The Flyers are hated for a reason. Aside from the fact they always push the Rangers around, they also are gonna make the playoffs. Unlike ’09-10, it wont come down to a stinking shootout in Game 82 in Philadelphia.
That’s the good news. The Rangers will be eliminated soon enough. Despite being on the verge of missing the postseason for the first time in eight years, they continue to be competitive. They made it tough on the Flyers before falling by a score of 4-3 on the road.
The sad part is since the big trade deadline that officially rang in the rebuild, the tank has not gone as expected. In a way, I’m glad. Professional athletes don’t care about draft position but rather winning. It’s a positive sign that this roster is giving a good effort. They may still have defensive issues as evidenced by the latest fiasco that injured Henrik Lundqvist. But they continue to work hard.
The only drawback is the Islanders are better at tanking. They’ve fallen behind the Rangers into last place in the division. The Hurricanes are also better at this seemingly falling apart after being in the mix for a wildcard. So be it. At least the Blueshirts will be in the lottery with two more late first round picks to dangle along with a surplus of seconds and thirds.
During a stretch in which Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider have grabbed all the headlines, overlooked linemate Jesper Fast has been playing the best hockey of his career. Since being moved up to the top line, the pesky Swede who combines good speed with grit and extra effort to match has been on a roll.
He continued to produce last night. In the one goal loss, Fast scored twice and picked up a assist for a new career high three points. Always a secondary player who coach Alain Vigneault could plug anywhere, now Quickie is getting the opportunity to play on the first line with better talent. He has fit in perfectly by playing the same straight forward North American game with edge by outworking opponents.
The three point effort extended Fast’s personal point streak to a career best seven games. Over that span, he’s tallied nine points (3-6-9). The three point night helped him match his previous career high in points for a season. It was 30 (10-20-30) set in ’15-16. With eight games left, Fast has already established a new career mark in goals (13). Now, he can achieve a new best in points.
It’s nice to see him rewarded. He deserves this. Just look at the two goals he scored. The first he got to a loose puck behind the net and wisely flipped a backhand from a bad angle off Alex Lyon and in. The second goal was typical grunt work with Fast parked in front for a tip in of a Rob O’Gara shot that made it a one goal game 1:20 after Oskar Lindblom tallied eight seconds into the third. A nice answer back.
The only disappointment was not seeing Fast out for the final minute. He deserved to be out there with Alexandar Georgiev pulled for a extra attacker. Instead, Vigneault went with Mats Zuccarello, Pavel Buchnevich, Zibanejad, Kreider, Kevin Hayes and Neal Pionk. Ryan Spooner, Brady Skjei, John Gilmour and Ryan Sproul also saw time. It didn’t seem right. Zuccarello always gets preferential treatment. Buchnevich didn’t do anything either. But it was treated like a power play. Fast doesn’t play on it either.
I can’t really complain too much. They played a good second and third. But the Flyers did enough to win.