An Islanders Embarrassment: Blueshirts stink up the Long Island Sound, Quinn’s puzzling Bitetto move backfires, Trouba likely concussed by Martin in a total annihilation, A message for the Rangers organization


This was pathetic. Humiliating. Embarrassing. Awful. Horrible. Disgraceful. Distasteful. Soft. Weak. The Rangers’ performance on Tuesday night in Long Island should’ve been sponsored by Hostess. That’s how cupcake soft they were. That actually might be an insult to cupcakes. Even Charmin wouldn’t sponsor the 6-1 annihilation they suffered at the hands of the Islanders.

Not only did they get their ass kicked. But there was zero fight from a team that thought they were in the division playoff race. Instead of continuing to push back following a promising final half of the second period in which Brendan Smith scored and Semyon Varlamov shutdown Brett Howden twice, they simply gave up. It was discouraging. A game where a win could’ve meant cutting the deficit behind the blood rival Islanders to six with 10 left turned into a laugher for the Islanders fans who showed up at Nassau Coliseum.

So, there goes the fraudulent four-game win streak which saw them beat up the Devils. A team that showed way more heart despite their inexperience in nearly erasing a 6-0 deficit in a 7-6 loss to the Penguins. What does that say for the Rangers, who easily could’ve lost Sunday’s game after leading by three? Don’t bother.

If they thought they could half-ass it against the grittier Islanders, they thought wrong. The East/West style didn’t work against a bitter rival intent on sending a message. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Rangers went off in a whimper, knowing full well Boston remained undefeated with Taylor Hall. They now trail the Bruins by six. Forget the games remaining or anything else.

So much went wrong. From David Quinn deciding to stick with Anthony Bitetto, who made Sunday’s unimpressive return look Norris caliber. I’m glad New York Post reporter Mollie Walker asked him the lineup question after a dreadful showing by Bitetto that would make Kevin Hatcher and Wade Redden drool. Bitetto was so bad, it felt like every time the Islanders scored, he was on the ice. I honestly felt bad for Smith, who also was charged a minus-three despite being one of the few bright spots. Guilty by association.

How do you think Igor Shestyorkin felt after this pummeling? It wasn’t a fair fight. The Islanders were ready from the very beginning. They won every battle and eventually took over the game after Shestyorkin only allowed one goal in a turnover ridden first period. It was a baker’s dozen for a Rangers team that couldn’t complete a pass or hang onto the puck. They made so many mistakes, it begged the question if they got any sleep. This was ridiculous.

Even if the final shot count read Islanders 28, Rangers 26, it meant very little. Shestyorkin kept them in for as long as he could. He made some excellent stops to keep the more aggressive Isles off the board in the game’s first 17 minutes. That included a couple of point blank chances in which no Ranger was in plain sight. He was on his own.

The Islanders finally beat Shestyorkin when off a good cycle from Anthony Beauvillier, Jean-Gabriel Pageau found Josh Bailey positioned perfectly in front of Bitetto to tip in a pass for an easy goal at 17:42. I’m not sure what Bitetto was doing. But he was no help at all. I still can’t explain why Quinn kept him in over Libor Hajek, who’s a better skater that’s improved. What did he think? That because Bitetto is a Long Island native with family and friends possibly there, it was the best move for the Rangers. It was nonsensical. I questioned it before the drop of the puck.

By that point, Jacob Trouba was done for the evening courtesy of a clean, hard hit from Matt Martin. Moments earlier on the same shift, Trouba caught Martin with a check against the glass. However, Martin returned the favor with an even tougher hit in the corner that injured Trouba. He tried to get up, but fell back down. Visibly woozy from the heavy check, he was helped off the ice by Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay to the locker room. It was clear he wasn’t coming back. It sure looked like a concussion. We know he was in concussion protocol. It didn’t look good.

Without Trouba, who is the physical force that leads the team, Quinn had no choice but to balance five defensemen for the rest of the evening. It didn’t go well. On the Isles’ first goal, Bitetto was paired with Adam Fox. None of the three forwards which included Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Colin Blackwell were much help. They got pinned in and were scrambling. Bitetto simply didn’t take Bailey, who returned to the Islanders lineup for healthy scratch Oliver Wahlstrom.

