Nothing goes right for Rangers in blowout loss to Flames, Lose third straight game

Rather than bore you with the details, I highly recommend the postgame interview below given by Chris Kreider on the blowout that occurred in Calgary. The Rangers went from kind of being in it to getting their doors blown off in a 6-0 loss to the Flames at The Saddle Dome. It was their third consecutive defeat.

Everything Kreider said in the above video courtesy MSG Network is true. There are no excuses when you lose. Not even if it’s the second game of a tough back-to-back against a quality opponent that already humiliated them once at The Garden. Or did you forget? Not coming off a bad overtime loss to Edmonton where they blew a three-goal lead and then a one-goal lead late. The best thing Kreider told reporters was how they let down Igor Shesterkin after how great he’s been. If not for him, you’re looking at a three win team tops.

There’s no reason to go further here. The final score speaks for itself. It was earned. Especially when this team has been getting away with nothing close to a complete game. They were getting by thanks to Shesterkin, who covered up a lot of mistakes. On a Hockey Night In Canada, he couldn’t bail out his teammates for their transgressions and regressions. I’m not one to toot my own horn after a bad loss. But this was coming. I felt like Calgary would put up five in this one. I was thinking 5-2 though. Not 6-0. Oh well.

It doesn’t matter what you lose by. A loss is a loss. Maybe this will open some eyes because they weren’t too good against the Oilers before Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl reeled them in. Especially at even strength. There were too many shifts that they got pinned in for long stretches. Plus the sloppy power play and pair of untimely penalties that turned that game around. You can only get away with it for so long.

Truthfully, the Rangers were brutal in third periods of the last three games. The first two blown leads that led to frustrating defeats in overtime. The last being what was a tired team that got outscored 3-0 by the Flames to hang Shesterkin out to dry. This after coach Gerard Gallant saved their starter for the second game. A similar result in the first game when he opted for backup Alex Georgiev in a season opener rout at Washington and the 6-5 loss on Friday night. Shesterkin lost the home opener to a Stars team that isn’t very good in overtime. He wasn’t to blame for the six goals Calgary put up on 37 shots.

I gotta be honest. I’m having a hard time agreeing with Gallant’s decision to go with Georgiev against the high powered Oilers while leaving his ace Shesterkin for a rested Calgary at the conclusion of a four-game Western road swing. I know I’m not alone here. Others have alluded to it. It didn’t make much sense. Or about as much as playing Georgiev for the first game of the season. If Shesterkin is the man, he should’ve gotten both the Capitals and Stars at the start. How that’s been handled since is kind of strange. So are a few other things.

Entering tonight’s match, rookie defenseman Nils Lundkvist returned to the lineup Friday night and had a good game. He recorded an assist for his second NHL point. The same as his previous game before he was a healthy scratch. It happened again in Calgary. Jarred Tinordi was indeed in over the first-year player who seems more poised than K’Andre Miller at the moment. I’ve been very critical of Miller’s play. I’m going to lay off tonight. I disagree with the decision to sit Lundkvist, who definitely is the second best skating defenseman they have capable of offense. By refusing to play him, they are misusing Jacob Trouba on the second power play. He also shouldn’t be the second defenseman in overtime. It feels like Gallant is not trusting Lundkvist enough when he’s given him nothing to be afraid of.

There also is the Alexis Lafreniere issue that isn’t going away. Sure. With Ryan Reaves back, he got more ice time on the third line mostly before it got out of hand. However, if the former 2020 top pick is really not being punished when twice the coach called out the 20-year old, then why can’t he get a look with either Mika Zibanejad or Ryan Strome? Why was Dryden Hunt on the second power play before Lafreniere? One is a hard-working role player while the other is supposed to be the present and future of the team.

I don’t get it. I’m not saying Lafreniere has blown anyone away. But has Artemi Panarin? I could care less about his points because it’s a mirage. He’s not the same player since the false accusations came out last season. Something is wrong. He’s a lot more hesitant and isn’t creating the space we’re accustomed to. When he did get two quality scoring chances on a power play, he just missed scoring and then completely fired wide to have the puck go out of the zone. So, what’s wrong with him? Is it a confidence issue or something else? It’s been 12 games. He needs to be better at five-on-five.

