Rangers left blue after costly one-goal loss to Flyers, Morin gets winner to ruin good game from Shestyorkin, Adios Lemieux! Hell-o Kravtsov!


Sam Morin said his first NHL goal (seen above) is “probably the best moment of his career.” The second best one was provided by the clueless NHL Player Safety making this magic moment possible. Or ugly one if you root for the Rangers. AP Photo by Flyers courtesy Getty Images

This is one to forget. The Rangers should burn the tape or DVD. In what amounted to a costly one-goal loss, they fell to the Flyers 2-1 in Philadelphia this afternoon. That ended their recent dominance over the Flyers, who were much more determined throughout and earned the win in front of some home fans.

Even worse, Sam Morin got the game-winner with 4:27 left in regulation. The same big physical defenseman who was let off the hook by NHL Player Safety. Somehow, they didn’t think an irate Morin instigating a fight and pulling Brendan Lemieux’s hair while driving him into the ice, merited a suspension.

This is the total ineptitude you’re dealing with. It’s been that way for years. They might be called “Player Safety.” But it’s a crock. The NHL doesn’t care what happens to its players. Or how many more dirty hits will noted headhunter Ryan Reaves get away with? I guess because he plays for Vegas, it doesn’t matter. It’s a serious issue that isn’t going away. Neither are cheap shots like the slewfoot Travis Konecny delivered on Mika Zibanejad post whistle to take him down.

None of this explains why the Rangers lost to an opponent they dominated the last two games. But I warned that they had to be ready to play in the Saturday early matinee rematch. There was no way they were going to blow the doors off their Philly rival a third straight time. It was unrealistic. That’s why I expected it to be a closer fought lower scoring game. However, for as glass half empty as I can be considering some fan expectations, I thought they’d win. I told my brother 4-2. In fact, I might’ve tweeted it. Oh well.

It didn’t matter that Igor Shestyorkin played well throughout finishing with 35 saves on 37 shots. An all too predictable goal from the player who shouldn’t have played wound up as the deciding tally. As easy as it is to blast the league for another failure to discipline a player, it’s even easier to blame the Rangers for allowing this clown to score his first NHL goal. If I sound mad, it’s because I am. How did they let Morin beat them? Never mind. Is it really a surprise considering how many first goals this team has given up over the years?

That assessment above from lone goalscorer Zibanejad sums up what happened perfectly. It’s unacceptable at this point in the season for the team to get out-worked and out-grinded. Give credit to the Flyers for deciding to show up and save Alain Vigneault’s job. Well at least for now. They remain three behind the Bruins due to Boston scoring twice in a come from behind 3-2 win over the Sabres, who have now lost 17 consecutive games. Or if you’re one of those nerdy reporters who must go by the ridiculous NHL logic, winless in 17 (0-15-2). Whatever that means. 🙄 If you’re like me, you don’t care about such warped logic.

What else would you expect from a league that celebrates every little thing except ever daring to recognize mental health. I’m not knocking them for acknowledging how important Black History Month and Women’s Month are. They’re well done along with Hockey Fights Cancer, which really should have an entire month to itself. That affects all people. My point is the NHL should have a Mental Health Awareness night or week. Canada does it with its #BellLetsTalk initiative. How come it’s never recognized in the United States where many are suffering from anxiety and depression? Go ask Daniel Carcillo how he feels about this hypocritical league. Or do I have to cite the tough guys who they pushed that are no longer with us? It’s too sad.

I think I made my point. That is probably going to be better than the actual game of which I saw little of until the determining third period. All I had to do was watch it to realize one thing. ‘They’re not winning this.’ I was just hoping for them to take it to overtime. If only that had been the case. We wouldn’t be sitting here perplexed by the end result. One that damaged their playoff hopes. You know my feeling on this team. It hasn’t changed. Beating out the Bruins would be miraculous. They have games at hand and still play the Sabres six more times. I don’t think the Flyers are making it unless they catch fire and beat out the banged up Pens.

