson feed from Kane for his 24th. He’s a good player already in his second year who should only improve. A scary thing if the Hawks ever can become competitive again. Especially with Kane still in his prime, and Toews remaining a good two-way player.

The Rangers did a good job protecting a one-goal lead by only allowing five more Chicago shots. Lundqvist made the timely stops when he had to. Zibanejad salted it away with a well deserved unassisted empty netter for his third goal and fifth point in two games with under 18 seconds remaining.

In some crazy aspect, it may have been a costly win. The Blackhawks remain behind us in the standings with only 41 points. They’re tied with the Senators for the fewest points in the league. It’s hard to believe how far they’ve fallen since winning three Stanley Cups this decade. That’s the cost of winning in the salary cap era. Don’t forget they lost one of the game’s best players in Marian Hossa to retirement. With both Keith and Seabrook showing their age while locked into long-term deals, and another concussion threatening Corey Crawford’s career, things have changed.

Imagine if they wind up with Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. Colorado has Ottawa’s pick due to the Matt Duchene blockbuster trade last year that also netted the Senators Brady Tkachuk. He will be a very good power forward over the next decade. But they really sacrificed the opportunity of a lifetime. They better hope Duchene re-signs.

With 47 points in 47 games with one more game in Boston on Saturday before the bye week and break, the Rangers are nine points out of the playoffs. It’s crazy to think it’s now the Penguins who are the second wildcard with 56 points due to the surprising Islanders, who keep winning. As a rational fan of this team, I know the playoffs aren’t happening here. Gorton will do right by the team by trading both Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, who sat out an eighth consecutive game. He will not return until Jan. 29 after the All-Star Game. The team wisely being cautious with the very valuable Hayes, who hits the open market this summer.

By winning the last two, the Blueshirts are 22nd out of 31. Six total points separates them from both 30th ranked Ottawa and 31st overall Chicago. Standing in between are three Blues and Coyotes (45), Devils and Red Wings (43), Panthers, Flyers and Kings (42). Just ahead are the Canucks (48), Ducks, Oilers, Wild and Hurricanes (49), who made a move to improve by acquiring Nino Niederreiter from Minnesota for Victor Rask.

There’s so much mediocrity that it’s not a good product. Sure. Scoring is way up and there are some elite teams like the Lightning, Maple Leafs, the surprising Flames, Jets, Predators, Sharks and Capitals. But when half the league doesn’t know if they’re buying or selling at nearly the 50-game mark, it’s bad, mad and sad all at the same time.

Truly the land of confusion. A favorite Genesis song with Phil Collins. Nobody can accurately predict what will happen. I know one thing. The Rangers won’t be tanking. I wouldn’t want them to anyway. If they lose games over the remainder, it’ll be due to the opposition being better.

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Game #47: Tired Thursday – Islanders 4, Devils 1

My last few recaps have been the definition of mailing them in considering I only watched the horror show against Toronto last Thursday of the last handful of games. Not that mailing it in makes me any different from the team itself with all of their mail-in performances on the road. In my defense, even if I wanted to watch tonight’s latest crapfest I couldn’t have. By the time me and my friends even got to the bar it was already 0-3 after the first period in another typical slow start, so there wasn’t exactly a lot of urgency from anyone to get them to change a channel over to the game. Ironically enough the Ranger game was still on a couple of TV’s despite it being even less meaningful than ours since the only relevant team in town right now IS the Islanders, sadly.

Yet even with this sorry team in a lost season I do want to continue at least giving my own thoughts on each game, even when I don’t watch or don’t exactly feel like commenting. Only 35 more to go I suppose…the All-Star break/bye week couldn’t come soon enough. I would have gone to Saturday’s game against the Ducks but with the snow in store for the weekend I wanted no part of the travel, so I sold those tickets too. While recently the Ducks have been just as bad as us they did actually show some signs of holding their roster to account with recent trades and demotions/promotions from the minor leagues. So far the changes seem to have sparked a better effort against the Wild, maybe at least their long losing streak will be over before they limp into the Rock on Saturday.

