Game #41: The dead of winter for Rangers in ugly 5-0 loss to howling Coyotes

Let’s face facts. This season is quickly becoming exactly what was anticipated. How low can they go? The Rangers have been so bad that I cannot even watch without it becoming cringe worthy. I was already distracted by a very good World Junior Championship won by Finland in a wild finish over Team USA on Saturday night by a score of 3-2. The Finns deserved the gold medal after outplaying our country until a stirring comeback. But Kaapo Kakko scored the winner with 1:26 left in regulation to give Suomi the gold.

If you want to read about a great game played in Vancouver, please click on the link above. You won’t be disappointed. Even though USA lost in excruciating fashion, it was still fun to recap. It truly is a great tournament that gives hockey fans the very best of today’s young players, who could become tomorrow’s stars. I knew it wouldn’t be easy for the Americans to get an elusive fifth gold medal. Finland was better when it counted. Kudos to them. Don’t forget Kakko is vying for the top overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Jack Hughes (4 assists in 4 games) had a good tournament, but a injury kept him out of three preliminary matches. He nearly was the hero following Josh Norris tying the game from Sasha Chmelevski.

Sometimes, it doesn’t always go your way. Speaking of which, the Rangers’ latest loss was awful, embarrassing, humiliating and ugly all rolled into one. After getting shellacked in Colorado 6-1 with poor Alexandar Georgiev in for the whole game, they decided to play even worse in a 5-0 shutout defeat to the world-beater Coyotes. I kid because you cannot make this stuff up. Embattled coach David Quinn decided to give Henrik Lundqvist the start against journeyman Darcy Kuemper. In the past, we would’ve laughed our asses off at the match-up. Not anymore. These days, it doesn’t seem to matter who Lundqvist goes against. It’s no laughing matter.

How bad was this afternoon game that was scheduled against what turned out to be the best wildcard game of the weekend between the annoying Eagles and heartbroken Bears? On a scale of 1-10, I’d put our game at a minus-six. In football weather terms, that would be six below zero. In hockey terms, a minus-six refers to plus/minus rating. Were there any positives? Not when you get embarrassed by the mediocre Coyotes. They got shutout by five goals and the shots were 40-23. That included a lopsided margin of 33-14 the first two mindless periods when they watched Lundqvist give up all five goals on 32 shots. Georgiev replaced him before the second period was out.

I have no idea how Lundqvist is handling all these losses. Fact is on March 2, he will turn 37. After standing on his head in wins over Nashville and St. Louis stopping a ridiculous 73 of 77 shots to close out the 2018 calendar year, he’s been pelted for an ungodly 11 goals on 50 shots in blowout losses to Pittsburgh and Arizona. He didn’t last the entirety in either start. I’m not gonna bother doing the math on what it did to his GAA and save percentage.

At one point, his goals-against-average was around 2.51 and the save percentage was about .918. Now, he has a GAA over 3.00 and a save percentage under .910. Of course, he has no shutouts. Something that’s become a Ranger trademark when he starts. Long gone are the days when Lundqvist could post five to six shutouts a season. How bad has it become? Try four total shutouts since the start of ’16-17 over a combined 147 starts.

If you are him, why even stick around? It’s a unmitigated disaster. In the last three losses, the Rangers have been outscored 18-3. At least they competed against the Penguins despite the all too predictable lopsided 7-2 final score. The past two games have been unfathomable. Here’s how bad, sad and mad it’s become. By the time I put yesterday’s game on after watching the end of a weird Chargers win over the Ravens, it was 1-0 Arizona. As soon as I channel flipped, Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk fumbled the puck around and let Mario Lemieux Kempe score to make it 2-0. I immediately switched to Hasan’s Devils to see how they were doing in Vegas. I saw the hilarious goal by Ben “Coffey” Lovejoy that put them up 2-0. They lost after I tuned out.

I didn’t watch the rest of the first period of the game. My brother has the MSG Go App. He put it on just in time for yet another Coyotes goal. This time it was mere mortal Conor Garland, who got his second of the game. I had never heard of him until the other day when he scored against the Devils in Arizona’s shootout loss to Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford. Now, he’s a household name when he faces the awful Hudson rivals. Three of his five goals have come against both.

Trailing by three, Neal Pionk decided to fight Josh Archibald. Or maybe it was the other way around. Pionk received an extra minor for cross-checking Archibald. Archibald is a tough customer. I haven’t even looked at the scrap until now.

He didn’t do too badly. At least he cares. It’s really a sad situation with the blueline. Shattenkirk has been a disaster. Brendan Smith is no better. The sooner these two are gone, the better off this team will be for the future. No disrespect to either. I know they’re giving a honest effort. But neither fit into the team’s plans. So, if they have to pick up part of Shattenkirk’s remainder of his deal that doesn’t expire until 2021, so be it. It’s a tough cap hit of $6.65 million with another $10 million owed once this season is over. We’re only at the halfway point. Smith’s AAV is $4.35 million with over $9 million owed thru 2021. Maybe they’re showcasing both. It doesn’t make sense to keep scratching Fredrik Claesson, who’s been one of their most effective D along with the more movable Marc Staal. Adam McQuaid is also tradable.

At some point, they have to move a couple of these vets and give John Gilmour (10 goals with Hartford) another look. He can’t be any worse. I don’t want to rush either Libor Hajek or Ryan Lindgren. Neither are ready. I wouldn’t mind seeing soon to be 22-year old Brandon Crawley. But all this is just a guessing game.

By the time the second concluded, the Coyotes had added two more goals off the sticks of Clayton Keller (only his ninth) and Alex Galchenyuk (1-2-3) to chase Lundqvist. Georgiev made eight saves the rest of the way.

I want to leave this response by Chris Kreider on what part of the problem is. It’s very telling.

That’s your next captain.

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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