Game 5 Review: Thoughts on tough 2-1 Rangers loss to Oilers/refs, talent lacking

I know it’s a bit late. However, Saturday’s 2-1 Rangers loss to the Oilers and the refs really ticked me off. Let me preface this by saying that I rarely get on the officiating for any of my teams when they lose. However, everyone has seen their team get screwed. It happened to the 2014 Rangers against the Kings. Dwight King remains one of my most hated players.

We’ve all been there. I understand the stripes have a hard job. But when you miss an obvious penalty on NHL darling Connor McDavid and Edmonton in a tie game in the third period, it drives me nuts. I didn’t realize WWE takedowns were allowed like the one they got away with on Kevin Hayes behind the Edmonton net. They compounded it by blindly calling Vladislav Namestnikov for a penalty he didn’t commit. He was the victim on the play. So twice, it should’ve been a power play for our punchless team. Instead, the Oilers got the early Christmas gift with McDavid scoring from a tough angle with a backhand banking in off Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner.

I’m glad coach David Quinn didn’t glue Namestnikov to the bench like his predecessor would have. It wasn’t his fault the four blind mice didn’t have perfect 20/20 Vision. Which brings me to a question. Does this half ass backwards league test for eyesight? Don’t answer it. It’s rhetorical.

By no means did the Rangers play a perfect game. They didn’t have enough killer instinct or finishing ability. Something that’s gonna be a problem. There just isn’t much talent on the roster. Unless Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich (did he even play yesterday) and a declining Mats Zuccarello perform consistently, it’s going to be a long season. I’m okay with that as long as the younger players such as Filip Chytil, Buchnevich, impressive rookie Brett Howden and eventually Lias Andersson get it.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll eventually see Libor Hajek the way things are going with our mediocre defense. It’s astonishing that they paid Brady Skjei all that money to be a top defenseman. I get that he’s only in his third year. He’s a terrific skater as evidenced by the nice overtime winner in the one win over San Jose. But sometimes, he gets turned around too much. Hopefully, Lindy Ruff can work with him. I saw them talking following a bad shift.

Adam McQuaid didn’t come out of the lineup. Apologies for that. Instead, Neal Pionk sat out a second consecutive game. Quinn indicated that he’s gonna play him a lot. So, don’t get too upset. He’ll be back for Tuesday against Colorado, who feature the ever dangerous Nathan MacKinnon. Yikes.

If only the Rangers boasted that kind of world class talent. They really need to sink like the Titanic and luck into Jack Hughes. I know how bad that sounds. I don’t see it happening. Not with the Coyotes off to a historically bad start on home ice. They haven’t scored a single goal in three games. I gotta give myself credit. I put the hex on Antti Raanta by taking him in my fantasy league. I also did the same to Roberto Luongo and the Panthers. If only I had grabbed Keith Kinkaid over James Reimer. I hope Cory Schneider is back soon. The state of my goaltending is so desperate that I picked up Jack Campbell and foolishly started him Saturday at Ottawa.

The one thing I got right in my preview was calling a breakout game for Zibanejad. He scored his first goal of the season on a Marc Staal shot pass that took a favorable bounce right to him. He played by far his best game, also ringing the goalpost twice. So, he was a bit unlucky. The top line with Zibanejad, Kreider and constant Jesper Fast played well. You can’t only score once when you’re dominating most of your shifts.

Quinn tried Buchnevich with Howden and Zuccarello. It didn’t go well. While Howden and Zuccarello worked hard to let you know they were out there, Buchnevich did nothing in his shifts. So much so that he didn’t even attempt a shot. No wonder he found himself glued to the bench in the third with the invisible Ryan Spooner. Has anyone discovered the whereabouts of Spooner? His picture can be found on the back of a milk carton.

The problem is they are paying Spooner and Namestnikov over four million each. They have yet to find the back of the net. At least Namestnikov is showing signs of snapping out of it. He’s been much more active since getting scratched. At this point, Spooner has earned a demotion to either the fourth line, or a seat in the press box for Cody McLeod. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays against his former team.

Quinn acknowledged that he needs to get Chytil more ice time. If that means shifting him to the wing due to his face off struggles to play him in the top nine, do it. Considering how bad Zuccarello has looked offensively, why not try Chytil on the Howden line? I wonder what Quinn will do with Buchnevich. It’s clear he isn’t comfortable playing the left side. Figure him to be back on right wing for Game 6.