Speaking of tickets there is something (sort of) to comment on, as season ticket holders got the notice that everything about next season’s pricing and benefits will go out on the 30th this month. Good timing for me before I have to officially decide on renewing – and thus using my buyback credits for several games the next two months – or not. Despite my protesting I probably will renew, I do love my seats even if I’m not wild about the organ-eye-zation right now but a big price hike coming off this crapola season with no real promise of things getting any better in the offseason would be a bit offensive, even leaving out the financial disincentives to renew considering you can get tickets on the secondary market for almost every game at sth or below prices. Of course they won’t be aisle seats directly behind the net so I am spoiled in that sense.

Let’s see, is there anything else to comment on without commenting on the game? Well, there is the matter of the schadenfreude certain pockets of the fanbase are now feeling with Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders rolling with a real structure in place for the first time since…when Peter Laviolette was there? Sure they’ve made the playoffs in certain seasons but have never looked as solid or disciplined as now, and the big joke of it is, is it came after losing John Tavares. Classic Lou, lose your franchise player and keep on keeping on* (*except for Parise and Kovalchuk). Although to be fair, I’m not sure how things would have turned out if they didn’t luck out with Barry Trotz suddenly becoming available after a historic Stanley Cup win in Washington. Trotz is a good enough coach to gloss over a lot of things, while our coaches only seem to exacerbate the team’s issues.

I have to admit going back and forth on the schadenfreude part. Yes I did criticize Lou in his later years for bad drafting plus an arrogant decision keeping our first-round pick in 2013 instead of surrendering the 29th overall pick (who turned out to be an attempted troll pick in Stefan Matteau that backfired), which would have given us a top twelve pick in 2014 instead of another bust in John Quenneville at #30 OA. Also for chasing ghosts trying to contend with a rotted husk of a team after Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left and other guys like Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias got old. It was time for a change, things had gotten stale here.

That said as much as people mocked things like the lack of social media presence and marketing under Lou, what good is all that stuff going to do now when the team’s terrible anyway? I miss having discipline and structure over mottos and marketing. I hoped making the playoffs last year would finally allow us as a fanbase to move beyond the Lou era but this year has provided even more fodder to revive the comparisons. As annoyed as I was at Lou for chasing ghosts from 2013 on, I’d prefer that extreme to the overtly cautious one now where we’ve wasted cap space galore for years, not even attempting to get better in the short term but instead settling for a celing of mediocrity and hoping for more Taylor Hall lotto luck. Whether you want to blame ownership or just make the case Ray Shero’s being ‘patient’, either way Shero owns this mess now both with the lack of use of our cap space and the recent extension coach John Hynes got.

I feel like I’m going to repeat myself five hundred times between now and July 1 but this is an absolutely vital, crucial moment for this organization. Not just for the fact Hall can be extended (or refuse to sign one), but other key guys like Nico Hischier, Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen have to be extended or in Vatanen’s case traded if he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. I could see an offseason where everyone re-signs and pieces are added both via FA and trade. I could also see an offseason where Hall and Vatanen don’t re-sign, we are compelled to trade them and start the ‘process’ all over again. This thing could really go either way and having a bad year with a questionable (at best) staff is starting to give me chicken little syndrome.

As far as tonight’s actual game went…certainly a predictable result with Lou’s hot and structured Isles team rolling over our pathetic un-structured team. Part of me wanted to laugh when I heard the Isles were up 3-0 with Mackenzie Blackwood giving up goals on three of his first five shots, but because it’s Blackwood I don’t take much pleasure in him getting lit up. Even if I was glad I started Robin Lehner over him in a fantasy league. Fortunately it sounded like this was more bad D (as usual) and he was able to straighten out the rest of the night, not allowing another goal – but with this popgun offense the usual road no-show in the first period was more than enough to condemn us to a 4-1 defeat. We even did coach Trotz a favor by possibly allowing him to play his #1 goalie (Lehner) back to back nights.

Your 2018-19 Devils, everyone’s favorite houseguest!

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Game #46: Rangers respond with excellent 6-2 win over Hurricanes

It’s been a while since this team gave a complete 60-minute effort. The Rangers responded to coach David Quinn’s criticism by flat out dominating the Hurricanes with a resounding 6-2 home win at The Garden. This was their best game since that 4-0 shutout of the Islanders way back on Nov. 21 before Thanksgiving.

You never know how a team is going to respond to such brutal honesty that a fired up Quinn laid out after that debacle in Columbus on Sunday. They passed with flying colors. This was a total team effort. The kind we haven’t seen since that 9-1-1 stretch. Everyone played a part. It was the total opposite of Sunday when the 18 skaters couldn’t be bothered to help out Alexandar Georgiev. It was Carolina, who entered winners of seven of their last eight, that got completely outworked and lost every battle.

