After two periods of passionless hockey, I’ve opted out. The forty minutes are enough. With the Rangers on their way to a fifth consecutive loss in uncompetitive fashion at Boston trailing 3-0, what’s the point?
Even diehard fans like myself have a breaking point. This is it. Seeing the relentless Bruins have their way by driving the net of poor Igor Shesterkin is mind numbing. It’s exasperating and doesn’t deserve our attention. If you’re a fan of this team, you have to feel ashamed at what you’re seeing. That’s if you haven’t tuned out.
Too many lost battles. Turnovers. No net front presence. Life is so easy for Bruins’ rookie Jeremy Swayman. He’s faced a grand total of seven shots in two periods. That included a 19-3 edge in shots from Boston during a listless second period. Mindless hockey. Granted. You have a few new faces thrown to the wolves including Jonny Brodzinski and Tim Gettinger. It’s not easy on the eyes like an IG model.
It’s really hard to gauge anything in these final two games. You have mindless Mika hardly noticeable during most shifts. He recently was with Colin Blackwell and Vitali Kravtsov, who came the closest to scoring until a great hustle play by Charlie McAvoy prevented an open net goal. Kravtsov has been visible along with the fourth line. So have Zac Jones and Adam Fox, who’s being forced to play too many minutes. Exactly why his production has dropped off. He should still be up for the Norris.
Without Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren, there’s no physical presence in the lineup. With apologies to the hardworking Players Player Brendan Smith, who deserves to return, it’s not enough. Libor Hajek has also continued to show improvement. I’d like to see him back. Shesterkin has not had much of a chance on the Bruins’ three goals. Two one-timers from Patrice Bergeron and McAvoy. Plus a clean breakaway by Jake DeBrusk.
It’s been another rough night for K’Andre Miller. He turned over the puck twice and has been caught on for two goals against. That included a misplay that David Krejci intercepted and wisely used the side boards to make a lead pass for a DeBrusk goal that made it 3-0. It’s not 4-0. How pathetic. Speaking of which, the shots were 28-7 entering the third.
Pavel Buchnevich was suspended a game for his cross check on Anthony Mantha that resulted in a major and game misconduct last night. I have no issue with it except for the ridiculous hypocrisy of NHL Player Safety. So, they won’t punish Tom Wilson, who’s a repeat offender. But will ban Buchnevich for one game when he had no reputation. Unbelievable. He had every right to slash Wilson for the garbage he pulled on Monday. Did he go overboard with Mantha? Sure. I find George Parros as despicable as MSG CEO James Dolan.
Speaking of Dolan, he gave Larry Brooks an exclusive interview in the NY Post. His quotes were very accurate. Even if Glen Sather was in his ear, Dolan labeled the disconnect that this roster had. It wasn’t constructed well. They sure have plenty of skating and skill, but lack enough will. It can’t only be the same few character guys (Kreider, Lindgren, Smith, Trouba). I’ll also mention Ryan Strome, Kevin Rooney and Brett Howden as guys who deserve credit for how hard they play. Ditto for Phil Di Giuseppe stepping in and fighting in that line brawl.
Given the influx of talent the young nucleus boasts thanks to lottery picks Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited. When you include Kravtsov, Fox, Filip Chytil (even though I’m on the fence), Miller and Jones, what’s not to like? Don’t forget Shesterkin, Barron with Nils Lundkvist close to becoming a Ranger. That youth needs team toughness. They can’t get pushed around. That includes star Artemi Panarin, who has the rest of the season off.
I’m not suggesting bringing in a goon like Ryan Reaves. That isn’t what’s needed. You need hard grinders like Blake Coleman or Casey Cizikas to compete in this league. Accountable players who can provide the nuts and bolts. Imagine Brandon Tanev on this roster. Instead, he’s a Pen. Teams need that kind of combination of grit and skill. With new Team President and GM Chris Drury introduced at a press conference this morning, he sounds prepared to do what’s necessary to improve the roster. If the playoffs are the goal next year, then it should be an intriguing off-season. Drury was noncommittal to David Quinn. A Boston guy like himself. We’ll see what happens.
As for Drury, here’s some of what he told reporters thanks to Mollie Walker.