I know the Flyers were the much better team today. I saw the commentary in our fun group chat on Twitter. Here’s a sampling from the level-headed people who live and die with this team.

Michael is usually on the money in his assessments when it comes to our team. AKA Esquire. He doesn’t pull any punches. Neither does JD. The bottom line is if you’re facing the same opponent you just embarrassed for a second time in over a week for a combined score of 17-3, there’s no way you can’t expect an opponent that’s a close rival to push back. The Flyers took liberties at the end of the last game some 36 hours ago. The message should’ve been received. Why the players were so unprepared I don’t know. Maybe they thought it would be easy. Or perhaps they forgot it was Kris Knoblauch behind the bench and not David Quinn, who could be back for tomorrow’s do or die match-up against the Caps. A team that only loses to the Rangers. But beats everyone else. You know Alexander Ovechkin will be out for redemption.

The Rangers are 3-1 versus Washington. The next two are against the Caps with Tuesday’s rematch at Mask Square Garden sponsored by CDC and PCR. What a joke that is. I don’t think it’s fair to be honest. I wouldn’t even have fans. This country is so backwards in dealing with the pandemic. Look at Canada. There are no fans at arenas yet. As it should be. They actually care about health and safety first and don’t con fans, who are spending more money. I will never attend a game until this whole ordeal is over. When that is I have as much of a clue as President Biden and Corrupt Cuomo. I don’t believe in putting myself at risk. To those who do, good luck. Be careful.

As you can tell, I don’t have much to say about this game. I’m going to make some general comments. I know Zibanejad scored again to give him 15 points (7-8-15) versus the Flyers. That’s over half his production. For the year, he’s up to 11-16-27 in 33 games. The two gigantic natural hat trick, six-point performances largely responsible for his turnaround. It’s great to see him playing like the dangerous top center we saw last year. Interestingly, he has four points (2-2-4) in 4 games vs the Caps. Everyone else in the division, it’s two or fewer. Obviously, he must continue his re-emergence when they play the other five opponents following the pair against the boys from DC.

Zibanejad scored the Rangers’ only goal on the power play. It was again from Ryan Strome and Adam Fox. The identical combination who were involved in all three of Mika’s power play goals for his second hat trick against the Flyers since the Saint Patty’s Day Philadelphia Massacre. While it’s nice to have our top three guns of late involved in the scoring, that means they got nothing out of Artemi Panarin, Pavel Buchnevich or Chris Kreider. Two of which didn’t record a single shot. That can’t happen. This team plays much better when both Buchnevich and Kreider are involved. Neither registered a shot. As a team, the Blueshirts got 25 on Brian Elliott including just 19 at even strength. He must’ve felt like he was on vacation.

From what I gathered, there was too much passing going on. Not enough shooting or urgency. That is usually a recipe for disaster. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 37-25 for the game. They also controlled play at five-on-five by launching 31 even strength shots at Shestyorkin, who only permitted the weird one to sniper Morin which frustratingly determined the outcome. Maybe if Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith didn’t screw up on the coverage, that goal never happens. I fail to see how the fourth line was caught on for that late goal. That’s a complete failure. I can’t put it on Quinn. So I guess Knoblauch screwed up. That isn’t the first time that’s happened. Buchnevich was on with Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell, who might come out of the lineup for Vitaly Kravtsov. If logic prevailed, that’s what should happen. But these are your New York Rangers. Where Alexis Lafreniere winds up with 11 minutes and not a single second on the little used second power play unit. And we wonder why the much ballyhooed top pick hasn’t reached double digits in points. What a joke!

That’s what happens when you have a confused organization that can’t decide if they’re going for it or developing the kids like Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Kravtsov, who continues to play The Waiting Game. As if he isn’t good enough to crack a lineup that ices Brendan Lemieux and Julien Gauthier, who somehow got under nine minutes in the loss. He’s too young. He may as well have one foot attached to the bench. Or be handcuffed. Aside from the way they’ve handled the young D corps that features Fox, Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller, nothing makes sense. They also have to play Shestyorkin in net or I’m sure they’d play “Head Games” with our Russian too. A little 80’s musical reference for anyone with knowledge.