How good was tonight’s game? Three Blueshirts had two goals. Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo combined for all six. Zibanejad had his best game in a while recording two goals and two assists for a four-point effort. Buchnevich scored a pair of power play goals on the top unit despite continuing to play on the fourth line. Listening to Quinn and understanding how he thinks, it’s by design. He’s trying to change Buchnevich’s work habits at five-on-five. So far, it seems to be working. He earned the power play duty and paid the demanding coach back with his eighth and ninth goals.

Mats Zuccarello continued his turnaround by picking up three assists. None better than the brilliant no look backhand feed from behind the net to a cutting Zibanejad for his second of the game. A great play by the tenacious Zuccarello we all have come to love and appreciate. It started with a relentless Zuccarello outworking Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin to a puck and skating by him. He worked a give and go with Chris Kreider and then centered perfectly for Zibanejad’s second consecutive goal that made it 3-1 in a three-goal first period.

That’s not a misprint. That’s how well they played. It started early when off a Boo Nieves face-off win, DeAngelo took a Jimmy Vesey pass and fired a wrist shot through traffic that got past Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney at 1:16. It was a tough night for the Hurricanes backup. He allowed six goals on 28 shots.

That included a terrible misplay on a smart Kevin Shattenkirk dump in from behind the red line for a attacking Kreider, who beat McElhinney to the puck and fed Zibanejad for a power play goal into a vacated net for a 2-1 lead. A textbook response to a Brett Howden turnover that allowed Saku Maenlanen to tie it 3:17 earlier. Howden couldn’t handle a Marc Staal pass, fumbling it right to Maenlanen, who cashed it in. He was the Canes offense scoring both their goals. I can’t think of too many NHL players named Saku since Canadiens inspirational captain Saku Koivu retired.

It was important for the Rangers to come back on the power play. They had controlled play. They tried the same set play with Shattenkirk dumping the puck from just outside his own blueline for Kreider on a even strength shift earlier. But linesman Jonny Murray said it was icing even though it looked like Kreider got there for the tie that would’ve negated it. During a stoppage, John Giannone reported that Kreider discussed the close play with Murray. Even though it didn’t work there, the second time was the charm. Shattenkirk made the nice bank pass at the perfect angle for the speedy Kreider to beat McElhinney and set up Zibanejad’s 13th at 12:41.

Less than two minutes later, Zuccarello made the excellent feed for Zibanejad to bury for number 14. It’s his first two-goal game of the season. Goals have been a little harder to come by with the top center taking on more responsibility. He’s been racking up more assists. He came in with 25, which was just five off his career high of 30 established with Ottawa in ’15-16. That was also the year he achieved a career best with 51 points by playing 81 games. The Senators traded him during that summer to the Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard, who since has moved to Pittsburgh. He could be on the move again if you believe TSN’s latest report. That deal worked out quite well for Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.

In adding two helpers with his two markers, it was Zibanejad’s third four-point game of the season. He’s the first Ranger to do that since Marian Gaborik in ’10-11. The good old days. Gaborik isn’t retired. He hasn’t played a game this season with Ottawa. He’s recovering still from offseason surgery on a herniated disc. What a shame. A similar player to just recently retired Rick Nash, the 36-year old Gaborik is stuck on 407 goals and 815 points in 1,035 games. Like Nash, he scored over 40 as a Ranger, doing it twice. It’s too bad his career is probably coming to an end.

Buchnevich scored his first goal on the power play during a good second. Even though he played with Howden and Cody McLeod on the fourth line, Quinn stuck him back on the top power play unit. It worked out well with Buchnevich finishing a good Zibanejad feed for his first goal in seven games since Jan. 2 against Pittsburgh. Zuccarello started the play for a secondary assist.

Despite having the much better work habits than the Canes, who never win here, the Rangers still gave up some good scoring chances. There was another remarkable sequence where Adam McQuaid left his feet to block a shot. He stayed down for a while. I thought he was hurt and we wouldn’t see him for quite a bit. Somehow, he got up and stayed in the game. He sat out the last one due to a similar block against the Isles. It’s astonishing what a tough player like the former Bruin will put himself through. He’s a warrior. No wonder fans and teammates love him. He’ll literally do anything to win a game. Someone I’m friendly with on Twitter compared him to Dan Girardi. It’s a good comp. The only difference is McQuaid can fight.