What Drury said is on point. They’ve accomplished what they set out to do in The Rebuild. Now, it’s time to put together a more complete roster that’s ready to compete over an 82-game schedule. One that won’t under achieve. The postseason is a must. They’ve built it back up. Credit goes out to Gorton and Davidson for key moves that improved the team for the future. The trades for Zibanejad, Strome, Lindgren. The trade to select Miller and acquire Trouba, who’s been severely missed despite all the gripes about his salary. Landing Fox from Carolina for a pair of second round picks. Having Lafreniere and Kakko fall into their lap. Of course, signing Panarin. How instrumental was JD? It’s hard to believe he’s gone. Sam Rosen must be heartbroken for his friend.
Walker hosts Up In The Blue Seats Rangers podcast with Ron Duguay. They had former enforcer and native Staten Islander Nick Fotiu on as a guest. You can listen on Spotify or Apple. I will afterwards.
The accolades for Walker and Brooks are true. They do a great job covering the team. This has not been a normal situation. From the COVID restrictions to the sudden dismissals of Gorton and Davidson, Walker admitted she was working on no sleep earlier today. That’s the kind of dedication these reporters have. Walker getting to interview Stan Fischler was a treat last week. Like me, she also interned for The Maven. A legend who long ago should’ve been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. What a shame. He’s a great man who now lives in Israel with his grandchildren. He still has the enthusiasm for the sport. The Fischler Report still is published along with his Java. I have nothing but love and admiration for Stan. It was thanks to him that I worked production truck for the Devils and then wound up at ESPN. Great times. Especially those production meetings with Stan telling the corny joke.
A brief summary of what Dolan told Brooks as to why now. He indicated that he’d been mulling it over for about 20 to 25 games. He noticed the same thing many of us did about this team. They were disjointed and lacked a key ingredient good teams must have to reach the playoffs. The truth is neither Gorton or Davidson addressed it after the Hurricanes’ humiliation. They were badly exposed. Bringing in Rooney was a solid addition. But more was needed and that must be addressed this summer. No excuses.
Dolan also admitted that those huge Islanders games were big. How could they not have been a factor in the decision to let go of two good hockey guys? They lost 6-1, 3-0 and 4-0. That is inexcusable. You cannot do that against your number one rival, who doesn’t have the talent they do. But is way harder to play against. They took away Zibanejad, Panarin, Strome, Buchnevich without breaking a sweat. Even Fox struggled. Semyon Varlamov pitched four shutouts. That’s absurd.
What all boils down to is this team isn’t there yet. They’ve now been shutout in three of their last five games. They lost 4-0. They weren’t shutout once last season. They’ve gone backwards. That can’t be overlooked. As easy as it is to criticize Dolan and his advisor Sather, which is nuts, they’re not wrong. Even former Stanley Cup hero Mark Messier got in on the act by critiquing the way the roster was constructed. He referenced needing to win in the back alleys. That’s what it takes to be successful in this brutal sport.
It isn’t like the old days when you had enforcers everywhere fighting all the time. It isn’t the era of Howe or Messier with the elbows up. Nor is it the era of the Broad Street Bullies or the 80’s and 90’s. There’s a lot more legislation despite the NHL incompetence. As far as fining the Rangers $250,000, whatever. You can’t go after a league employee the way Dolan did with Parros and expect to get off light. He doesn’t mind paying the penalty. It needed to be said. Even if there might’ve been a disagreement with Gorton and Davidson on putting out the statement. That’s not why they’re gone.
Nights like last Thursday and Saturday are why. Monday’s embarrassment is why. Sather liked the response by the team last night. A line brawl. Six fights in total. 100 penalty minutes combined in a wild first period. So did Drury. The truth is hockey guys love that part of the game. It’s not something we see often anymore. But there’s a time and a place for it. I thought the refs did an outstanding job keeping control of that game. They handed out misconducts and didn’t allow it to get out of hand. Kudos. The best officiated game all season was one with a crazy amount of penalties.
There is nothing left to add. If you want more on my view of the Rangers, please don’t hesitate to listen to me as a guest on friend Madison Miller’s Podcast. Plenty was covered including our speculation on Quinn and the off-season. Check it out below or find it on Spotify and Apple.