In case you missed it, Henrik Lundqvist returned to the net for the Rangers after eight days off. His return was almost a disaster due to a blatant cheap shot by Stars forward Cody Eakin. With the Rangers on a power play, Eakin came in full speed behind the net and leveled a prone Lundqvist in the head knocking him temporarily out.
Due to the concussion protocol, he had to leave the game to get checked out in the Rangers locker room. Antti Raanta came in relief and played five minutes without facing a shot. The refs made the right call assessing Eakin a charging major and game misconduct kicking him out for his shenanigans. Here is the play in which not one Ranger retaliated. They just stood by and watched:
Consequently, Eakin was suspended four games. The full explanation of the suspension can be seen in this video link courtesy of the NHL Department of Player Safety. They cited that Eakin had no previous history of supplementary discipline. He had played 333 games without such instance. The four games he received is fair. Some will say it isn’t. But considering he’s a first time offender, he didn’t get off light.
There’s no question Eakin had no place to go by coming in at such a high speed. With Lundqvist in the designated area behind the net playing a puck to Brady Skjei, he had no idea Eakin was coming in like that. Eakin should’ve let up realizing this was a dangerous hit that has no place in the game. Instead, he tries to squeeze by and delivers a shoulder upward that contacts Lundqvist’s head.
Luckily, he was okay and returned to finish with 27 saves for a shared shutout with Raanta. Lundqvist was much sharper staying more relaxed and patient. He was square to the shooters and made some excellent stops in a Rangers’ 2-0 win highlighted by Rick Nash’s shorthanded goal. Mats Zuccarello added an empty netter to end a 14-game drought.
The issue is the Rangers’ lack of response to such a dirty hit. Power play or not, how does not one player go right to Eakin and let him have it. Granted. It was rookies Skjei and Jimmy Vesey in the vicinity. Only when play was whistled down did Nash at least attempt to go at Eakin. But let’s face it. Nash wasn’t gonna do anything.
This is how they are under coach Alain Vigneault. They have no team toughness. I don’t like using the term soft because I would never question any of our players. They’re all fully committed and have done well with 21 wins in the first 32 games. However, hockey at times can be a violent sport. Such hits remain a problem league wide. Sometimes, you have to stand up for fallen teammates.
Lundqvist is their best player. Forget his struggles which led to Raanta getting the prior four starts which gave him a mental break. How many times do we have to see opponents take liberties with our goalie. It’s embarrassing! A flat out joke that no one ever goes to bat for him. At least let them know you’re there.
It isn’t okay. More teams will continue to push the envelope by bumping Lundqvist and knowing they won’t pay any price. Under John Tortorella, you knew there would be an immediate response. They had players such as Brandon Prust, Stu Bickel, Brian Boyle and Sean Avery. Even in Vigneault’s last two years, there was Daniel Carcillo, Tanner Glass or Dylan McIlrath.
There is zero toughness on the ’16-17 Rangers. The going will get tougher. Already Jan. 17 next calendar year at MSG has been circled. But what will change? Will Eakin face any consequences? This isn’t last year when McIlrath went at it with Wayne Simmonds while Glass also fought.
On the current roster, Chris Kreider is the toughest player they have. He will drop the gloves if necessary. But he’s also a skill player who is valuable on the ice due to his speed and size. J.T. Miller and Kevin Klein are also willing. But it’s not in their main job description.
Unless they change their mind and decide to acquire someone for a role that doesn’t fit this roster, Ranger fans can expect nothing. Just the usual skate away and take the power play. How did they do on that five-minute major? Exactly. If you don’t make them pay on the scoreboard, it’s even worse.
I’ve seen beat writers who cover this team think eliminating fighting is the answer. I guess last night just flew over the cuckoo’s nest. I’m done.