Making matters worse, with time winding down in the period, Ryan Lindgren got caught napping. Brock Nelson dusted him to get a clean look at Shestyorkin, but luckily his last second shot missed at the buzzer. Lindgren would struggle all game. I don’t care what his plus/minus was. He had one of his worst games. It just didn’t work for him. Fox struggled too as did the very passive K’Andre Miller. I like him, but at some point Miller must start using his size. He stick checks too much and sometimes gets caught out of position. He’s only a rookie. I hope that area will improve moving forward.

All of the really ugly stuff happened once Trouba exited. Coincidence? I don’t think so. As much as unrealistic fans criticize him due to the contract, Trouba provides the nuts and bolts. He plays very strong defense and had been playing well coming in. He hits with ferocity and blocks shots while doing a good job paired with Miller. Without him, the Rangers got exposed. Assuming he’s out for the Flyers game, it’ll be interesting to see what Quinn decides. We know Hajek will be back in. But might we see Zac Jones?

As putrid as the first was, I thought the Rangers would come out better in the second. Boy. Was I wrong. They continued their disappearing act. It got even uglier. On just a horrid defensive read by Pavel Buchnevich, who had one of those mindless games where he kept turning over pucks, his incapability to get a puck out resulted in the Islanders increasing the lead to two. With the top line pinned in, Kyle Palmieri and Nick Leddy combined to find an open Nelson for a nice deflection upstairs on a helpless Shestyorkin at 1:38.

That goal signified what was about to happen. My emotion was a bit down. I did some yelling at the TV begging the team to stop with the turnovers. They lost so many pucks, it looked like football on ice. Where your team fumbles or trips all over itself. There was a lot of over skating and a poor lack of execution. This was tough to watch.

It didn’t get any better when Smith tripped up Palmieri behind the Rangers’ net. On the first two power plays, the Isles only got two shots on Shestyorkin. They also were so abysmal on the second attempt that Zibanejad and Buchnevich created a shorthanded chance back in the first. If only they had converted. That the Rangers killed a Fox hi-sticking minor so easily with the four leftover defensemen of Lindgren, Smith, Miller and Bitetto was a credit to the forwards and the unwillingness of the Islanders to shoot the puck.

However, their third attempt would be significantly better. With face-off losses piling up, the Islanders were allowed enough setup time. Following a shot block, Jordan Eberle recovered a loose puck and moved it over to Noah Dobson. His attempt went off a player in front right to a wide open Beauvillier for an easy one-timer by Shestyorkin for a 3-0 Isles lead at 5:45. This was about as unlucky a bounce as you’ll see. The bottom line is when you are outworking your opponent, you get those breaks. The Rangers got what they deserved.

By that point, I knew the game was over. The Islanders are a very difficult team at home and even tougher to come back on. If not for Shestyorkin, it could’ve been a lot worse. The first period probably should’ve been 3 or 4-0. That’s how inept the Blueshirts were. They continued to look asleep until Beauvillier was sent off for hooking Blackwell. On the ensuing power play, the top unit moved the puck around nicely. They attempted some interesting shots with Ryan Strome looking for a tip and Zibanejad coming close on another deflection. But they never beat Varlamov.

As bothersome as that was, I was equally as frustrated with the two missed calls the Islanders got away with. One was a blatant trip on Vitaly Kravtsov where he went down. The linesman wasn’t even looking. It was right in front of him. How did he not see it! Even worse was Pageau boarding Lindgren from behind into the glass. No call. Play on. What a freaking joke!

Those have to be called. I can’t stand Pageau for obvious reasons. I really wish Lindgren had gone after him when the game got out of hand. I also would’ve been okay with anyone challenging Martin to take up for Trouba. Save me the nonsense about it being a clean hit. He likely won’t be back anytime soon. That’s a big blow. Even if the odds are stacked against them, losing Trouba hurts.

Somewhat curiously, the Rangers finally began to wake up during the second half of the game. While they were getting zilch from the Zibanejad line and the Artemi Panarin line, the fourth line provided a spark. In another active shift from Kravtsov where he used his speed and grit to get to a loose puck, behind the net, the first-year Russian moved the puck up to Smith. He took a shot that Kevin Rooney was able to get a piece of to beat a surprised Varlamov for his seventh with 8:56 remaining. That made it a two-goal deficit.

Another goal before the period was out and maybe we could get our hopes up for a comeback. The Rangers did play better in those 10 minutes. Of the four lines, it was the fourth line that was the most effective. However, Zibanejad got a great scoring chance. Sent in on a breakaway, he was one-on-one with Varlamov. He made his move and shot. However, Varlamov calmly made the big save to keep it 3-1. Had he scored there, we could be talking about a different game. It just didn’t go in. At least Zibanejad had shots. Panarin was nowhere to be found. Neither was Kreider or Buchnevich. Strome had a quiet night. Blackwell had a few attempts, but missed.

