A play that sums up latest embarrassment to Bruins, lack of production a concern for kids, DeAngelo missed

I’m not exactly feeling great tonight. So, I’ll make it quick. You don’t need to over analyze every game. Some losses speak for themselves. Case in point, the 4-0 humiliation to the Bruins.

It doesn’t matter how you start a game if you don’t score. The Rangers sounded good early with five of the first six shots and more hits. But they couldn’t get to kryptonite Jaro Halak, who again shut them out. So, whatever good they did was for naught.

After Alex Georgiev gave up his daily beach ball- this one to top Bruins finisher David Pastrnak from way out without a screen- they fell behind by a goal. They didn’t respond well. Something that’s occurred several times before against quality opponents. This wasn’t a total meltdown like that 5-1 drubbing to the Pens. But it wasn’t close enough.

On a power play with an opportunity to tie the game, the Rangers again fell apart by allowing a crushing shorthanded goal for the second straight game. This is the play that summed up their night. Watch closely.

You’ll see Brad Marchand skate into open ice in transition with Adam Fox backing up inside his zone. That’s the first problem. Then, Marchand skates towards Pavel Buchnevich, who’s back. In this spot, you want a defenseman to be covering in front of the net.

Marchand wisely isolated Buchnevich so he could attack him. What happens next is just a lazy effort from a good offensive player. On a strong move by the dangerous Marchand, who’s the best shorthanded player since he entered the league, Buchnevich makes a lazy effort at stopping him.

The end result of Buchnevich giving up on the play is the smaller and grittier Marchand going around him like he’s the Tinman. He then finds a wide open Patrice Bergeron in front for an easy put away on a shorthanded goal that put the Bruins up 2-0.

How was he so open? Fox dove down and did a snow angel taking himself out of the play. That’s the Rangers top defenseman. If he’s going to play such a critical play that softly, you’re not gonna win many games.

Fox is easily the best D they have. He’s had a very good second year. However, the lack of physicality is an area he must improve on. Fox entered with single digits in hits. That’s not his game. He needed to be stronger on this particular play by staying on his feet to protect the house.

The shorthanded goal from Bergeron was one the Rangers never recovered from. They would proceed to give up two more Boston goals in a lackluster second period.

First, David Krejci got his first goal of the season on the power play off a one-timer to increase the Bruins lead to 3-0. Then, Jake DeBrusk finished off his first even strength goal in front. He was a healthy scratch last game at the Islanders. He had no trouble getting his second thanks to token resistance from a lost team mentally. That goal finished the Rangers off.

There really was no point in tuning in for anything else. Other than to see if they could spoil the all too predictable Halak shutout. He’s now shutout the Rangers in his last two starts to increase his great record versus them. Is there anything more to add?

Jaro Halak is the Rangers’ Daddy. Pedro Martinez would be proud. Especially with it being Boston versus New York. The only difference is he pitched for the Red Sox against the Yankees. He did at least win a World Series in 2004 to help Boston end the Babe Ruth curse. Sadly, Halak isn’t even close to Martinez in his sport. You’d never know it watching him continue his mastery of the Blueshirts. It never fails.

What did fail was David Quinn, whose new lineup that included the returns of Brendan Lemieux, Libor Hajek and the clearly struggling Georgiev, produced a mind numbing loss. Their third in a row to drop to two under NHL .500. The season is slipping away.

Take a listen to what special guest analyst and former captain Ryan Callahan had to say about that deflating shorthanded goal.

Of course, he’s right. Someone needed to step up and be vocal on the bench. Or lead by example. They didn’t get that. They only totaled 13 shots following a first period that saw them outshoot the Bruins 14-9. They only registered three total shots in the second. That won’t get it done.

Neither will Quinn shuffling his lines like a drunken sailor. It was like he was blindly tossing darts or picking out of a hat. I don’t need to explain any further. It was strange. I want to also point out a very pointed tweet from Steve Vogel. He’s usually on the money. I happen to agree with this harsh assessment.

He’s not wrong. I’ve seen enough Senators games and just enough of the Red Wings to notice a difference in how they play. They aren’t as talented. But the way they attack is a lot more entertaining than how the Rangers or brutal Sabres play. When you look at this team, one of the first things you notice is the lack of structure. Even with the rapid improvement on the penalty kill and defense allowing fewer shots or high danger chances, the lack of structure is still noticeable.

