When you’re bad, losing becomes a constant. It never is something you get used to as a player. Listening to a downcast Henrik Lundqvist on the postgame in my car courtesy MSG radio on ESPN 98.7 FM, you can feel the frustration boiling over. In his 10th straight start due to Alexandar Georgiev still not fully recovered from the flu, it was another long day as he allowed all seven goals in a 7-4 home loss to the Flyers.
It was the fourth consecutive defeat for the Rangers, who also dropped one yesterday 6-3 at the Senators. A game that saw Alain Vigneault pull Lundqvist a fee minutes into the third period following the fifth Ottawa goal. A decision which resulted in a death stare from a furious Lundqvist, who never returned to the bench. He definitely isn’t in the right frame of mind. The soon to be 36-year old looks mentally and physically exhausted. His inconsistent play is showing that by permitting goals he normally doesn’t. Is it overwork or the combination of losing with a younger less experienced roster?
The Rangers are a bad team. Without much rumored D anchor Ryan McDonagh and veteran leader Marc Staal, the blueline is comprised of young players up from Hartford. With the notable exception of sophomore Brady Skjei and vet Nick Holden, it’s a new experience for Neal Pionk, John Gilmour, Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Sproul. The quartet are fairly new to the NHL. So what you get is a mixed bag from shift to shift. Pionk has stood out the most followed by Gilmour while DeAngelo has been disappointing.
It doesn’t help that the forwards haven’t been consistent. With the exception of top sniper Michael Grabner, who scored two more to raise his Cy Young campaign to 25-6 on Saturday, along with soon to be dealt Rick Nash (goal today), there isn’t much positive. Kevin Hayes also gets a lot of credit for playing through injury and continuing to be effective. He scored his 14th in the latest loss.
There are too many mistakes being made. Top pivot Mika Zibanejad was very quiet a day after scoring his ninth power play goal against his former team. He went minus-two with one shot on goal. He and second-year man Pavel Buchnevich had tough days defensively. Some miscues led to goals against. Buchnevich just returned on Saturday and picked up a assist for a second straight day. He also got into a rare fight 15 seconds in beating Shayne Gostisbehere. He still needs work defensively.
Unlike the despicable 4-0 shutout loss at the Islanders on Thursday against Jaro “Hasek” Halak, offense wasn’t a problem this weekend. If you score three goals and then four on back-to-back days, you usually should get a split. But not this dismal team who is sinking further and further away from the playoffs like the Titanic.
The Ottawa game was seesaw for two periods until the better skilled Sens found enough holes in the defense. It was a miserable game for the David Desharnais line that included Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast. They were victimized often with Vesey caught on for four goals against in under 12 minutes of ice-time. The defensemen were just as culpable.
It resulted in some easy goals with old pal Derick Brassard recovering from taking a deflected puck to the face to score a goal and assist on a pair of others. His name has been rumored to be possibly going back to Columbus, who can use center help.
There was a easy goal for Mark Stone, who easily finished off a Brassard centering pass in the slot. Matt Duchene stayed hot deflecting home a shot while setting up another. If there was a tell tale sign for a struggling team who like Bill Murray’s classic Phil character in Groundhog Day keeps living the same day over and over again, it was Brassard replying a few minutes following a Zibanejad tally with 67 seconds left for a 4-2 Ottawa lead in the second.
It was a play by rookie Senator defenseman Thomas Chabot that resulted in Lundqvist parting but not without a few words for his coach. Chabot skated around the entire D and threw a wraparound off Holden’s skate and in for a 5-2 lead with 12:33 left in the third. At that point, Vigneault sent in emergency recall Brandon Halverson for a incepnsed Lundqvist.
Following Grabner’s second, Ottawa had a controversial goal from Magnus Paajarvi count despite most believing Halverson was interfered with. What else is new with the NHL who often confuses players, coaches and fans with its decisions on reviews?
It didn’t matter as it was just for bookkeeping. I don’t count it as a full goal. In my mind, Ottawa got five and a half goals. Even though I gave up watching after two periods, I heard it via my brother’s phone. He gets the MSG app.
The Rangers are so mistake prone that they can play well offensively and outshoot opponents and it doesn’t matter. They got 50 shots through on Halak Thursday. But he did what he always does morphing into Hasek by not allowing anything to get by him legally. Only a Desharnais kick went in with it being overturned.
In the Ottawa loss, they had 38 shots. On Sunday afternoon back at MSG, they got 39 on two Flyers goalies. Michal Neuvirth left after the first due to a “lower body” injury. He gave up three on 13 shots in a wild and wacky first that featured six goals and three scraps. Old style hockey.
There was a lot of skating through the neutral zone with players unchecked. So, the end result was each side scoring three times. Hayes got it started when he was able to tip in a long Sproul shot from the right point at 1:30.
But following Hayes’ goal, J.T. Miller failed to clear the zone. It led to a Andrew MacDonald goal at 4:53 set up by Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera. It was a odd goal due to a harmless looking shot going just past Lehtera’s stick and past Lundqvist, who never seemed to pick it up.
Nash continued his strong push before the trade deadline when he outmuscled Flyers top center Sean Couturier in front to get to a loose puck of a Brady Skjei rebound and backhand it past Neuvirth for a 2-1 lead. It was his 18th goal and ninth since the new calendar year. Whoever gets him is getting a very motivated and complete player. He never takes any shifts off and would probably be around 25 goals surrounded by better talent.