It would help if Kevin Hayes was able to produce. The effort is there, but he needs help. Jimmy Vesey seems like a good fit with him. They work well off each other. But Spooner has done zilch. Maybe move Zuccarello back to that line. They had some success together. I am suggesting Namestnikov or Chytil on one of the top two lines. Kreider can play with either Zibanejad or Howden. Buchnevich seems to need Zibanejad to succeed. It wouldn’t shock me if he found himself on the fourth line to start Tuesday. He was that bad.

Both Namestnikov and Spooner can play center. Maybe keep Spooner in and have him center a fourth line with Vinni Lettieri and fill in the blank.

As for the blueline, it’s not getting any prettier. There are no saviours coming. For all the constant whining over Staal, I can’t see how he isn’t in the top six playing five on five and penalty kill. Kevin Shattenkirk doesn’t kill penalties. Hopefully, he regains his confidence soon. If not, the power play will continue to underperform.

Fredrik Claesson has given two solid games in a row. Brendan Smith has been the best defenseman. His skating is much better, proving how much last year was about fitness. McQuaid plays strong in his end, but isn’t the fastest skater. He competes hard, which is why he’s been in the league so long. If they decide to stick with Claesson, they can always sub out McQuaid for Pionk.

What to do with Tony DeAngelo. I still think he can become something. But he needs consistent minutes. His skating is superb, as is his offensive instincts and shot. But his defense remains the area he must improve to stick. I’m rooting for him.

You can’t start any better than Lundqvist has. He’s given them a chance in all four of his starts. He’s making the big saves and looks more comfortable staying back in his net like he used to. The key to his game is patience. Something he admitted he got away from due to the high risk style the team played the past two years.

I wish Lundqvist could get more wins. He deserves a lot of credit for how well he’s approaching things. It has to be hard for him knowing the roster isn’t the most talented. They’re a work in progress.

I’ll echo this throughout the season. As fans, all we can do is be patient and support the team. They’re doing the right thing. I really appreciate Quinn’s honesty and explanations for his game decisions. He’s a excellent communicator. There shouldn’t be any confusion about what he’s doing.

I want to see him succeed. It’s going to take some time. They’re 1-4-0 so far with two points. Aside from the five goal outburst in the ugly 8-5 shootout defeat at improved Carolina, offense has been hard to come by. In the other four games, they’ve totaled seven goals. The overall total is 12 in five games for an average of 2.40 per game. Here is the breakdown:

5-on-5: 9 (Howden 2, Kreider 2, Vesey 2, Fast 1, Smith 1, Zibanejad 1)

5-on-4: 2 (Buchnevich 2)

3-on-3: 1 (Skjei)

Note: One of Buchnevich’s goals came with the goalie pulled during a five-on-four.

Power Play: 1-for-12 (8.3 percent) Tied for 27th.

Note: The Rangers have only one power play goal and have given up a shorthanded goal.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot to work on.

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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1 Response to Game 5 Review: Thoughts on tough 2-1 Rangers loss to Oilers/refs, talent lacking

  1. gail says:

    So I agree with just about everything mentioned and lost my voice at home watching the Oilers game.
    Zucc – less hustle than any game in years past
    Kayes – fly-bys after a first attempt will never get you a rebound
    Buch – please… him. He is lost in our end, like so many other forwards
    Smith – had a few decent games, but really….are we staying with him on D?
    Ziban – great effort – can’t say anything negative except don’t stand closer to the net and miss the rebounds
    Staal – wow, did you get better? Pretty surprising since the last few years have been unwatchable
    Howden – stay…work hard
    Fast – nearly perfect
    Namest- watching a few games past, even the ref asked “what are you doing???”. Guy…think, but not too much – you’re over thinking and not playing with the team
    Kreids – never thought you played with sense and with so much talent, you only shine when the camera has you in focus – otherwise, you’re lost in our end and offer no help to Hank
    Pionk – I think he and Claesson are top notch players
    Shatt – ugh……lazy thoughtless passes will kill us
    Deangelo – good most of the time until a major blunder, but keep him
    McQuaid – jury is out still
    McLeod – really???????
    Lettieri – potential
    Spooner – please……not a good fit
    Vesey – so many will hate me, but I’m just not a fan
    The refs ruined the Kings playoffs (I protested on 6th Ave during the playoffs with my son – 2 neon signs with the rule numbers in black marker for goalie interference and kneeing. I felt the Oilers game was in a similar vein – frustrating and destroyed the integrity of the game.
    NHL has to clean up the inconsistencies on the calls.


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