It’s Year Three of “The Rebuild” under Quinn. By now, this shouldn’t be an issue. Yet it still is. So is their mental state when things don’t go right. They fall apart too easily. Until this changes, you can’t feel too confident in the team’s future. They’re wasting the young talent which is under performing. At what point do Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere start to resemble number two and number one picks? It’s concerning.

Why can’t Mika Zibanejad put the puck in the ocean? Don’t use the tired Covid excuse anymore. It’s lazy. What’s happened to him? Granted. His shooting percentage was going to come down from what it was last year. It wasn’t sustainable. But we’re talking about a player who is stuck on three goals and six assists while centering good players. Maybe he should be moved down the lineup.

Aside from the perplexing lack of production, the lack of emotional response against an old rival that beat them for the fourth time in five meetings is demoralizing. Why is this team so easy to play against? They’re not any closer to seriously competing. Hence my tweet on how I feel about a very important off-season this summer.

It’s nice that they now have four lines. I hope they hold onto Julien Gauthier. He continues to improve. I wouldn’t mind Brett Howden or Lemieux going. The latter needs a scenery change while Howden’s offense is nonexistent. Two assists and no goals isn’t progress. This isn’t a knock on how hard he competes. He’s an honest hockey player. But at some point, there has to be some improvement.

Pretty soon, the Rangers will have another former first round pick in Vitaly Kravtsov among the mix of talented young forwards. Is he going to struggle too or will he look more NHL ready due to being 21 and coming off his best pro season for Traktor in the KHL? At some point, these “prospects” have to perform more consistently. As much as I’ve seen growth from both Kakko and Lafreniere, production becomes vital. Filip Chytil has looked better. But he’s in Year Three.

Most discouraging is where they are right now. This isn’t to suggest the year is over. The Rangers played Game 25 of 56. 10-12-3 with 23 points. Nine behind the Bruins and six off the Flyers, who sit on the outside of the top four in the division.

There’s still room for improvement. Here’s the thing. The Rangers have a brutal record versus the Pens and Bruins.

NYR vs Pens 1-3-2

NYR vs Bruins 1-4-0

So, they’ve won twice in 11 games against two of the top four rivals. That won’t get it done. The seven regulation losses make up over half the dozen defeats they have in 60 minutes. Six out of a possible 22 points is putrid. Anyway you slice it, it’s a losing formula.

I’m going to close with this. Unrelated to the hockey, I was already frustrated after watching my Alma mater St. John’s lose in overtime to Seton Hall. That one was tough. They didn’t play well enough to get the win and give themselves a chance at the NCAA Tournament.

At least the young kids showed growth under coach Mike Anderson. If you polled me before the season in which they were picked ninth out of 10 Big East teams, I would’ve gladly signed up for a 10-win season in the division and 16 victories. They will accept a postseason invitation to the NIT if it’s granted. That’s progress for a program that’s not had much going for it.

The point being is at what point do we start to question the Rangers organization on this rebuild. How many more years are they going to finish out of the playoffs? Last year doesn’t count. They got shellacked by the Hurricanes with old friend Brady Skjei ending Jesper Fast’s Rangers career in Game One. Now, they’re reunited in Carolina on a Stanley Cup dark horse. Fast is continuing to do the same things he did here. Think they miss him or Marc Staal?

Is Tony DeAngelo still to blame for everything? They have one good offensive defenseman who’s a legit top pair player in Fox. The rest are not that. That includes the rugged Ryan Lindgren, who I love. It also includes K’Andre Miller, who’s not been as good since his return from COVID Protocol.

Love or hate him, DeAngelo brought more skating and possession along with offense from the back end. Or did we conveniently forget he was fourth among all NHL defensemen in scoring last season? He did a lot of damage at five-on-five and was a good power play quarterback. Fox is too. But imagine not having to misuse Jacob Trouba or Miller on the second unit?

DeAngelo also brought this with him against opponents who took liberties.

He went and challenged a legit heavyweight in the crazy Ross Johnston last year following the Brock Nelson hit on Zibanejad. How did the Rangers do in those games versus the Islanders? Much better.

Until they alter the roster, it’s going to be more of the same. Opponents running roughshod by bumping into the goalies and targeting their top players. It matters.

No three stars or anymore game breakdown tonight. It speaks for itself. The rematch is Saturday afternoon. We better see a response.

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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