There also were some good saves from Henrik Lundqvist. He made a couple of beauties including a highway robbery point blank that earned cheers from the crowd. There also was a groovy glove save that’s always crowd pleasing. He made 34 saves altogether in his first start since last Thursday.

The thing I liked most was how hard the players worked during their shifts. Not only offensively, but most notably defensively. They won the puck battles. DeAngelo had a very solid night paired with Staal for a third straight game. Neal Pionk got the night off due to being banged up. He’s been playing hurt. Maybe that helps explain the drop-off.

With Brendan Smith a healthy scratch, rookie Ryan Lindgren made his NHL debut. Acquired last year as part of the Nash deal with Boston, he did well with Hartford posting a plus-seven rating with 41 penalty minutes and five assists in 35 games. Wearing number 55, the 20-year old from Burnsville, Minnesota was okay in his first game. He definitely likes to play physical. He finished a couple of good checks. He did take a penalty that negated a good Carolina opportunity. He also was caught on for both Hurricanes goals, but it’s all about getting necessary experience. He will learn. Lindgren received 20 shifts logging 15:22 with a minus-one. He had three hits and three blocked shots. As a team, the Rangers blocked 21 Carolina shots.

Even though they didn’t hit the score sheet, the line of Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil and Jesper Fast continued to play well at even strength. They have good cohesiveness and forecheck well. In particular, Chytil was very active during his shifts. He plays hard in all three zones. A very good sign for the 2017 first round pick Gorton stole at number 21.

I also liked the play of Nieves with Vladislav Namestnikov and Vesey. Nieves had two assists continuing his strong run. He is now up to the third line with Howden centering the fourth line. Speaking of Howden, he can’t catch a break. He made a great read defensively to break in on McElhinney, but didn’t quite have the angle to break his 27-game goal drought. Between him and Namestnikov, I don’t know who will get their fifth goal first. At least Namestnikov picked up a primary assist on DeAngelo’s second of the game in the third. A very good all around play from the third line with Namestnikov missing a goal. But the rebound caromed right to DeAngelo for a perfect follow up that concluded the scoring.

The other goal was Buchnevich’s second on the power play on a juicy rebound from Zibanejad and Zuccarello at 4:19. The same combo as his first PPG. Maenlanen redirected a Victor Rask shot for his second to make it 5-2.

Great job by the Rangers stopping to shake veteran referee Brad Watson’s hand after thanking the crowd. It was Watson’s final game at MSG. He’s retiring at the end of the season. One of the better refs.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Pavel Buchnevich, NYR (2 power play goals for #’s 8, 9, much more noticeable during his shifts on the 4th line)

2nd 🌟 Mats Zuccarello, NYR (3 assists including the beautiful primary helper to set up Zibanejad’s second of the first period)

1st 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, NYR (2 goals for #’s 13, 14, 2 assists for #’s 26, 27, up to 41 points)

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Game #46: Terrible Tuesday – Blue Jackets 4, Devils 1

Even after the Devils won two in a row heading into Columbus, I had zero confidence they would do any better than they’ve done in almost all of their recent games against the Blue Jackets, especially on a road back to back. When I saw the score after the first period was 3-0 Columbus, I sighed and knew I wouldn’t be turning it on the rest of the night. Honestly my only fear – especially early in the second when it got to 4-0 – was that the game would get so out of hand that coach John Hynes would have to remove Keith Kinkaid to prevent him from giving up a ten-spot. Or as I call it, getting Valiquetted.

Pretty much the only good thing is that prized rookie Mackenzie Blackwood did get the entire night off after coach Hynes came to his senses and decided not to play him a third game in four days coming off of IR. And Blake Coleman somehow hasn’t been touched by the vortex of suck that’s affecting almost everyone else here. On a team full of soft players and dissapointments, Coleman’s a glaring exception. He’s made himself from a role player to a bona fide scorer (getting his seventeenth tonight to avert the shutout late in the second) with role player/grinder chops, and he’s under a ridiculously team-friendly contract for the next two years.

