So supposedly, there was a hockey game played in Philadelphia this afternoon. Someone forgot to remind the Rangers. In the final game hopefully of the Alain Vigneault Era, they embarrassed themselves, the jersey and insulted fans with a despicable 5-0 blowout loss to the playoff bound Flyers.
On a emotional day with the hockey world mourning the loss of 15 people in the horrible Humboldt Broncos tragedy due to a accident with a truck in Saskatchewan last night, the Rangers mailed it in. With the Flyers paying tribute to the players and coaches who died during a emotional pregame ceremony, the 18 skaters couldn’t be bothered.
They made it easy for the Flyers, who took their early Christmas present by getting the first hat trick of MVP candidate Claude Giroux’s career. The Flyers captain added to his career high with goals 32, 33 and 34 in making a final statement to voters on a tight Hart race that’ll include the Devils’ Taylor Hall, the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon and the Kings’ Anze Kopitar. That’s if they don’t look the other way and vote for Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin or certain Art Ross winner Connor McDavid. You never know what the PHWA is thinking.
Giroux is going to finish either second or third in points with his 102 a personal best along with the 34 goals and 68 assists. A year ago, no one could’ve predicted this for him or the Flyers. But shifting him to the wing so Sean Couturier could center the top line with Travis Konecny moved up around Christmas was a stroke of genius by coach Dave Hakstol. A certain Jack Adams candidate even though it’s Vegas coach Gerard Gallant’s to win.
If the Flyers proved anything, it’s that you can change the look of a roster by adding a talented second overall pick in Nolan Patrick while trading a very good player in Brayden Schenn to the Blues in a cost cutting move that netted extra first round pick Morgan Frost and center Jori Lehtera. It’s all panned out with the dominant top line along with Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Patrick along with dominant defensemen Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere leading the charge back to the postseason. Brian Elliott returned in the final game and only had to stop 17 measly Rangers shots for the easy shutout.
How bad was the nationally televised game? After two periods, it was 4-0 Flyers who led in shots 31-12. As uncompetitive as possible in the Rangers’ last game of a long season. The antithesis of what Henrik Lundqvist was hoping for. He wanted to finish with a win and make the Flyers sweat it out. At last check, the Panthers were up 3-0 on the Sabres. But it’s all meaningless now thanks to the Rangers’ pathetic effort.
Granted. The roster was half Wolf Pack with the ridiculous recalls of Matt Beleskey and Steven Fogarty. What the heck for? Why not Boo Nieves or Vinni Lettieri? God almighty.
Leave it to Vigneault to play Pavel Buchnevich and Vladislav Namestnikov with Beleskey on a mismatched fourth line. If that’s it for him, it’s fitting. He is just a horror show when it comes to lines and playing kids. It better be. If it’s not, I won’t watch a single period next season until he’s gone. He cannot coach this team.
It’s really hard to bash every player. You know a few tried. Kevin Hayes managed to be Even in the humiliation. Chytil wasn’t as lucky finishing minus-three with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Marc Staal was only a minus-one and finished the year plus-11 on a horrible team that finished in last place for the first time since the Dark Ages.
Lundqvist gave up five goals on 40 shots including Giroux’s breakaway goal high glove side that looked like a cardinal copy of Hall’s penalty shot. He must feel relieved that it’s over. He finishes with a 2.98 GAA and .915 save percentage in 63 games. Way too many played for him. That must change in the future. He’s 36 in a rebuild. There could be more tough times ahead.
Brady Skjei was the only player to play in all 82. He will need to grow into the shutdown role when his third season starts up in the Fall. He’s got time to recoup and get stronger as will Neal Pionk. As for the rest, questions remain. John Gilmour is a terrific skater but what is he? Rob O’Gara needs work. Tony DeAngelo should have a good chance if his ankle heals properly. Ryan Lindgren should get a good look in camp.
There are many questions which won’t get answered until after break up day. The first should be giving Vigneault his walking papers. His time is up. Every good run comes to a end.
I’m sure GM Jeff Gorton will have a lot of work to do. The NHL Draft Lottery is April 28 in Toronto. Only if both Chicago and Edmonton win can the Rangers finish 23rd. Not that it’ll matter. They never have any luck and have never picked first overall. What they have is a abundance of first round picks along with a pair of seconds and thirds. Plus either Namestnikov or Ryan Spooner with one possibly rerouted.
I’ll have more in the coming days. But here’s a little friendly reminder from school days past.