That line isn’t getting it done. Especially with Panarin perfectly setting up Kaapo Kakko for what should’ve been a goal. Only his shot was too low allowing Jacob Markstrom to recover. A high shot goes in. Kakko was better, but it’s plays like that which make you wonder if he’s ever going to start finishing. Time is ticking.

Is there anything else we learned? For starters, the Calgary Flames fans haven’t forgotten what Adam Fox did to them. He was originally their 3rd round pick in 2016. Hard to believe he lasted until pick 66. However, he never intended to sign with them, forcing a trade. They wound up dealing the rights to Fox with Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland to Carolina for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Both of who still play prominent roles in Alberta. The fans booed Fox mercilessly throughout the game. Wait until he plays Carolina again. He didn’t want them either. We’re lucky Fox wanted the Rangers due to being a fan. Imagine life without him. Don’t bother.

It’s also worth noting that those boos didn’t deter Fox, who had a tying goal wiped out due to a great coach’s challenge from Scrooge Darryl Sutter for a clear offside. I don’t know how the linesmen missed it. It wasn’t even close. Fox put in a rebound late in the first period. But it didn’t count. That wasn’t the only chance the Rangers had after falling behind by a goal scored by Sean Monahan (PPG) on a Kevin Rooney interference minor. More on that.

The second period didn’t start off badly. A strong shift from a determined Kakko saw him outmuscle a Calgary defender and get a good shot on net that Markstrom swallowed up. He wasn’t done. On one of Panarin’s better shifts at even strength, it looked like he had Kakko all set up for a tying goal. He skated into open ice, drew Calgary D over and passed over for a wide open Kakko, who fired a one-timer from a sharp angle. But the low trajectory allowed a sliding Markstrom to get over and make the big save. It definitely was a missed opportunity. Oddly enough, they only credited Kakko with one shot on goal. Either they thought it was going wide or they’re blind. Right now, Kakko has 10 shots for the season in eight games with no points. Yikes.

I’ve felt for a while that Kakko doesn’t fit with Panarin because he’s not able to bury his chances. It looks like he was overhyped. I hate to say that because I really thought highly of him. But he didn’t exactly light up the U20 World Junior Championships aside from his gold medal winning goal for Finland. Maybe being a puck possession player would make him better suited for either the right side with Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, or Filip Chytil and whoever they plug on the third line. Don’t forget Kakko had some chemistry with Chytil before. That’s if they have Chytil available for Monday at home against the very tough Panthers. Chytil accidentally collided with Sammy Blais during the first and left the game. Gallant provided no update. It’s probably another LBI. Just great.

With the Flames still holding onto a one-goal lead, Patrik Nemeth got caught holding the stick of Mikael Backlund. It was a bad penalty. Even though they didn’t score on it, Calgary kept possession long enough to have a fortunate Oliver Kylington wide carom go right to veteran Brad Richardson for a put back that a sprawling Shesterkin just missed getting. It was a back breaking goal for sure. Of course, it was another first goal for someone. Richardson is 36. Nothing else to add. A Ranger tradition continues.

A little over two minutes later, Johnny Gaudreau actually got position in front on Ryan Lindgren and put in a rebound from Matthew Tkachuk. We’re talking about Johnny Hockey. A good scorer who isn’t known for his size or strength. But he had no problem using it to outmuscle the normally physical Lindgren. I got nothing. This was bad. Why is it that opponents have free reign to do what they want in front of our goalies? Where is the defensive structure under Gallant? It’s like they’re still stuck in neutral. The defense stinks right now. That better change soon or the Panthers could put up a touchdown and kick a PAT tomorrow.

The conclusion of the second took a sudden turn when Reaves did a foolish thing. He clipped Andrew Mangiapane from the blind side leading to animosity from a few upset Flames. Luckily, Mangiapane got up and was okay. They gave Reaves a minor penalty for illegal check to the head. It was the right call. The fact he returned and did that means he should be getting a phone call from the NHL about the head shot. That’s what you don’t want to see from Reaves, who is an effective player when he stays under control. I saw a lot of that the past couple of seasons when he played for Vegas.

