Rangers brutalized literally in latest loss

It’s bad enough this team is hard on the eyes. Following Thursday’s 4-0 humiliation at the hands of the superior Maple Leafs, the Rangers were brutalized literally in their latest loss to Nashville 5-2 in Music City. The fifth defeat in the last six games spanning the All-Star break dropped them to last place in the Metro Division.

Forget the playoffs. With injuries continuing to mount, the Wolf Pack may as well be the new team name. It’s bad enough Peter Holland is centering the third line. David Desharnais is the fourth line center. Without Chris Kreider (rib resection surgery) and Pavel Buchnevich (concussion), the lineup is already bad. Now, they could be without Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal. Both took cheap shots from Predators and left the game in the second period. Of course, no penalty was called. Why would there be from a league with its head so far up its ass, it insults the intelligence of every hockey fan.

Maybe the Predators should be renamed the cheapshot artists. What they were allowed to get away with is unconscionable. They’re a much better team and showed why by playing a straight forward North/South game shooting pucks and creating chances while finishing every check. There’s no reason for them to need the blind refs to bend the rules. They missed blatant calls on Alexei Emelin and Filip Forsberg. It overshadowed a game they controlled.

Everyone who follows our team knows they aren’t tough by any stretch. When they start hitting back as Brady Skjei did stepping up for a bloodied Vesey following a Forsberg late cheap shot that stunned him, you know just how ugly it was. Vesey will never be a fan favorite in Nashville after spurning them to sign here. But it was totally uncalled for by Forsberg.

Prior to his shoulder with the elbow coming up on a unsuspecting Vesey with the puck gone, you had Emelin going up high on a prone Staal in the corner. The end result was a nasty hit that could’ve concussed Staal. He got up and skated off. But he would eventually leave the game. Hopefully, it’s just precautionary. With his injury history, there’s obvious concern.

When I first saw the hit, I thought it should’ve been five and a game misconduct. The question is did Emelin leave his feet launching himself into Staal. That is a better one for the Department of Player Safety. A inconsistent mess who nobody can figure out. Staal’s head was down due to his positioning. The impact was scary. It had to be something. Not in this league where the stripes would rather call hooks and holds than more dangerous hits. It was a head shot. Emelin should be suspended.

I actually was more angry with Forsberg than Emelin. He’s a offensive player who you don’t expect it from. This isn’t Brad Marchand, who got a much deserved five-game suspension for his elbow that concussed Marcus Johansson. Forsberg went out of his way to deliver a unnecessary cheapshot on Vesey. He deserves at least a fine. It will be up to the idiocy who run the bureaucracy. Don’t expect much.

As for the final score, it was indictative of the two teams. The Preds outshot the Rangers 12-5 in the first without any scoring. They got a goal from P.K. Subban in the first minute of the second with his 13th deflecting off Vesey passed Henrik Lundqvist, who was blameless a day after indicating that he is all in regardless whether the Rangers sell. He’s a classy athlete who’s the polar opposite of the selfish NBA superstars LeBron “LeFraud” James, Chris “CPKNEE” Paul and Kevin Durant. If only there were more loyal athletes like Lundqvist.

Before the conclusion of a aggravating second, Kevin Fiala scored off another Ranger mistake. Think of it as a tradition. It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s inflicted the entire roster. They only had eight total shots after 40 minutes compared to the Preds’ 23. That’s embarrassing. At least they had a excuse. They were down two skaters.

Of course, they remembered to show up for the third. J.T. Miller had a nice redirection of a Mats Zuccarello shot pass for a power play goal that cut it to 2-1. Ryan McDonagh continued to produce since replacing injured Kevin Shattenkirk on the top power play unit. He set up the goal and finished with two assists while doing all he can in over 25 minutes. I feel sorry for him. He takes his lumps while being relied on too much. He doesn’t have a true first pair partner. Nick Holden is who he is. I’ll leave it at that.

Brendan Smith has played so poorly that I wish they could designate him for assignment. It would be a admission that giving him a four-year contract in excess of $4 million AAV was a huge mistake. He took his usual bad penalty and was caught out of position on a Preds goal that came in direct response to a Ranger one. That’s who this team is. Smith is a huge part of the problem.

Mika Zibanejad scored on the power play with his great one-timer beating Pekka Rinne. McDonagh and Miller assisted. I like Zibanejad but the idea that he’s a number one center is foolish. He finished the game minus-three. I’ll discount the last minus on Fiala’s empty netter. But his play at five-on-five isn’t good. He floats during shifts and never goes up against the opponent’s top line. He’s not that guy. So you can cite whatever offensive stats you want. The Rangers remain weak in the middle. Good thing Jeff Gorton took Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil.

I have more respect for Kevin Hayes, who in Year 4 is learning to become a better overall player. The one positive from soon to be fired coach Alain Vigneault is he turned Hayes into a responsible two-way center who can match up against top scoring lines. His scoring has suffered but he’s a more complete player drawing the tough assignments while being a strong penalty killer and improved in the face-off dot.

There isn’t much else to say. Tony DeAngelo had another solid game. He is a lot more decisive and is making good reads. He should never play in the AHL ever again.

Credit Cody McLeod for shoving Austin Watson down during a scrum. Yes. It was late. But the way his former team played, it was good to see him do it. That’s what it’s come to.

Finally, expect the Rangers to ask Rick Nash to make his list of teams of who he would accept a deal to. As reported on Hockey Night In Canada during the second intermission Hot Stove segment. Winnipeg could be interested despite their offensive talent. We’ll see.

As far as Michael Grabner goes, I really wish they could keep him. He nearly set up Holland’s first which would’ve tied it at two. But the play was correctly ruled offside on a successful challenge from Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. Grabner is a gamer who is tops in goals on this team for a reason. But they must do what’s best for business.

I’ll have more in the coming days.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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