Speaking of soft dissapointments, if I was giving the three duds of the night (as opposed to three stars), Damon Severson might be the first and second dud. Bad enough his turnover led to the Blue Jackets’ first goal, and horrible defensive coverage led to the second one, in his first two shifts of the game but what happened early in the second period was far worse. Already down 3-0 by that point, Severson took a dumb holding penalty and follows it with a selfish unsportsmanlike conduct resulting in a double minor penalty, that eventually led to the Blue Jackets’ fourth goal and a well-deserved benching for the rest of the second period.

In a way it’s a borderline miracle the game didn’t get worse after it was 4-0 less than twenty-two minutes in. Maybe the Blue Jackets wanted to conserve their powder (literally and figuratively, since they didn’t want to use up all their dopey cannon fire for the rest of the season tonight). Clearly they wanted to get the game over with as badly as we did. Ergo another desultory blowout road loss is in the books. No doubt to be followed by another at the hands of the white-hot Isles Thursday, as one time czar Lou Lamoriello will probably look on with rare laughter at our plight. Deservedly so too, whatever you want to say about his personnel choices at the end of his tenure at least unlike the current regime he still values defense in defensemen.

Given I didn’t watch tonight, I am at least curious in the coming days to see who the coach was talking about with one of his parting salvos here (well besides Severson, who the staff already had to ‘talk to’ after some hideous defensive breakdowns in Buffalo):

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Game #45: Monday Madness – Devils 8, Hawks 5

Nope that score’s not a misprint…the 12000 or however many souls showed up on a Monday night to see two teams going nowhere might have expected an NHL hockey game, but instead pond hockey broke out. Which I suppose was inevitable when you have two bad defenses, one bad goalie (the corpse of Cam Ward) and another goalie having a bad night (Mackenzie Blackwood). Still even with bad teams, 8-5 games are pretty rare. Maybe not as much with these two teams considering they played a 7-5 extravaganza in Chicago just last fall though. Both teams have fallen on harder times since then, and both teams’ third goalies going into the season are likely their best goalies now. Thank goodness the Hawks started Ward over Colin Delia, who’s actually been their best goalie as an undrafted FA getting his big chance this year with Corey Crawford injured and the aformentioned Ward struggling.

You may think I’ve spent too much time on the Blackhawks goaltending but really their goaltending decision, and the fact coach Jeremy Colliton waited forever to finally hook Ward for Delia was probably the deciding factor tonight (and yes, I had to look up who their faceless bench guy was after the dismissal of Joel Quenneville earlier this year). I like Ward despite the fact he’s stuck it to us in the playoffs more than once, but he’s had a bit of an Eli Manning-like career. Known more for a couple of playoff runs – including 2009 where they won two Game 7’s on the road before finally imploding against a superior Pens team in the Conference Finals – than for any kind of elite play in the regular season, and he certainly isn’t the goalie he once was…the fact he’s in Chicago now instead of Carolina is proof of that.

Somewhat surprisingly, a Devils team still without Taylor Hall was able to take full advantage of Ward and the Hawks’ D tonight, pounding their way to a 6-1 lead at one point in the second period before things got hairier than they should have late as the Hawks cut the lead to 7-5 with a couple minutes left before Blake Coleman’s empty netter sealed it. Coleman probably deserved first star tonight with two goals and an assist in 18:57 of icetime (second most among forwards behind Travis Zajac who played an insane five plus minutes shorthanded among his 20:14 of icetime. Zajac also had three points on the night with a goal and two assists. Kyle Palmieri actually did get first star with a couple of goals, and now has 22 on the season which is still not quite at the All-Star break yet. Probably he’ll wind up getting Hall’s spot on the All-Star roster since it doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere close to playing yet.

Tonight wasn’t just about the stars though – seemingly everyone contributed, including a couple of fourth liners who had their day in the sun. Plugger Kevin Rooney finally scored his first NHL goal (and his first NHL point to boot!) in his eleventh game between three or four different callups, while mighty mite Brett Seney had a goal and an assist in less than ten minutes of icetime. His goal came with bragging rights over buddy and former college teammate Delia, though it was the only goal the Hawks’ netminder gave up after relieving Ward late in the second period. I almost feel sorry in a sense for Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson, the only two forwards not to get on the scoresheet tonight. Of course both will probably be elsewhere soon enough anyway as FA’s to be, barring some miracle run back into the playoff race.