If there was a turning point, it came late in the second period. On another strong shift down low by the fourth line, the puck came to Brett Howden in front. He had two cracks at it. Twice, Varlamov robbed him by shutting the door on both point blank opportunities with under 90 seconds remaining. If either go in, again who knows. I get that he has stone hands. My feeling is he was in too close. If he could’ve lifted the puck, Howden scores and nobody’s complaining. When you get those chances, it can’t be your 12th forward.

The truth is the top six stunk. They were shutout. I thought that Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech had a good game. He was making a lot of good defensive plays and blocked four shots. As a team, the Isles blocked 25 shots. That’s a lot. Andy Greene had seven blocks by himself. In regards to that top six which Quinn broke up in the third by trying Panarin for some shifts with Zibanejad and Buchnevich, it didn’t matter. They were on for five goals against out of the Islanders’ six. Actually, that means the top two lines were victimized on all five of the Isles’ even strength goals. Brutal.

Entering the third period, the Rangers trailed by two. Next goal would tell a lot. All we learned is that they looked drunk or out to sea. On another long shift for the Islanders that saw the Beauvillier line do whatever it wanted, they skated circles around the Strome unit that had Panarin and Buchnevich on with the pairing from hell. And was it any great shock that Bitetto got victimized again when a Beauvillier pass connected with the loathsome Pageau for a wrecking ball of a one-timer Shestyorkin had no chance on. That made it 4-1 bad guys.

Around two and a half minutes later, Bailey got his second of the game from Beauvillier and Greene to put it out of reach with 9:45 left. This time, it was Kreider on with Strome and Blackwell while Lindgren was paired with Smith. Lindgren got beaten badly on it. It wasn’t his night.

At that point, I’d seen enough. Of course as I flipped back, there was Eberle celebrating his 15th goal after scoring on a breakaway 66 seconds later. He was allowed to go backhand deke and tuck without any resistance. Of course he was. Smith and Bitetto were on the ice. I have no idea why Quinn felt this was his best lineup. In two games back after missing a boat load of action, Bitetto has been on for five goals against. All at even strength. I wasn’t kidding when I said this.

Harsh. Sure. It isn’t easy to return to the lineup after so much time off. I know he had a back issue. My whole question was the timing. Why mess with success? Does Quinn actually believe Hajek’s game merited two in a row off? Or was the hit he absorbed the real reason? He looked to be improving while having chemistry with Smith, who’s the ultimate team player. It was a very questionable move that looks worse. When pressed by Walker, Quinn went with the standard response. It’s too early to determine the lineup.

There’s nothing else to add. This game was a total nightmare. I was concerned going in due to the way they played the last two against Binghamton New Jersey. You can’t get away with that against a battle tested team like the Islanders. They’re not known for scoring goals, but their work ethic is strong. This was a disaster.

Now, the Rangers have the Flyers for two. Forget that for a minute. I want to discuss how the official Rangers Twitter account never even bothered to put up the Rooney goal which Kravtsov set up on a good Smith shot. Neither did the Rangers On MSG feed. It’s one thing to get your ass kicked on the scoreboard. But quite another for them to not even bother. They never have any postgame anymore. But they’ll put up this instead over something everyone is in agreement on.

I’m not going to go there for obvious reasons. The decision rendered was exactly the one I expected. There’s no need for the organization or any other one involving sports to rehash it. It shouldn’t need to be reemphasised. What troubles me is that they continue to do this. The New York Rangers are a class organization from top to bottom. They honor plenty of hot button issues in season. Screw the political correctness. It’s overkill.

At the end of the day, that guy got exactly what he deserved. By that, I mean the cop. I don’t want to name names because it’s the same old stuff. They don’t care if a seven-year old black girl dies by gunshot at a McDonald’s drive-thru waiting for a freaking Happy Meal with her Dad in Chicago. Enough already! Especially the hypocritical losers who have to politicize everything. It is a national embarrassment. They don’t care. Not about the families. That’s the real disgrace.

One day, the blind sheep will wake up. When I finally give up on professional sports, you’ll know why. Unfortunately, that day is coming soon.

THREE GOATS OF GAME

3rd 🐐 Artemi Panarin

2nd 🐐 Anthony Bitetto

1st 🐐 David Quinn

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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