Game #45: A furious Quinn blasts Rangers in 7-5 loss to Blue Jackets, Rick Nash Appreciation Night in Columbus the real Highlight

I had it all typed out until I didn’t. Damn copy and paste along with quick auto save drafts. I’m not gonna redo it. I’ll just be quick.

In regards to Sunday’s game, coach David Quinn summed it up best.

He was upset with his team for coming out with that as he put it following three more inspired games, including the 2-1 win over the Islanders in the rematch at Brooklyn. I’ve never seen him that angry. He reminds me of John Tortorella, who fittingly was on the other side of the bench, getting his Blue Jackets to overcome a uneven Sergei Bobrovsky in a ugly 7-5 win over the Rangers at Nationwide Arena.

Tortorella has always been fiery. Quinn has many of the same characteristics. It’s not easy to come over from the college ranks where he ran a successful program with Boston University, and take over a rebuilding NHL team like the Rangers. By Game 45, it should be clear to the players how they’re expected to perform. Sunday night was unacceptable. It was like they just forgot how to play. Particularly in the defensive zone where Quinn chastised them.

He really didn’t like the lack of compete. In his words, “They [Blue Jackets] won every battle and came out with every puck.” He also added that he wouldn’t burn the tape. “Absolutely not. I want them to watch and learn from it. … We’re gonna get after it.”

It’s amazing I can even remember the details following the accidental erasing of my game review. But the Quinn presser was memorable. He is no nonsense and will not tolerate any crap. He proved it by benching Chris Kreider for the rest of the second period on Saturday following a unnecessary interference minor penalty in the offensive zone. He leads the team with 21 goals, getting number 21 in last night’s yuck fest. Boo Nieves was a bright spot, getting the assist on sheer hustle that led to Kreider undressing Bobrovsky, who returned to the Columbus net following a one-game suspension due to a off ice incident. Buyer beware. He was very beatable. Think Ilya Bryzgalov. That’s who he reminds me of.

For the 18 skaters to do that in front of Alexandar Georgiev, who got a very different team on Saturday, in a back-to-back, was insulting. He said it isn’t fun to be in net for five or six goals. He was in for all seven and played well. What does that exactly say?

There wasn’t much going on. Mats Zuccarello continued to play like his old self scoring twice (6, 7) on the top line. Many of the players on this roster will be long gone in two years. For Zuccarello, it’ll be very soon with the February 25 trade deadline six weeks away.

Kevin Hayes missed his sixth consecutive game with the mysterious upper body injury he sustained against the Penguins. It’s too bad because he was having his best season with 32 points in 39 games. It’s almost a certainty GM Jeff Gorton will trade him next month. The sad aspect is how important Hayes has become to the team. It’s no coincidence that they’ve lost six of seven since he left the Pittsburgh game. Five of the last six.

The Rangers continue to take too many ill advised penalties. The penalty kill was up to the challenge for a second game in a row. In fact, Columbus fans booed their hideous power play, which only seems to show up in overtime with one less skater. They got Tortorella his 600th career NHL win a few days ago in a 4-3 overtime win over Nashville on a Artemi Panarin game-winner. Tortorella got a nice video tribute from some coaches including former assistant Mike Sullivan, who gave him credit for the coach he is. Of course, Tortorella deflected the attention after captain Nick Foligno got him the game puck. Instead, he pointed to it being a big two points that gave them 53. They’re now up to 57.

I hope some day, Quinn becomes successful using a similar style. He obviously is dead serious after games like last night. He indicated to reporters that he wished he could hold a practice and throw pucks in the corner to see who would come out with them. When the coach says they lost everything battle and refers to it as a “freaking joke,” you know it’s bad.

No more was it evident than following Jimmy Vesey getting his 11th on a rebound for his first goal in eight. On the next shift, Vesey and Mika Zibanejad both watched Foligno come around the net and bank in a wraparound for his second of the game to seal the deal. At the moment, Georgiev was hoping to come off for an extra skater. Instead, another lost battle cost them.

The Rangers were without Fredrik Claesson and Adam McQuaid. Claesson left Saturday’s game with a injury due to a tough Matt Martin hit into the boards. McQuaid couldn’t go following his astonishing blocked shot in the win he stayed in. So, that meant Brendan Smith and Neal Pionk.

Predictably, Smith was lousy paired up with the woeful Kevin Shattenkirk. They each got turned around on a couple of Columbus goals. I’m not bothering with a breakdown. Some losses just aren’t worth it. It’s bad enough have to rewrite this. As our resident New Jersey blogger Hasan knows all too well from some of his Devils write ups, it’s not worth the time when it’s that bad. The score speaks for itself. All seven Blue Jackets goals came at even strength. Yikes.

Regarding Shattenkirk, I can’t think of a good player who suddenly took such a downturn after signing at a still young age. He’s broken down. I never wanted him here like most of the Corsica crowd. They must not have watched him with the Capitals as a rental in the 2017 NHL Playoffs. Barry Trotz was right. There’s a reason he played third pair and was featured on the power play.