Let’s be clear here. If they lose tomorrow while likely playing either Alex Georgiev or Keith Kinkaid, who deserves the nod for how well he’s played, the team needs to stop fussing around and do what’s best for the future. That means making hard decisions on good team guys like Smith and Rooney by making them available for the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline in two weeks. They could aid a playoff contender and free up spots for younger players to fill. I know I can’t be alone in wanting to see more of Tarmo Reunanen. Ditto for Gauthier even if it’s in a limited role. I also would put Lemieux up as well because I don’t see much of a future here for him. You don’t think a team would have interest in a gritty player like Blackwell? Meanwhile, Brett Howden is wasting away in the press box. There will be a lot of decisions coming soon.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like I was proven right about Lemieux. He was dealt while I was writing this. Lemieux goes to the Kings in exchange for a ’21 fourth round pick. I called this one. It’s for the best. He was never as good as he was supposed to be. Maybe a scenery change will help. That frees up a spot for Kravtsov. He should debut tomorrow. A big plus.

As far as the Flyers go, they drew even in the second period on a Nolan Patrick power play goal. With Rooney off for tripping Shayne Gostisbehere, the Philadelphia Ghost took a point shot that Patrick had way too much time to redirect past Shestyorkin. He was all alone. What was Smith doing on that one? At least Jacob Trouba covered someone in front. He was on Sean Couturier. Simply put, Smith failed to take Patrick, who even though he hasn’t found it yet after missing all those games, has good hands in front. He nearly had one last game too only for Shestyorkin to deny him. If I’m the Flyers, I wouldn’t give up on that kid. He could be a good finisher. Particularly on the power play. It’s eerie how similar his NHL career has been to Nico Hischier. They went ahead of Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson. It just goes to show you what can happen. There wasn’t a person alive who would’ve took those three players over Hischier and Patrick. Ditto for Jack Hughes and Kakko. I’ll withhold judgment on Lafreniere because of what his role is. We know how good Tim Stutzle is.

The third was evenly played. Both teams had eight shots. The Rangers failed on one power play halfway through with Scott Laughton in the box. Again, it was the top unit that was over passing the puck. They let Elliott completely off the hook. Panarin tried a pass at one point that didn’t work. Sometimes, I wish he was more selfish. I don’t want him to lose his creativity. But he has a good enough shot as he’s proven. If he fired it more, we could be talking about a 35-goal scorer. The turnovers have been more noticeable in his second year despite the production.

Following the Flyers mugging Morin after his first career NHL goal that put them ahead, the Rangers’ best chance came when Lafreniere created it during a rare late shift. He made a good pass that almost resulted in the tying goal with around two minutes left. He also got another opportunity, but his sneaky play didn’t go. I wish he could get more ice time. I know what the situation is. Hopefully soon.

The biggest disappointment was the Rangers not being able to handle the aggressive Flyers’ forecheck. They couldn’t get out of their zone. Somehow, Fox made a diving save on an empty net attempt. He also blocked two others with time winding down. While this was going on, leave it to Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti to joke around about Fox as if he should play goalie. I didn’t find it funny. They’re about to lose and these two yo-yo’s are laughing. Come on!

I don’t even remember how it ended. It wasn’t good. The only thing that stands out is that lovable Morin being mobbed by Laughton and the other Flyers on the ice for his goal. And he got to be the game’s First Star and skate out in front of 2,000 or so fans. I’m sure they enjoyed it along with Gritty. I bet Colin Campbell and George Parros did as well. They may as well have been in on the fun. An Orange Party for everyone.

No. I’m not bothering with the Game’s Three Stars. Screw it. They may as well be Moe, Larry and Curly. In this case, Parros, Campbell and Morin. That’s the only thing that makes sense. Adios to the In-Grate One. Hell-o! Vitaly Kravtsov. Or Привет (Privet) Виталий Кравцов!

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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