For the second time in the period, the Flyers and Rangers threw down. Even though the style of play has changed, the rivalry came out. DeAngelo didn’t like a Wayne Simmonds elbow and dropped the gloves with the tough Flyers power forward. He lost easily before going off for five minutes each with Simmonds, who exchanged words in the penalty box. It seemed more like some friendly advice after he had DeAngelo in a prone position but showed class by not hitting him with a right.
The scrap sparked the Flyers with Scott Laughton redirecting a Ivan Provorov shot through Lundqvist’s wickets for a tie score. It was another goal he could’ve had. Even though it was deflected, he didn’t close up the five-hole.
A little over two and a half minutes later, the Flyers had a beautiful rush that turned into a four-on-three with Claude Giroux finding the trailer Brandon Manning wide open for a sweet finish and their first lead. Buchnevich got lost in the offensive zone and never hustled back. The other three Blueshirts had their man including Zibanejad. A case of a young player thinking offense and forgetting his responsibility.
Three seconds after the goal, the third and final fight took place with heavies Dale Weise going up against Cody McLeod. It was closely fought with McLeod doing damage with a few rights that bloodied Weise’s nose.
Following a successful penalty kill of a Gilmour hi-stick, Peter Holland combined with Mats Zuccarello for a nice goal off a well executed two-on-one. He waited before drawing the Flyer defender down which allowed him to get the pass across for Zuccarello, who one-timed the puck past Neuvirth for a 3-3 tie.
At the start of period two, Alex Lyon replaced a injured Neuvirth. For a unproven guy, he came in and made a huge difference for the guests, who scored four of the last five goals to move over the Devils back into third place in the Metro Division with 70 points. He faced 26 shots and made 25 saves to earn the victory.
The second had a similar start with the old Patrick Division rivals trading goals 3:46 apart. First, improving second overall pick Nolan Patrick was able to beat Lundqvist for his sixth at 2:01 from Simmonds and Manning.
Trailing by a goal, the Rangers got a strong shift from the fourth line. A Miller one-timer wasn’t controlled by Lyon with first McLeod getting a rebound before both Holden and Holland got their sticks on another rebound with the final one from Holland going in to make it 4-4.
The game settled down. Neither team was called for another penalty in the last two periods. But with Lyon making some key stops, it was the brilliant play of the Flyers unknown that won out.
Off some sustained pressure from the Philadelphia top line, Travis Konecny camr out and took a harmless looking wrist shot that eluded a motionless Lundqvist for a crushing go-ahead tally at 15:40. Giroux and Couturier assisted. Since being moved onto that line in late December, Konecny has been red hot putting up nearly a point-per-game. He’s scored a lot of clutch goals. This was his sixth game-winner since being moved up.
The Rangers never recovered. Even though they got chances against Lyon, he made the big stops. Off a two-on-one, Giroux converted his 20th from Konecny for a 6-4 lead at 9:23 of the third. It was Giroux’s 200th career NHL goal. He’s had a huge bounce back season since coach Dave Hakstol decided to shift him to wing and turn former shutdown center Couturier into the first line pivot. If they continue to win without starter Brian Elliott, he should get some votes for the Jack Adams. An award that’ll be won by Gerard Gallant for the unreal job he’s done with Vegas.
Lehtera made it seven past Lundqvist with his first in 41 games to conclude the scoring.
There really is nothing left to add. Things won’t change until everyone is on the same page. They talk about the same thing before every game according to Nash. Playing better defensively by protecting the inside. But talking and doing are two different things entirely.
It won’t get exciting until a week from now. I’m glad I have some time off from work. I can follow the rumors as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches. Other than that, I watch what I can until I can’t anymore. That’s how hard it’s become to watch this team. Thank god for the radio.
As you probably have noticed, I’ve done less recaps by design. There’s no point breaking down every single game when it’s the same broken record. At least I have my new turntable to play classic vinyls on.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make it a point to pay my respect to the 17 victims in Parkland, Florida. The high school of Gostisbehere and Cubs star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. It’s a very difficult time for our country. I’m not going to use this blog to make this political. But only to say it’s not just guns that must be restricted. But a much bigger focus on mental health and pharmaceutical companies. A underlying factor in most of these senseless tragedies. That along with the irresponsible FBI should not be neglected.
I can only imagine what it’s been like for parents of their sons and daughters at this trying time. It makes me angry and sad. Unlike some outspoken athletes, I don’t have the perfect solution. There isn’t one. Try telling both parties and members of Congress.
i also was sickened by last night’s despicable behavior by a Blackhawks fan towards Devante Smith-Pelly in the penalty box. Racial taunts and harassment don’t belong in any forum. It was embarrassing. The Blackhawks apologized for those prejudiced fools. The NHL released a statement which was fine unless you can’t stay on topic.
It should be about treating each other the way we want to be treated. What ever happened to discipline and respect? It seems like social media has brought out the worst in people. As a substitute teacher, I wouldn’t allow any student to have their mobile phones on unless after class or in emergency situations only.
Much must change moving forward. Coexisting with your peers who share different opinions is a big part of it. Unity. Wishing all the best to everyone out there.