The sad aspect is Shattenkirk was good with the Blues before the trade. He just isn’t the same player. It’s not because he doesn’t care. He signed with the Rangers to come home where he idolized the franchise’s best player, Brian Leetch. It just hasn’t worked out. Some fairytales don’t end well. He’d be better off elsewhere. On a contender that can use a capable offensive defenseman who can play power play. As long as his shifts at even strength are micromanaged, he should be more successful. Once the Rangers became sellers last year, it hasn’t been the right situation. He has two years left on his deal.

The one positive I like is Quinn recognizing that Ryan Strome deserved more minutes. By moving him up to center the second line with Filip Chytil and Jesper Fast, it’s worked well so far. Strome scored his sixth as a Blueshirt and fourth since the New Year. Chytil made a good centering feed that Strome finished. Strome has earned the promotion with better play. He is even playing shorthanded without Hayes.

While he’s worked harder consistently, Pavel Buchnevich continues to find himself on the fourth line. He got less than 10 minutes on Sunday and again didn’t have a shot on goal. He will need to work harder to get back the ice-time he was receiving not long ago.

Pionk has really struggled over the past month. He’s been victimized quite a bit with partner Marc Staal. It’s easy to forget Pionk’s only 23. Don’t forget he was miscast on the top pair. That’s not his fault. He does compete hard and sacrifice the body for a undersized D. But he needs work. He can play power play and is a good skater. In a different role, he could do better.

Pionk worked with Brady Skjei, whose play has steadied since he got paired with McQuaid. Tony DeAngelo worked with Staal for the second straight game.

There’s not much else to add on the game portion. No 3 Stars. Only 1 Giant 🌟. That goes to now retired former Ranger and Blue Jacket Rick Nash. Over the weekend, he announced his retirement through his agent citing the advice of doctors due to still experiencing symptoms from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). It’s both haunting and sad. But also speaks to the harsh reality of the risks of playing the sport. One that blind commissioner Gary Bettman continues to ignore as long as the cash is rolling in. Shameful.

Nash retires at only 34. He wasn’t willing to risk the long-term effects of his head injuries to play. Long-term health is more important with a family that includes by his wife and three children. A smart decision.

When I think of Rick Nash, I think of the outstanding hockey player he was who excited fans with his endless rushes and array of moves that resulted in highlight reel goals. In a word that certainly Garden Faithful associated with him, Nashty.

Selected number one overall in the 2002 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets, he became the face of the franchise. A special player with unique talent, he could get people out of their seats. A three-time 40-goal scorer who had 30-or-more eight times in a 15-year All-Star career, Nash won one Rocket Richard and still wound up with 437 goals in 1,060 games. He finished with 437 goals, 368 assists and 805 points with mostly the Blue Jackets and Rangers before finishing with the Bruins last year as a rental.

I’m glad Nash had one more special moment with the team that he meant so much to. Prior to the game, he came out with his family and dropped the ceremonial first puck between Foligno and Staal to well deserved cheers from the Columbus crowd. He still resides there.

Nash never was that successful in the postseason after coming over on July 23, 2012 for a package that included Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky. Not every player is in the playoffs. I don’t think of his struggle in the 2014 run when he scored three goals on 83 shots. Sometimes, that’s how it goes. It’s not his near miss that I remember in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Kings. It’s Kreider missing a breakaway I thought he was scoring on in sudden death. But Jonathan Quick stoned him. The rest is painful history.

Nash was better in a excellent ’14-15 that saw him set a career best with 42 goals while leading the league with 32 even strength goals. In a season he put up 69 points, Nash also had four shorthanded goals and eight game-winners. Don’t forget before a slow finish, some felt he was a Hart candidate. In the postseason, he went 5-9-14 with a plus-eight rating in 19 games. It’s unfortunate that the Conference Final is best remembered for what didn’t happen in Games 5 and 7 versus Tampa Bay. Nash was very good for that team that year at 30.

It’s hard to believe four years later, he’s gone for good. He’ll never play another game or experience the rush of the MSG crowd for a playoff game as he put it to MSG reporter John Giannone. It sucks. But it’s for the best. Now, Nash can have some peace and move on to the second phase of his life. What a first chapter it was.

For the Blue Jackets, he had 289 goals with 258 assists for a total of 547 points in 674 games. That included two seasons of 40-or-more goals, a career best 19 power play goals at 19 in ’03-04, and a career high 79 points (40-39-79) at 24 in ’08-09.

In 375 games as a Ranger, he scored 145 goals and 107 assists for 252 points with a plus-64 rating. Of his 145 goals, 111 came at even strength with another eight shorthanded. He was a complete player who could be counted on to play five-on-five, power play and penalty kill. He was a good shorthanded player totaling 22 shorthanded goals with 14 coming as a Blue Jacket.

Had injuries not impacted him, he would’ve scored 600 and been a Hall of Fame lock. Unfortunately, he’ll probably fall short. He’ll always be a great team guy with a terrific attitude. Nash was well liked. Without hesitation, I do the trade again. Stick taps to No. 61!

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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