Leading 6-1 after scoring five unanswered goals in the second (including TWO on the powerless play!), the Devils seemingly let up with twenty-two minutes left, allowing Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook to score in the final two minutes of the middle frame to cut the seemingly insurmountable 6-1 lead to a suddenly scary 6-3. Only the Devils could make me roll my eyes upon seeing the score late in the second when I saw the sequence of the goals and that they’d given up the last two. From reports it sounded like a rare off night for Blackwood to this point, that can happen – especially playing two games in three nights coming off IR.

Which makes coach John Hynes floating out the possibility of Blackwood playing tomorrow in Columbus clinically insane for doing so. Three games in four days just off the IR and continually extended by this defense, really? But that’s possibly why Cory Schneider got run into the ground last year and why Keith Kinkaid got used up earlier this year. Hynes takes this whole playing the best goaltender thing a wee bit too far – even with a clearcut #1, you still have to use the other goalie on your roster. Especially now while we’re still a thousand points out of a playoff spot. I get you want to give the kid a chance to rebound off an bad night but still, there are two other games before the break.

If the Devils got sloppy though, the Blackhawks didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either after a performance like tonight. Listening to the radio broadcast on my way home from a brief trip to the city, Chico Resch was unusually critical of guys like Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith (a -5 on the night) – who didn’t play well or set an example befitting their status as winners and veteran leaders. I suppose it’s hard after you’ve been playing on winners essentially your whole career to suck it up as a vet and shine in meaningless games, but that’s what leaders getting paid big money are supposed to do. It’s actually a bit jarring to hear anything critical from Chico but he does know his stuff, all kidding aside about his malaprops and idiosyncrascies.

Of course that’s their problem. I’m just glad my friend got to see a Devils win and some actual goals, after having to sit through that embarassment on Thursday with me. I did accurately predict to her before the Thursday game that Monday was going to be her better chance at seeing a win. Not that it makes me Nostradamus given how good the Leafs are and how bad the Hawks have been this year. I’m not even that annoyed I missed both wins during this home week while having to suffer through Thursday, amazingly enough the team’s home record this year pretty much ensures I’ve at least seen some good games though after the Leafs game it’s a bit mehish 6-4-1 in the games I have been at this year.

I will see them play the Ducks on Saturday (and they’re one of the few teams struggling more than us in the last month, with a now-eleven game losing streak) but that’s my last home game for the month, having just sold my Ranger tickets on the 31st. Just as well not having to deal with possible winter weather the next couple weeks although other than the big snowstorm in October it’s been a bit mild so far (knock on wood). Before then of course they have tough division road games at Columbus tomorrow and at Long Island on Thursday. Considering how poorly we tend to play against both I’m certainly not expecting much in either game.

At least for a couple nights the Devils looked more like last year’s team than this year’s corpse.

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Game #45: A furious Quinn blasts Rangers in 7-5 loss to Blue Jackets, Rick Nash Appreciation Night in Columbus the real Highlight

I had it all typed out until I didn’t. Damn copy and paste along with quick auto save drafts. I’m not gonna redo it. I’ll just be quick.

In regards to Sunday’s game, coach David Quinn summed it up best.

He was upset with his team for coming out with that as he put it following three more inspired games, including the 2-1 win over the Islanders in the rematch at Brooklyn. I’ve never seen him that angry. He reminds me of John Tortorella, who fittingly was on the other side of the bench, getting his Blue Jackets to overcome a uneven Sergei Bobrovsky in a ugly 7-5 win over the Rangers at Nationwide Arena.

Tortorella has always been fiery. Quinn has many of the same characteristics. It’s not easy to come over from the college ranks where he ran a successful program with Boston University, and take over a rebuilding NHL team like the Rangers. By Game 45, it should be clear to the players how they’re expected to perform. Sunday night was unacceptable. It was like they just forgot how to play. Particularly in the defensive zone where Quinn chastised them.

https://twitter.com/BrettCyrgalis/status/1084632837138071552?s=19

He really didn’t like the lack of compete. In his words, “They [Blue Jackets] won every battle and came out with every puck.” He also added that he wouldn’t burn the tape. “Absolutely not. I want them to watch and learn from it. … We’re gonna get after it.”

