1) This one was the worst. There’s no sugar-coating it. I’d say 15 or 16 of the Rangers’ skaters in last night’s game were going three-quarters speed, or as I like to call it, scrimmage speed. The compete level was almost completely missing. The defensemen scrambled, again. The forwards didn’t even attempt to establish a forecheck. The Rangers aren’t as bad as their record (seven wins in 18 games). They’ve lost some well-played games in random post-game contests, as recently as Saturday. But some of their regulation losses — thinking Columbus, Islanders, Toronto (twice), Edmonton — were unsightly. This was the ugliest of them all. By a lot.
2) I mean, they played a very hot Pittsburgh team dead-even Saturday, and whomped the Penguins a week ago. This erases those. And I sometimes chide some of you for mistaking results with effort. This one had none of either. And Alain Vigneault was as annoyed as he’s been as Rangers coach.
3) I thought a turning point of the game, and a microcosm of the game, was the 5-on-3. Mats Zuccarello — one of the very few, IMO, with an acceptable compete level — drew two penalties. First brain-dead moment was the Rangers keeping the puck during the delayed second call instead of giving it up and making it a long 5-on-3. That’s textbook. You hand the opponent the puck instead of taking time off the two-man advantage. Then Derick Brassard lost the next draw and the puck came right out. Then Brassard tried one of those Brad Richards blind drop passes to nobody — on a 5-on-3 for God’s sake! — and the puck came right out again. End of 5-on-3. Disgraceful.
4) The former Rangers captain scored twice and was a force all night. The former Lightning captain played his worst game of the season, scored an accidental power-play goal, and was minus-4.
6) The new No. 22 Boyle guy, another ex-Lightning, sure had a horrible night, too. But he wasn’t the worst Ranger.
7) I will tell you who was right up there with Brassard. Chris Kreider. Looked like he was blindfolded at times. And not engaged whatsoever. This kid has to score a lot more than 10 points in 18 games because of all that he doesn’t do. He’s had too many nights like this. And it probably drives you guys nuts, because when he does show up, he’s a force.
8) Henrik Lundqvist. Probably didn’t face as many breakaways as he’s seen already this season in entire seasons under the old regime. And he’s gotta be better. I will say this. Nobody’s stopping that Steven Stamkos goal (photo above). Nobody. My goodness.
9) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Probably his worst game of the season. Had the Kostka on the back-breaker goal by Stamkos, who tied him (and Tyler Seguin) for the league lead.
10) Anthony Duclair. Had a tussle with Brian Boyle early, then took a nasty stick from Boyle on way to bench. Had another behind the net with Andrej Sustr, who was holding his stick. Aside from that, he didn’t get much done. Had one shot attempt in 15 shifts. Wasn’t terrible, which is a compliment on a night like that.
11) The Rangers better figure out this defense thing, because they know it and they say it all the time, that their offense comes from defense. Their defensive play was their calling card last season, and when they defended they also scored. You can’t be a transition team if you don’t defend first, and then move the puck. Take care of your own end, take care of the puck. Or be without it. And would it kill the forwards to establish some O-zone time?
12) This was so bad that they didn’t even show the Dancing Knucklehead, who usually makes the Garden faux fans as happy as the small-market T-shirt toss.
13) The Rangers parted ways with Tomas Kaberle. I think you guys dodged one there, because I am certain he’s not as good as Matt Hunwick, and he’s probably not as good as Mike Kostka or Conor Allen, and with Ryan McDonagh probably two weeks or less away, he was just going to be a cap-clogger.
14) It was Hockey Hall of Fame Night. Can’t wait to google the Pat Burns tribute and other stuff. With it comes a growing debate on Eric Lindros’ candidacy. I don’t know. He had a short-ish career because of the concussions, and there certainly is some political garbage against him because of the crap he pulled on Quebec after being drafted. And he wasn’t exactly a sweetheart when he played. But four seasons of 40 or more goals. Three more of 30 or more, plus 29 in a 48-game season. An MVP. A dominant player, probably the most imposing power forward in league history. And then there’s this: Clark Gillies is in.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Kevin Hayes.
3. Kevin Klein.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Martin St. Louis.
2. tie, Dan Girardi, Anthony Duclair.
Photos by Getty Images.