Game #9: Rock bottom for humiliated Blueshirts in ugly home loss to Bruins


AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy WEEI

In the twenty plus years I’ve attended games with my family, I’ve seen my share of stinkers. The Dark Ages (’98-04) were full of them. Tonight’s abysmal second period may as well have been during that horrorbull error era. It was embarrassing. With the lone exception of Brendan Smith, who was somehow the team’s best player, this was a total humiliation.

By the end, the Bruins had so outclassed the Rangers that the final tally of 7-4 didn’t do it justice. The really pathetic part is when we got back to the car following the long walk after Boston’s sixth goal, you heard the clowns on MSG radio try to go full spin mode due to a pair of goals in garbage time. I want to single out former Rangers playoff hero Pete Stemkowski for not being one of those jokers. He told it like it was. So does John Giannone and Dave Maloney. That’s it.

Rather than do a full recap of the mess that was left behind at Madison Square Garden, I want to reveal what Henrik Lundqvist said about how brutal the effort was in the pathetic second period that started with a strange Patrice Bergeron goal after he was bumped into by David Pastrnak. The great Bruins finisher was tripped up from behind by Libor Hajek, who was one of a few kids who got badly exposed against that Boston first line of Bergeron (hat trick), Pastrnak (5 assists) and Brad Marchand (2-3-5).

In a very serious tone, a frustrated Lundqvist discussed at length how they have to compete better. Especially when it comes to top tier opponents like tonight’s opponent. He made sure to praise the Bruins top line for how good they are. Utterly dominant and complete in all facets. He also indicated that they must keep it simple to have a chance in these games. He’s right. Even if he showed clear frustration over getting bowled over by Pastrnak on Bergeron’s tying goal 11 seconds into the second period (incidental contact should’ve wiped the goal out), Lundqvist spoke about how they weren’t even close to where they need to be. It was 💯 percent truth.

This wasn’t about the goalie on Sunday evening. Rather about the team and how disappointing they played. They should feel ashamed too. Boston was the team playing a second consecutive night following a 3-0 shutout of the Blues in a Stanley Cup rematch. The Rangers had over 48 hours to prepare. It really did them a lot of good.

Jesper Fast didn’t play. It was for personal reasons. Boy was he lucky. They could’ve used him actually. He plays with lots of grit and hustle. There wasn’t much of that at The Garden. Other than Smith, goal scorer Micheal Haley and Lias Andersson, there wasn’t much compete from the other skaters. I hate to say that, but it was that bad.

Adding further insult to injury, top center Mika Zibanejad left the contest during the first period after taking a Bergeron hit. I saw him bent over in the far corner and knew it wasn’t good. He still was in the same position at the bench. Coach David Quinn did indicate that it isn’t a concussion during the postgame. Hot tip to Rick Carpinello. What the injury is we don’t know. Hopefully, it’s not serious. They’d be in big trouble without Zibanejad.

Before I get into the rest of the awful middle period where it looked like most of the players forgot to take their Zoloft, I’d like to give some credit to the fourth line. For half the first period, there wasn’t much going on. The Rangers were without a shot until Smith wisely threw a simple low one on Jaro Halak that he butchered. That allowed Haley to score his first on a rebound for a 1-0 lead. Andersson drew an assist for his first point of the season. He played hard throughout, but like many teammates, got lost in coverage on a Boston goal.

It would be easy to point to the controversial first Bruins goal as the turning point. However, Jacob Trouba was culpable after going for one of those big hits on Pastrnak and coming up empty. He took himself right out of the play and the end result was Pastrnak with a strong drive to force an off balance Lundqvist save. Due to a sliding Hajek tripping him up, that allowed Bergeron plenty of time to backhand in his first of the game. Rather than debate further on it, I want to single out Trouba. He had a bad game. He’s supposed to be the man on the defense. He finished minus-three while younger partner Hajek looked overmatched.

On the Marchand goal at 1:08 that suddenly gave Boston a 2-1 lead, nobody laid a body on him. Both Tony DeAngelo and Pavel Buchnevich were there, but had a communication breakdown at the wrong time. The end result was a layup for Marchand. More confusion due to nobody being able to recover and clear the puck following a pair of Lundqvist saves resulted in Charlie Coyle making it 3-1. This was brutal. The less said about it, the better.

What followed was the very interesting sequence between Lundqvist and Pastrnak. Perhaps due to being out of his mind, he went after Pastrnak and landed a right shoulder into the shocked Bruins power forward. This wasn’t no accident. Lundqvist went for the hit and landed, leading to some chaos with an incensed Marchand. In a rare occurrence, Lundqvist and Marchand were given matching roughing minors.

Of course, Marchand scored his second of the night as soon as he returned. On another sustained Boston attack, Coyle circled the net and was able to find an open Marchand for an easy finish. At that point, Quinn had seen enough. He used his timeout and did some screaming at the bench. It was too late. I thought he should’ve took it after the third straight Bruins goal. They were teetering against one of the league’s best teams.

Lundqvist got the third off. Alexandar Georgiev replaced him and was rudely greeted by a wicked Zdeno Chara one-time blast off the post. Pastrnak set him up at 43 seconds. At 5-1, I knew we weren’t staying for the whole thing.

A nice dish across from DeAngelo led to Buchnevich burying his second to cut the deficit to three. Artemiy Panarin set it up to earn the other assist. As for Buchnevich, he had a weird game. He went for a big check early and got the worst of it with Charlie McAvoy. He blew an assignment on a goal. He also stripped Marchand and had a clean breakaway, but somehow missed the net with the entire top staring at him. I have no idea how he didn’t score. In the same shift, he drew a tripping minor on Pastrnak. Then finally scored later. In his fourth season, the talented Russian remains a frustrating player. Some shifts, it’s there. Others, he floats. He needs to shoot the puck more instead of making the extra pass. One sequence with Ryan Strome was ridiculous.

When Pastrnak and Marchand combined to set up Bergeron’s second on another easy play that made one wonder if they were practicing, that was enough. Who cares about the goals Chris Kreider and Skjei scored. They came with under two minutes left. I don’t care to look. I’ll see a replay.

All it did was lead to Bergeron scoring an empty netter to complete his hat trick. The game’s best two-way center of this generation is a great player. Also happens to be one of my favorite players to watch.

That will do it. No highlights. No GIFs. No postgame. This was totally embarrassing. At least I met some cool Finnish hockey fans in our section, who appreciated my old school Starter Esa Tikkanen home white jersey. Nice fans. I also had a cool conversation with a MSG employee about Derek Sanderson and the first Expansion. Good guy.

Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟:

3rd 🌟 David Pastrnak, Bruins (5 🍎, +4 in 17:05)

2nd 🌟 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (hat trick, #’s 3, 4, 5, 15/20 face-offs, +3 in 18:08)

1st 🌟 Brad Marchand, Bruins (2-3-5, +5 in 17:05)

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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