It’s suicide watch on All Hallows Eve for Rangers fans. Pavel Buchnevich is a healthy scratch for the second time under coach David Quinn when the Rangers visit the Sharks later tonight.
Buchnevich got the only assist on Vladislav Namestnikov’s first goal of the season in a frustrating 4-3 loss to the Kings on Sunday. He also recently scored his third goal on a rebound. To be perfectly honest, the 23-year old enigmatic Russian right wing has been underwhelming in his third year. He has five points (3-2-5) in 10 games.
On a low scoring team, the three goals are tied with Jimmy Vesey, who remains a fixture in the lineup due to his more straight forward game. He works hard, but doesn’t have good hands. If he did, Vesey would be close to 10 goals. There lies the problem. There isn’t a whole lot of talent on the current 23-man roster. When Cody McLeod is playing regularly on the fourth line, it speaks volumes. He brings energy to his shifts and toughness, which Quinn prefers. But he’s not part of the future.
How many Rangers are? Mika Zibanejad leads them in scoring with nine points. But even he’s been up and down. His line was quiet at Los Angeles. So, it’s been changed again with Namestnikov getting his chance on the number one line with Mats Zuccarello. Chris Kreider will stay with Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner. Hayes works hard in all areas including the penalty kill, but is stuck on two goals. Spooner just scored his first goal on a great shift to tie the Kings the other day with under four minutes remaining.
If only the bitter conclusion had been better. I’m tired of Alec Martinez. A lot went wrong on that play including Brendan Smith and Kevin Shattenkirk backing in while Kreider waved his stick at Martinez, who snapped home the crushing game-winner with 54.8 seconds left. Quinn went ballistic over how easy it is for opponents to skate into his team’s zone. He’s right. He took responsibility for the latest bench minor that cost them the lead. That’s six too many men on the ice penalties. Way too many.
It’s hard to watch the Rangers right now. Think going to the dentist for a checkup. It’s that bad. But they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. At 3-7-1 with seven points, they’re one of the worst teams in the league. So, if Quinn feels Buchnevich needs to sit out another game because he’s not playing the way he expects him to, that’s fine by me.
I didn’t see it coming. Maybe that’s what’s so surprising. Buchnevich hardly played in the third period the other day. It’s clear that another coach doesn’t fully trust him at five-on-five. He’s still a work in progress but people overrated him. He doesn’t take the body at all. A key missing element that’s been ignored by the charts people. You can’t always measure someone’s heart by pointing to analytics.
Look at the effort Brett Howden gives every game. The 20-year old rookie center busts his ass daily. You never have to question his effort level. It’s always there. Quinn wants his team to break the bad habits and become more consistent. That’s how it should be. Instill a harder work ethic.
Those who don’t get it will be gone. That includes the talented Buchnevich, who is getting by on skill only. It isn’t about production. If it were, Marc Staal would’ve been gone a long time ago. You know why he doesn’t sit? Because he plays the game the right way. He doesn’t mail in shifts and takes the body.
If we really are being fair, the most overpaid player right now plays right defense and is in the second year of a nice contract. I’m referring to Shattenkirk, who must be better than one good game where he had his only two assists and a shootout winner. Tony DeAngelo has out played him in three games with a goal and three assists. That’s not a ringing endorsement. But everybody wanted Shattenkirk because he was the local kid, who grew up idolizing Brian Leetch. Maybe Barry Trotz was right.
How would you feel if you were Henrik Lundqvist? He plays his tail off every game, but has already shown frustration after a couple of goals allowed. Can you blame him? He’s saying all the right things following games because King Henrik is accountable. He’s the emotional leader of this younger team.
It isn’t easy. It wasn’t supposed to be. When the Blueshirts face San Jose later, I fully expect the Sharks to avenge an earlier overtime loss at MSG. Joe Thornton is back. Timo Meier is scoring, and the teal are playing better.
When Buchnevich returns, who’ll be the next Quinn victim? Certainly not Michael Myers or Jason. Trick or treat.