The end result of the Reaves hit was some fireworks between Tinordi and the very tough Erik Gudbranson. Let’s just say Tinordi absorbed some big blows and stayed in there against Gudbranson, who’s definitely not a player you want to mess with. Tinordi didn’t exactly do well outside of that. Meanwhile, Libor Hajek still has a permanent roster spot while Vitali Kravtsov tears it up for Traktor. His father isn’t much of a fan of Chris Drury.

An early Kylington hi-sticking minor gave the Blueshirts an early power play trailing by three in the third period. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cash in. At least there was a Lafreniere sighting on it. By that point, he didn’t look confident. There was a turnover and a poor entry. I really wonder what he’s thinking at this critical juncture of his development. It isn’t going exactly as he hoped. On his second coach and not getting consistent ice time. Quinn handled him better. Gallant still has a lot of season left to change that.

After the power failure, a harmless Gaudreau backhand got through a surprised Shesterkin for a 4-0 Flames lead. Game over. All he did was take a Tkachuk feed and skate towards the net and throw a weak backhand towards Shesterkin. He just lost concentration. Even Sam Rosen thought it was a save or wide. But I knew it wasn’t. That’s the kind of night it was. The Kylington carom that led to the Calgary second goal was the story of the game.

At that point, I checked out. I went for a drive and listened to Don La Greca call the Milan Lucic goal that made it 5-0. My premonition came true. Lucic has four goals already. He’s done better since Sutter took over last season. Maybe he’s a better fit under the veteran coach who won two Cups with the Kings. He has more goals than Panarin, Strome and Kakko combined. But they never miss a shift. Maybe Gallant can blame Lafreniere for their awful play. Or move up Hunt again. I don’t get the fascination with him. Julien Gauthier can’t crack this lineup.

By the time I gassed up the car and got back inside, Tkachuk had made it 6-0. Apparently, he scored between his legs off a Gaudreau feed. Tkachuk is just the kind of player that gives the Rangers problems due to how hard he is to move. It’s no surprise he had a field day posting a goal and three assists while Gaudreau did whatever he wanted.

There is nothing else to say about this game. These type of games happen due to the schedule. But I’m glad Kreider called out the team for the third period. It wasn’t fair to Shesterkin. They haven’t stuck to the system according to Kreider. We’re still trying to figure out what that is in the defensive end. Kreider doesn’t make excuses. He’s the leader of this team. He doesn’t need a C either. Though it says a lot that Ottawa gave their 22-year old power forward Brady Tkachuk the captaincy. He went out and scorer a goal with nine hits in a loss to Tampa on Saturday afternoon.

What’s the thinking with the Rangers organization? Are they gonna wait to announce Fox next Fall? Is that what’s happening here? Or is it like Ron Duguay thinks? He isn’t a big fan of giving Fox the C. It could weight him down. We saw what happened to Brian Leetch. It all depends on the personality. We’ll see what happens.

At the present, the Rangers are 6-3-3. While it’s still a good record, it’s definitely more in line with how they’ve played. Now comes the true test. A Panthers team that hasn’t lost in regulation fresh off handing the Hurricanes their first loss in a 5-2 home win minus Aleksander Barkov. Remember Anthony Duclair? He’s been on a roll, scoring twice and adding two assists for a four-point game. He has eight goals and looks like a much improved player in his second year with Florida. It took some time. But the sixth team seems to be the perfect fit. Good for him.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of game plan Gallant and company come up with to slow down the Cats. If they aren’t better, it won’t matter who’s in net. Especially with rookie Spencer Knight looking impressive since Sergei Bobrovsky got hurt. We’re gonna find out a lot about the Rangers this week.


3rd 🌟 Jacob Markstrom, CGY (22 save shutout)

2nd 🌟 Johnny Gaudreau, CGY (goal plus 2 🍎, +3 in 14:55)

1st 🌟 Matthew Tkachuk, CGY (goal plus 3 🍎 , +3 in 14:57)

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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