Game #52: Rangers see shadow in frustrating 4-3 overtime loss to Kings

Groundhog Day just passed. The good news is Chuck didn’t see his shadow, which means an early Spring. Given how nice the weather is, maybe there’s some truth to that. If only that were true when it comes to the annoying Kings. Once again, the Rangers saw their shadow in a frustrating 4-3 overtime loss that looked all too familiar.

I don’t have the words to describe how I feel about that team. It’s not fit for this blog. So, it’s better left unsaid. It’s strange. But I can take losing to almost anyone. Not that team. Never ever. Even if both rosters have gone through major overhauls since that 2014 Stanley Cup, I can’t stand them.

How much have the two rosters changed? Try this on for size. Fourteen players are left who participated in tonight’s game. I put the trivia up on my Twitter page. It stumped many. The Rangers had six players left over. Five were pretty easy to get. Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, and Jesper Fast. The sixth actually played for the opposing side. He wore his trademark number 62. Carl Hagelin. As for the Kings, they still have eight. Even after Jake Muzzin was dealt to the Maple Leafs last week, the holdovers include Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez and Kyle Clifford.

It’s funny, but my trivia was more interesting than the game. Who wants to read about an all too predictable loss to the team we can’t stand? Neither do I. Besides, I saw what coach David Quinn said about how this team often acts like they’re up 5-1 instead of 2-1. He’s right. They didn’t play for 60 minutes, blowing three different one goal leads in the process while only winding up with three shots in a disappointing third period.

When you only have one line going, you’re not gonna win most nights. Even if for a majority of the game, the Rangers were the better skating team. It doesn’t matter if Quinn dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Relying on Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello can only get you so far. They were on for two of the three goals.

Zibanejad continued his torrid pace scoring his 21st goal and recording assist number 31 to give him a new career high in points with 52. He’s been unbelievable. It couldn’t happen to a nicer player, who still has three years remaining on that bargain of a contract that pays him an average of $5.35 million through 2022. It’s obvious that he shouldn’t go anywhere. Neither should Kreider unless they think power forwards with his skill set grow on trees. You can’t trade everyone.

As for Zuccarello, he picked up a primary assist on Zibanejad’s goal that made it 2-1. Zuccarello has played some exceptional hockey. He extended his point streak to eight giving him 14 points (5-9-14) over that span. Since Jan. 8 when he tallied a helper against Vegas, Zuccarello has 15 points in the last 10 games. That’s more than half his point total of 29 in 38 games. A very popular player, the 31-year old veteran will be moved before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Maybe he decides to return on a short term deal this summer. We’ll see. He loves it here.

Kevin Hayes knows his days are also numbered. The smart two-way pivot has continued to play well. With 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points over 43 contests, the 26-year old forward is in high demand by contenders with Winnipeg and Boston at the top of the list. A big payday is ahead for Hayes, who’ll turn 27 on May 8.

It’s ironic that Adam McQuaid scored his first goal as a Blueshirt to put them up 3-2 in the third. He’s played some gritty and tough hockey on a blueline that needs it. Unfortunately, it looks like the popular character veteran will likely go as well. The former Bruin could find a new home soon. Toronto is said to have interest even after adding Muzzin, who recorded three points in a 6-1 Leafs blowout win over the woeful Ducks.

There could be other candidates on the Rangers current roster that could get traded. There aren’t many untouchables. With the exception of Filip Chytil and Henrik Lundqvist, anything is possible. Marc Staal has a limited no trade clause that includes eight teams he won’t accept a deal to. It would take something extraordinary for the veteran leader of a young D to go this season. He’s signed through 2021 making $6 million with a cap hit of $5.7 million.

Kevin Shattenkirk also has two years left with an even higher cap hit of $6.65 million. Yikes. To the recently turned 30-year old’s credit, he has played better. But the lack of production is alarming. He only has two goals and 12 assists in 45 games. A good skating and offensive defenseman, it hasn’t worked out for Shattenkirk playing for the hometown team he rooted for that won the Cup in 1994. He’ll at least get to experience what that era was like when the ’93-94 championship team is celebrated 25 years later on Friday.

It’s disappointing that no one has stepped up to contribute on the other three lines. Pavel Buchnevich had that one assist on Zibanejad’s hat trick last week. But he’s been fairly quiet since being elevated to the Hayes line with Fast, who’s been taking too many unnecessary penalties. The Ryan Strome unit with Chytil and the ever snake bit Vladislav Namestnikov continues to cycle effectively and generate opportunities, but has gone cold.

On the fourth line with Boo Nieves, Jimmy Vesey played better in his nine-plus minutes, but remains stuck on 11 goals.

The only player who did something was Tony DeAngelo. In his return after missing two games, he made a great pass to set up Kreider’s team-leading 24th for a 1-0 lead. DeAngelo looks like the best young defenseman they have. He continues to improve at making good plays and get better overall.

There’s not much else to add. Especially when Adrian Kempe ties the game with 59 seconds left on a blown coverage. Then, he assists on Toffoli’s overtime winner following Zibanejad hitting the far goalpost. That’s the way it always goes versus that team.


3rd 🌟 Tyler Toffoli, Kings (overtime winner plus a helper)

2nd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, Rangers (goal and assist giving him career best 52 points)

1st 🌟 Adrian Kempe, Kings (2 goals and an assist)

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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