It’s amazing I can even remember the details following the accidental erasing of my game review. But the Quinn presser was memorable. He is no nonsense and will not tolerate any crap. He proved it by benching Chris Kreider for the rest of the second period on Saturday following a unnecessary interference minor penalty in the offensive zone. He leads the team with 21 goals, getting number 21 in last night’s yuck fest. Boo Nieves was a bright spot, getting the assist on sheer hustle that led to Kreider undressing Bobrovsky, who returned to the Columbus net following a one-game suspension due to a off ice incident. Buyer beware. He was very beatable. Think Ilya Bryzgalov. That’s who he reminds me of.

For the 18 skaters to do that in front of Alexandar Georgiev, who got a very different team on Saturday, in a back-to-back, was insulting. He said it isn’t fun to be in net for five or six goals. He was in for all seven and played well. What does that exactly say?

There wasn’t much going on. Mats Zuccarello continued to play like his old self scoring twice (6, 7) on the top line. Many of the players on this roster will be long gone in two years. For Zuccarello, it’ll be very soon with the February 25 trade deadline six weeks away.

Kevin Hayes missed his sixth consecutive game with the mysterious upper body injury he sustained against the Penguins. It’s too bad because he was having his best season with 32 points in 39 games. It’s almost a certainty GM Jeff Gorton will trade him next month. The sad aspect is how important Hayes has become to the team. It’s no coincidence that they’ve lost six of seven since he left the Pittsburgh game. Five of the last six.

The Rangers continue to take too many ill advised penalties. The penalty kill was up to the challenge for a second game in a row. In fact, Columbus fans booed their hideous power play, which only seems to show up in overtime with one less skater. They got Tortorella his 600th career NHL win a few days ago in a 4-3 overtime win over Nashville on a Artemi Panarin game-winner. Tortorella got a nice video tribute from some coaches including former assistant Mike Sullivan, who gave him credit for the coach he is. Of course, Tortorella deflected the attention after captain Nick Foligno got him the game puck. Instead, he pointed to it being a big two points that gave them 53. They’re now up to 57.

I hope some day, Quinn becomes successful using a similar style. He obviously is dead serious after games like last night. He indicated to reporters that he wished he could hold a practice and throw pucks in the corner to see who would come out with them. When the coach says they lost everything battle and refers to it as a “freaking joke,” you know it’s bad.

No more was it evident than following Jimmy Vesey getting his 11th on a rebound for his first goal in eight. On the next shift, Vesey and Mika Zibanejad both watched Foligno come around the net and bank in a wraparound for his second of the game to seal the deal. At the moment, Georgiev was hoping to come off for an extra skater. Instead, another lost battle cost them.

The Rangers were without Fredrik Claesson and Adam McQuaid. Claesson left Saturday’s game with a injury due to a tough Matt Martin hit into the boards. McQuaid couldn’t go following his astonishing blocked shot in the win he stayed in. So, that meant Brendan Smith and Neal Pionk.

Predictably, Smith was lousy paired up with the woeful Kevin Shattenkirk. They each got turned around on a couple of Columbus goals. I’m not bothering with a breakdown. Some losses just aren’t worth it. It’s bad enough have to rewrite this. As our resident New Jersey blogger Hasan knows all too well from some of his Devils write ups, it’s not worth the time when it’s that bad. The score speaks for itself. All seven Blue Jackets goals came at even strength. Yikes.

Regarding Shattenkirk, I can’t think of a good player who suddenly took such a downturn after signing at a still young age. He’s broken down. I never wanted him here like most of the Corsica crowd. They must not have watched him with the Capitals as a rental in the 2017 NHL Playoffs. Barry Trotz was right. There’s a reason he played third pair and was featured on the power play.

The sad aspect is Shattenkirk was good with the Blues before the trade. He just isn’t the same player. It’s not because he doesn’t care. He signed with the Rangers to come home where he idolized the franchise’s best player, Brian Leetch. It just hasn’t worked out. Some fairytales don’t end well. He’d be better off elsewhere. On a contender that can use a capable offensive defenseman who can play power play. As long as his shifts at even strength are micromanaged, he should be more successful. Once the Rangers became sellers last year, it hasn’t been the right situation. He has two years left on his deal.

The one positive I like is Quinn recognizing that Ryan Strome deserved more minutes. By moving him up to center the second line with Filip Chytil and Jesper Fast, it’s worked well so far. Strome scored his sixth as a Blueshirt and fourth since the New Year. Chytil made a good centering feed that Strome finished. Strome has earned the promotion with better play. He is even playing shorthanded without Hayes.

While he’s worked harder consistently, Pavel Buchnevich continues to find himself on the fourth line. He got less than 10 minutes on Sunday and again didn’t have a shot on goal. He will need to work harder to get back the ice-time he was receiving not long ago.

Pionk has really struggled over the past month. He’s been victimized quite a bit with partner Marc Staal. It’s easy to forget Pionk’s only 23. Don’t forget he was miscast on the top pair. That’s not his fault. He does compete hard and sacrifice the body for a undersized D. But he needs work. He can play power play and is a good skater. In a different role, he could do better.

Pionk worked with Brady Skjei, whose play has steadied since he got paired with McQuaid. Tony DeAngelo worked with Staal for the second straight game.

There’s not much else to add on the game portion. No 3 Stars. Only 1 Giant 🌟. That goes to now retired former Ranger and Blue Jacket Rick Nash. Over the weekend, he announced his retirement through his agent citing the advice of doctors due to still experiencing symptoms from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). It’s both haunting and sad. But also speaks to the harsh reality of the risks of playing the sport. One that blind commissioner Gary Bettman continues to ignore as long as the cash is rolling in. Shameful.

Nash retires at only 34. He wasn’t willing to risk the long-term effects of his head injuries to play. Long-term health is more important with a family that includes by his wife and three children. A smart decision.

When I think of Rick Nash, I think of the outstanding hockey player he was who excited fans with his endless rushes and array of moves that resulted in highlight reel goals. In a word that certainly Garden Faithful associated with him, Nashty.

Selected number one overall in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets, he became the face of the franchise. A special player with unique talent, he could get people out of their seats. A three-time 40-goal scorer who had 30-or-more eight times in a 15-year All-Star career, Nash won one Rocket Richard and still wound up with 437 goals in 1,060 games. He finished with 437 goals, 368 assists and 805 points with mostly the Blue Jackets and Rangers before finishing with the Bruins last year as a rental.

I’m glad Nash had one more special moment with the team that he meant so much to. Prior to the game, he came out with his family and dropped the ceremonial first puck between Foligno and Staal to well deserved cheers from the Columbus crowd. He still resides there.

Nash never was that successful in the postseason after coming over on July 23, 2012 for a package that included Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. Not every player is in the playoffs. I don’t think of his struggle in the 2014 run when he scored three goals on 83 shots. Sometimes, that’s how it goes. It’s not his near miss that I remember in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings. It’s Kreider missing a breakaway I thought he was scoring on in sudden death. But Jonathan Quick stoned him. The rest is painful history.

Nash was better in a excellent ’14-15 that saw him set a career best with 42 goals while leading the league with 32 even strength goals. In a season he put up 69 points, Nash also had four shorthanded goals and eight game-winners. Don’t forget before a slow finish, some felt he was a Hart candidate. In the postseason, he went 5-9-14 with a plus-eight rating in 19 games. It’s unfortunate that the Conference Final is best remembered for what didn’t happen in Games 5 and 7 versus Tampa Bay. Nash was very good for that team that year at 30.

It’s hard to believe four years later, he’s gone for good. He’ll never play another game or experience the rush of the MSG crowd for a playoff game as he put it to MSG reporter John Giannone. It sucks. But it’s for the best. Now, Nash can have some peace and move on to the second phase of his life. What a first chapter it was.

For the Blue Jackets, he had 289 goals with 258 assists for a total of 547 points in 674 games. That included two seasons of 40-or-more goals, a career best 19 power play goals at 19 in ’03-04, and a career high 79 points (40-39-79) at 24 in ’08-09.

In 375 games as a Ranger, he scored 145 goals and 107 assists for 252 points with a plus-64 rating. Of his 145 goals, 111 came at even strength with another eight shorthanded. He was a complete player who could be counted on to play five-on-five, power play and penalty kill. He was a good shorthanded player totaling 22 shorthanded goals with 14 coming as a Blue Jacket.

Had injuries not impacted him, he would’ve scored 600 and been a Hall of Fame lock. Unfortunately, he’ll probably fall short. He’ll always be a great team guy with a terrific attitude. Nash was well liked. Without hesitation, I do the trade again. Stick taps to No. 61!

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